Week of March 31, 2017

Life advice.

Jim Harbaugh Never Ceases to Amaze

I do not say this facetiously: Jim Harbaugh might be the Most Interesting Man in the World of Sports. He’s a hell of a football coach. We recently covered his insane competitive streak. But Harbaugh is interesting because his interests don’t stop at the turnstiles to the football stadium. Harbaugh first made a name for himself as a coach at Stanford, and he did that in no small part due to his early adoption of Twitter as a recruiting tool. He’d use veiled references to potential recruits to send them public messages, without running afoul of the NCAA prohibition against coaches commenting publicly on unsigned recruits. Some of these tweets were pretty heady, laced with obscure literary references.

So it was only with some surprise that I read Harbaugh’s tweet critical of President Trump’s proposed defunding of Legal Services Corp., a group providing legal aid to low income persons.

It was, however, with much surprise that I read this corresponding interview of Harbaugh by Politico. Harbaugh, it seems, has been involved with LSC for a number of years. Frankly, Harbaugh reveals himself to be well-educated on the issues LSC aims to address. For example:

One of the biggest issues that got me most fired up is how fines and fees are being used to punish the poor. I’ve learned how the devastating effect it can have on lives of low income Americans. I mean across the country 48 states have increased civil court fees since 2010 and they’re using those fees to pay for government services and not just courts but roads and generating millions and in some states billions of dollars.

But basically the crux of it is when people can’t afford to pay a fine or a fee for things like a speeding ticket or municipal violation then they get additional fees. Late fees can start piling up and these fees can double, triple, quadruple the total amount due and if somebody has an inability to pay that fine that can quickly snowball into a driver’s license suspension or driver time. People aren’t even able to go to work. So you can’t pay a fine or a fee and then you lose your driver’s license. You’re not able to get to a job, and a lot of people, I mean, they’ve got to work.

As you can see, Harbaugh is fully into this, which should be no surprise because Harbaugh doesn’t do anything half-assed. Though I do love how Harbaugh he is about it, talking about how it got him “fired up.” But I really loved this exchange:

Politico: Is there a line you try to walk on political issues? There are other high profile coaches who have increasingly begun speaking out about politics.

Harbaugh: No, I wouldn’t say that. I’m not saying this as a football coach, I’m saying this as an American. I’m for America first.

Politico: Well that’s a Trump slogan right now—America First.

Harbaugh: I wasn’t aware of that.

Politico: Yeah, he likes saying that.

Harbaugh: As [Madison] said in Federalist 51, ‘Justice is the end of government, the end of civil society. It ever has been [and] ever will be pursued until it be obtained or until liberty be lost in the pursuit.’

Oh, DANG. First, Harbaugh “unknowingly” drops a Trumpism. Is it really unknowing, though? Or is Harbaugh throwing shade Trump’s way? And then Harbaugh drops an off-the-cuff quote from the Federalist Papers!? Are you kidding me? Get the hell out of here, man! Harbaugh for public office! -TOB

Source: Why Jim Harbaugh Took a Shot at Trump’s Budget”, Daniel Strauss, Politico (03/25/2017)

PAL: If you think that Federalist Papers quote was off-the-cuff, then I have some magic beans to sell you, TOB. I’ll admit that I’m impressed he’s been involved with the organization for a number of years. It’s no surprise that he’s all-in for real, because I can’t imagine him having a passing interest in anything. All this is good—a genuinely interesting tidbit—but if you think he wasn’t up the night before the Politico interview googling “justice quotes”, or at least copying the quote from the bottom of the Legal Services Corp. monthly newsletter, then you’re simply kidding yourself, TOB.

TOB: You continue to underestimate how deeply obsessive and weird Jim Harbaugh is.

What ‘Hitting the Wall’ Actually Means

It’s a terrible, irreversible moment. We’ve all experienced ‘hitting the wall’ at some point in our lives, whether it was during your first marathon, during a competitive game back in high school, or even swimming in a lake at altitude; At some point during a physical workout, the body says ‘nope’, and that’s the end of it, whether we realize it or not.

But what’s really going on in our body at that very moment? I mean physiologically – why do our legs stop pumping and our minds get cloudy? This story, with the help from Sports Scientist Ross Tucker, provides the fascinating explanation with a painful-to-watch example, courtesy of runner Joshua Cheptegei.

In normal circumstances, e.g., out on a run at a comfortable pace in the cool evening, the brain monitors the health of the body – the temperature, the energy distribution to the muscles, blood pressure, oxygen. All this works as a complex algorithm.

In extreme situations, e.g. running in a professional cross country race in front of a hometown crowd on an 82 degree day, that algorithm can get way out of whack in a hurry. As Tucker puts it:

Body temperature is perhaps the most obvious: you go too fast, you produce too much heat, and if you can’t lose it, your body temperature rises. And which organ is under threat? The brain, because it doesn’t do well at all once it hits temperatures around 40C (104F). So basically, the judgment of pace is a balance between how much muscle can be activated before the potential for physical harm becomes too great.

For 9,400 meters of a 10K race, it appears to the observer that Cheptegei’s algorithm is processing perfectly.

Cheptegei was sailing. Smooth, untroubled, strong—you could point to him and confidently say, “That’s what running is supposed to look like.” Knees high, chest forward, the look of a champion. Sure, he’d already run a blistering 8000 meters, at a pace the very experienced Kamworor would later called “suicidal,” but see—he was clear, he was going to keep it up. With only five-ish minutes of running remaining, he was invincible, focused, glorious.

And then, in the amount of time it takes to make a few camera switches, this happens: 

The human body is spectacular — in triumph and in failure. – PAL

Source: Ahead For 9,400 Meters, Joshua Cheptegei Wobbles To Finish At World Cross Country Championships”, Sarah Barker, Deadspin (3/28/17)

That Didn’t Take Long

The writing was on the wall, but now it’s official: The Oakland Raiders are moving to Las Vegas after Alameda County refused to publicly subsidize a new stadium. Meanwhile, Clark County (Vegas) has promised an estimated $750MM ($354 per resident) for a new stadium via a hotel tax hike.

I’ve given my rant on the scam that is publicly financed stadiums. Aside from the fact that this hotel tax will reduce the amount of tax dollars going to public schools, and let’s ignore that Oakland and Alameda County taxpayers are on the hook for $163MM after the Raiders and Warriors leave town, what’s really great about the Las Vegas Raiders is how quickly this became so, shall we say, strippy.

[B]ordello owner Dennis Hof plans to open a new Raiders-themed ‘sex palace’ some 70 miles away from the Las Vegas strip. It will reportedly be called the Pirate’s Booty Sports Brothel and it’s scheduled to open in 2020, around the time the Las Vegas Raiders stadium will open.

I wonder if Hof will have to pay a licensing fee to the NFL? Whatever the case may be, Raiders players and staff should rest assured they’ll be taken care of in the brothel department: Hof also plans to give Raiders players and staff a 50% discount. – PAL

Source: Raiders-style brothel already planned for Las Vegas area”, Alyssa Pereira, SFGate (3/28/17)

Video of the Week: 

PAL Song of the Week: Willie Nelson – “Stay a Little Longer”

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Well, well, well. How the turntables.

-Michael Scott

Week of March 24, 2017

Enjoying our side project, Bleacher Seat Brewing’s first production: Spring Training IPA

March Alchemy

Here’s a really cool story about the technical feats behind the birth of March Madness as we know it.

While some think the Bird-Magic game in ‘79 ignited a national obsession with the NCAA Tournament, this article makes a strong case that March 14, 1981 was the real moment the match was struck.

That day helped define the careers of many involved (both positively and negatively) — and changed how we experience sports today thanks to some ambitious TV youngsters willing to try something different and the luck of three games decided in the last seconds.

As writer Tim Layden puts it, before March 14, 1981, the tourney viewing experience was “very primitive: NBC, which held the rights to the NCAA tournament from 1969 to ’81, would broadcast the day’s games regionally, but in general would stay with games to their conclusion. You got your two or three games and that was it. For the rest you got highlights at 6 and 11 (again, ESPN was just ramping up) or a story in the next day’s newspaper.”

The goal for 1981 was different: Put on as many close games as possible. Seems obvious now, but NBC was still living down the “Heidi Game”. 13 years prior NBC cut away from a Jets-Raiders game to show a TV movie. The Raiders then scored two touchdowns in the final minute to complete the comeback…with no one seeing it on TV.

Still, the producers and board operators went for it, even while admitting they didn’t know what the hell they were doing. The logistics of it are hilarious.

Instead of a comingled headset, Aagaard had a bank of landline telephones, each connected to a game site. If Ohlmeyer called out a switch, Aagaard would pick up the phone and execute the change by talking to producers in a coordination room in New York and the production crew on site. (Bryant) Gumbel (in-studio host) was the traffic cop charged with receiving from one site and tossing to the next.

They couldn’t have picked a better day to try this out. 3 buzzer beaters in one day: St. Joe’s over DePaul, Arkansas over Louisville, Kansas State over Oregon State. 2 of them within 47 seconds of real time, all before a network audience.

The article also tracks all the key players on this day. The players that became local legends and the players that fell hard. The producers that became TV executives, and the sportscasters (Marv Alberts and Bryant Gumbel) well before their apex. In the broader context, the tournament became what it is today back in 1981. 

Wherever it was that the NCAA tournament lived in the sports pantheon before March 14, 1981, it lived somewhere bigger and better afterward, someplace more significant, and certainly more profitable. Broadcast professionals took chances that day that helped make their careers. Basketball players succeeded and failed in such outsized ways that it defined their legacies. Because of what transpired that day, and where it fell on the continuum of the game, there has never been another day quite like it.

You have to remind yourself that this was not how sports were broadcast in 1981. And the fact that we come to half expect this nowadays is only further proof how pivotal this moment was. A Fun and fascinating behind-the-scenes look at a cultural phenomenon. – PAL

Source: March 14, 1981: When the NCAA Tournament became Madness”, Tim Layden, Sports Illustrated (3/14/12)

World Baseball Classic Fever: Catch It

Look, Alex Pflepsen is just wrong. And I feel comfortable saying that because I have a self-given platform and he does not. The World Baseball Classic is great, even though I couldn’t watch a single game because I apparently don’t get the MLB Network despite paying a pretty penny for satellite television service, a fact I didn’t realize until I tried to tune into the U.S./Dominican Republic elimination game on Saturday night. I did follow what I could on Twitter, and enjoyed seeing the highlights, though. I also did get to watch the final on ESPN2…en español. And of course it was a blowout. Marcus Stroman, who almost played for Puerto Rico, no-hit the Puerto Rican team for 6 innings, and the U.S. ran away with it 8-0. But it was still a blast. For one, Latin players and fans know how to have fun, despite what Herbs like Ian Kinsler say, about how Americans know how to win The Right Way (read: boring as hell). Perhaps to Kinsler’s chagrin, teammate Stroman certainly had a good time:

More than being great theatre, the WBC is catching on. Ratings were up 32% from 2013, and attendance totaled 1,086,720,  The best part about the WBC is it is FUN. The players are having a blast. No one is worrying about getting earholed for celebrating too much, because everyone is too busy celebrating to care.

The players are into it. The fans in attendance are into it. Hell, the announcers and reporters are into it.

Long live the WBC!

But the WBC did call attention to one problem. Monday night’s semifinal between Puerto Rico and The Netherlands seemed (again, I couldn’t watch) like great theatre. And then they got to the 11th inning. The WBC is using the rule MLB has kicked around as a possible future rule change – beginning the 11th inning, each team starts with runners on first and second. The results were predictable and awful. Both hitting teams opened the inning with a sacrifice bunt, moving runners to second and third. Both pitching teams responded with an intentional walk. The Netherlands’ 11th inning ended in a double play. Puerto Rico’s ended with a sacrifice fly to win.

If MLB implements this stupid rule, get ready for a lot of sac bunt/intentional walk/sac fly sequences. What a terrible way to end a great baseball game. I get that MLB wants to shorten game times – but the key to that is to cut time between pitches, not to actually shorten the games. Baseball is a fantastic game that doesn’t need fixing. Just let baseball fans enjoy baseball, damnit! And, players, lighten up. Be more like the WBC. The WBC is good. -TOB

Source: The WBC Was Baseball As It’s Going to Be”, Barry Petchesky, Deadspin (03/23/2017)

The WBC Missed Shohei Otani

Consider this a really long response to TOB’s post above. The WBC is also an opportunity to watch the next crop of international players making their way to Major League Baseball. Which is why it’s such a shame we weren’t able to watch Shohei Otani of Japan.

Otani, 23, is a legit power prospect — as a hitter and a pitcher. Over his career on the Nippon Ham Fighters, he’s posted a 2.49 ERA as a pitcher (10+ strikeouts per nine innings). This past year, he belted 22 HR, hit .322 in the 144-game season on his way to MVP honors. It’s no surprise MLB teams have taken notice.

Stalwart Japanese prospect: We’ve heard this story before, right? Aside from Otani’s hitter-pitcher talents, what makes this story interesting is how new rules around international players is putting a tough financial decision in front of Otani.

Ken Belson explains it as follows:

Major league teams that want to negotiate with Otani must offer a posting fee to the Fighters (his current team) that would be paid only if they reached a deal. The Fighters will almost certainly set the fee at the maximum: $20 million.

Under the new rules, (MLB) teams are subject to a financial cap for certain international players who are not free agents. To be exempt from the rules, a player must be at least 25 with six seasons in a foreign professional league, but Otani will not meet those criteria until after the 2019 season. The salary cap previously applied to players who were 23 and had five years of service.

Most teams will have between $5 million and $6 million to spend on international players subject to the new rules, though they can trade with other teams to increase their pool of money. Even so, the cap limits how much teams can possibly offer Otani for his first year.

Otani’s clearly a big league prospect right now. So the decision before him is as follows: Does he wait until after the 2019 season (3 years!) to become a free agent, hope his stock continues to rise, and demand a massive contract from an MLB team; or does he accept a one-year, 5-6M contract now, in hopes of signing a second, ideally monster MLB contract the following year at a younger age?  

Current Yankee Masahiro Tanaka’s advice to Otani: Get to the MLB as soon as possible. His rationale is pretty simple: “If you have what it takes, I think the younger you are, the better contract you get.”

It should be noted the team that currently holds his rights will almost assuredly allow him to leave, as they would receive $20M posting fee from the MLB that signs Otani.

“With the exception of the Yomiuri Giants, the country’s most famous team, almost all Japanese teams are unprofitable and view posting fees as a way to balance their books.”

Solid read on the international impact on MLB in the wake of the WBC. I have to say – I got into the tournament the past weekend. The players looked legitimately pumped, and it’s cool to see Adam Jones (USA) robbing Orioles teammate Manny Machado (Dominican Republic) of a home run. The tournament needs a real moment, though, and I wonder if it comes in the form of a phenom of a Lebron or Gretzky magnitude to introduce himself to the world by way of the WBC before ever putting on an MLB uniform. – PAL

Source: For Japan’s Hitting-Hurling Double Threat, a Complex Path to the Majors”, Ken Belson, The New York Times (3/19/17)

TOB: Good lord, those rules are frustrating. Otani is screwed – I don’t see why an MLB team would try to sign him now if he’s looking for a 1-year deal. What team is willing to pay the $20 million posting fee, plus their entire annual international signing allotment of $6 million for a 1-year deal, and risk Otani leaving for another team as a free agent after that?

LaVar Ball…C’mon Bruh.

LaVar Ball has been talkin a lot of trash – that he’d beat MJ one on one (note: LaVar scored 2 points per game as a college player at Wazzu). He also said his son, Lonzo Ball, who is a great college point guard as a freshman at UCLA , is better RIGHT NOW than Steph Curry, the two-time defending NBA MVP. The list goes on. This week he appeared on ESPN and argued with Stephen A. Smith:

Hmm. Ya know what? I gotta admit it. He won me over. He’s ridiculous. But that was hilarious. -TOB

Source: ESPN First Take, 03/23/2017

PAL: God, all of this sucks. Stephen A. Smith sucks. ESPN is dying, they know it, so they run daily updates on Tim Tebow’s minor league at-bats and shouting matches between an overbearing sports parent and a professional carnival barker because it gets clicks today. This entire thing — you guessed it — sucks. The main reason LaVar Ball sucks most of all is, as Max Kellerman points out in this clip, daddy’s doing all the talking while his sons will have to back it up. I wish the kids all the best.

Video of the Week (this guy’s 40, folks)


I know he’s just trying to impress those cheerleaders… -TOB

PAL Song of the Week: Jeff Buckley – “Mama, You’ve been on My Mind” (Bob Dylan)

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“Who is Jeff Broccoli, Dad?”

-Jack, age 2

Week of March 17, 2017

Hockey explores flow. Baseball explores bad facial hair. Just the way it is.

Floetry In Motion

You know it. You love it. A tradition unlike any other. The annual All Hockey Hair team from the Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament. Before we get to this year’s Top 10, I just have to say how much I thoroughly respect the delivery and writing on these videos. Someone give John King a sitcom already. Hockey Dads, premiering Tuesday nights on ABC. Just has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? – PAL

TOB: He did say he moved to New York. Maybe he got a job in the biz?

First, enjoy the full video, then check out our commentary on the rankings.

#10: Tommy from the champs, who reminds us long hair don’t care as he catches the wind just right.

PAL: The P.D.M and layered wings is timeless. The ladies love it, and Tommy B. knows it.

TOB: Truthfully, this is the best hair of the bunch. A real snub to fall all the way to #10.

#9 They say life is a series of ebbs and flows. Well, Nick, from Eden Prairie hasn’t seen an ebb in quite a while.

PAL: Classic filth. Nick plays it off like he’s joking about loving his hair, but he seriously loves his hair. I wonder if his mom has that fried bleached look like Dr. Zasio on Hoarders? I bet you she does. 

TOB: Bill Simmons did not get that joke.

#8 Anyone named Dallas has a shot of making the team. What’s he’s smirking about? He just shot J.R.

PAL: Great symmetry in the back. It’s really about that up-curl. The mustache is narsty with a ‘r’. The detail that really completes the ensemble here is the untied jersey laces. This is a kid who will not wear undershirts to work as an adult.

TOB: Imagine your daughter brings this guy home. You’d know you did not read to her enough when she was a little kid.

#7 You’ve heard of an afro? Say hello to an af-flow.

PAL: I like this. #7 might be a reach, but it’s natural. Wild. He really got the most out of it.

TOB: Not everyone can have flow like us, Phil.

#6 You know what the definition of intense is? Being the only guy on your team to dye your hair. We call this the Raggedy Andy.

PAL: Can’t believe this made the top 10. King is a visionary, but this pick was terrible, and nearly in the top 5, no less! That’s hallowed ground.  

TOB: Is this kid already going bald? That’s a high hairline he’s hiding.

#5 Do not adjust your screens. We’re not in HD. That’s just the perfect hair of Tyler from O.M.G.

PAL: This is the stuff of top 5. Feathery. Light. Is he the villain from an 80s high school movie? He could be, and that’s the point.

TOB: Not my style. I prefer #10.

#4 Next up, Griffin from Wayzata gives us some old school dirtay. That’s D-I-R-T-A-Y.

PAL: A ‘Griffin’ from Wayzata, eh? Cake-eater name from a cake-eater town. His dad drove to this game in a Mercedes…but the cake-eater nails the hair, dammit. Worthy of a top 5.

TOB: Call me old-fashioned, I don’t like the “dirtay”. I like natural flow.

#3 We found the Hanson brothers of special hockey here.

PAL: For my money, the guy on the left should’ve been number 1. It’s just perfect. No bells and whistles, and he isn’t joking around like Dallas up above. I can’t imagine this dude having any other flow, and I don’t want to. It’s perfect. His hockey hair is meant to be.

TOB: He looks like Noel Gallagher. It’s great. And you can tell he does it for the love of the flow, and not the limelight, because he’s very unhappy about the camera in his face.

#2 We call this next look the Charlie Sheen, because Tanner’s mullet has party in the back and the front.

PAL: Damn, this is good. The voluminous fluff is mesmerizing. Soft-core, 80s style. This kid’s trouble, but you’re parents oddly defend him because he’s always addressed them in the formal ‘Mr.’ and ‘Mrs.’.

TOB: It’s so bad that it goes beyond being so-bad-it’s-good to just being bad again.

#1 And, man, did we need this kid. I mean, look at this. The extra bonus flip for the fans. In a year with lots of, ah, geometrics and Bruno Mars haircuts, this kid was here to remind us what it’s all about and inspire a new generation.

PAL: The hair is so good, you don’t need to see the front. God touched him and gave him flow.

TOB: I died laughing at this one: “Top of the charts we have Reagan Garden. They don’t tell you his middle name’s Olive, because he’s brought unlimited salad to the tournament for everyone.” Good god, I want this guy to narrate my life.

So there you have it, the 2017 All Hockey Hair Team. We really need to go cover the State Tourney next year, TOB. – PAL

Source: 2017 All Hockey Hair Team”, John King, Game On Minnesota (03/11/17)

Shut Down the NFL

In 2015, a class-action suit was filed against all 32 NFL teams alleging they gave players painkillers and anti-inflammatory medicines in a manner violating federal drug laws. The plaintiffs have now asked to amend the complaint to make new allegations uncovered in discovery. The short of it is, NFL teams were pumping their players with enough drugs to kill large animals, without explaining to players what they were being given and the possible side-effects, both short and long term. Team trainers and doctors talked openly about avoiding crackdowns from the DEA. Trainers, not authorized to administer or give prescription medication, did so routinely, including in so-called T-Trains, where players would line up to receive a shot of Toradol, a strong painkiller with severe side effects. Just handing them out like candy. No big deal. The part that really made me sick to my stomach was this account from former Seahawks offensive lineman Jerry Wunsch:

On November 22, 2003, the night before an away game in Baltimore, Maryland, trainer Ken Smith gave named Plaintiff Jerry Wunsch an Ambien. The next day, before the game, Coach Holmgren asked Mr. Wunsch if he could play, despite excruciating pain down the whole right side of his body, to which Mr. Wunsch replied “I can’t play, Coach. I can’t play today. It’s my first game. I just can’t do it.” Coach Holmgren then called Sam Ramsden, the Seahawks’ trainer, and asked “what can we do to help Mr. Wunsch play today.” Mr. Ramsden brought the doctors over, who gave him a 750 mg dose of Vicodin and Tylenol-Codeine #3, saying they would help, even though Mr. Wunsch was already taking anti-inflammatories as prescribed by his doctors. He played – feeling high – and after half time, the Medications wore off and he told anyone who would listen that he could not play anymore, but Mr. Ramsden, the head trainer, gave him another 750 mg of Vicodin on the field for the second half, telling Mr. Wunsch, “Don’t sue me personally for this.”

Meanwhile, as a Deadspin commenter pointed out, wide receiver Josh Morgan’s career is done because he smoked pot. Christ. Pain is your body’s way of saying there is a problem. Taking a painkiller in order to continue playing football can only make things worse, as you can’t feel the damage you’re doing. But do NFL teams care? Nope. Do the coaches care? Hell no. Do the doctors and trainers care? Not enough to have a god damn backbone and uphold the standard of care. No, instead, they do their best to keep the NFL “pill counters…off  the trail.” The only solution, other than ending football, is for the NFLPA to hire and control the employment of all doctors and trainers. The doctors and trainers should not report to the teams or coaches in any respect, and the NFL should foot the bill by granting the NFLPA the money to pay for this. What an evil corporation. -TOB

Source: Lawsuit: NFL Teams Repeatedly Broke Federal Drug Laws, Handed Opioids Out Like Candy”, Laura Wagner, Deadspin (03/10/2017)

PAL: Let’s just stop watching the games already. Seriously, what the hell are we doing? NFL teams ignored concerns raised about concussions, and they’ve knowingly provided highly addictive prescription drugs to be used in a way they were not intended to be used at an alarming rate. Aside from those real concerns, television networks, blogs, podcasts, and fantasy sports have made a 16-game season a 365-day circus to the point where we receive daily updates about a crappy former NFL player’s publicity stunt of a professional baseball career. It sucks on a moral level, and it sucks on an entertainment level. Just stop.

Jim Harbaugh Would be the Worst Brother-in-Law

Imagine, for a moment, that one day your sister comes home and tells you she’s dating a famous quarterback, or a famous football coach. Hmm, you think. That could come with some perks. Some time passes and you get to know him a bit. He’s a busy guy, but he treats your sister well, and she’s very happy, and you get to attend football games and go on nice vacations and man isn’t life great? Now imagine that quarterback/coach is Jim Harbaugh. Welcome to your worst nightmare, pal. Jim’s brother, John, the head coach of the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens relays this story of Jim’s insane competitive streak, which veers well beyond “hyper competitive athlete” and into “absolute crazy person”:

Last Memorial Day we did vacation together. My wife and I have a cottage up north in Michigan on Lake Huron. We… have a basketball hoop in the front yard in the driveway, and we were going to play a little game with the kids, and we just started shooting around, and next thing you know it was a 4-on-4 game. It was Jack, who is two-and-a-half, Addy, who is six, Katie, who is four-and-a-half or five at the time, Allison who is 13 or 14 and she is a little basketball player, and Jim and me and Sarah, my wife. We’re playing, and you can picture the kind of game it is, right? Allison happens to hit a couple jumpers and we’re playing to seven, and we’re up maybe 5-1. Next thing you know, Jim starts going over the top of Allison for rebounds, he’s boxing her out 10 feet away from the basket. Next thing you know, it’s 5-5 and Jim has made all the shots for his team of course. I’m like, you know, maybe Addy would like to touch the ball? Maybe Katie or Jack could dribble a little bit now and then? It goes 6-6 and a long rebound comes out the side, he goes and gets it. I see Allison happens to be over there, so I see him going to the basket, he’s going to take Allison to the hole, you know, he’s about 6’3″, 235, so I’m going to go cut him off. I get him with my right arm bar across his chest and I’m trying to body check him into the pricker bushes behind the driveway, and he just powers his way to the basket, lays one over the top, a reverse layup off the board, and all he could talk about is how he won. He picks up Jack and says, ‘Doesn’t it feel great, Jack, to win? Doesn’t it feel great to win?’ An hour later we were crossing paths in the backyard to go get a soda or something, and he looks me right in the eye and he says, ‘Hey John, have you won anything yet?’

John, of course, should have had the easiest retort in the world: “Yeah, Jim. I won a Super Bowl. How you like them apples?” It doesn’t say what he actually said. But can you imagine having to deal with a person like that at every family gathering?  -TOB

Source: A Free Agency Free-For-All”, Peter King, MMQB (03/13/2017)

PAL: Hyper-competitive, or immature man-child dick? Maybe they are the same thing. I selling Jim Harbaugh. His act will wear thin (again).

It Costs a Whole Lot to Pretend You’re Something That You’re Not

Rutgers University joined the Big Ten (14 Teams) in 2014. Aside from one good season in football, Rutgers is not a competitive Big Ten team in the sports that generate the most revenue: football and men’s basketball.

That hasn’t stopped the athletic department from spending like a big-timer. It has has been running at a $20M annual deficit since 2006. In 2016, it reported a $28.6M deficit, including a $10M+ loan from the university bank at an interest rate of 5.75% (repayment: $18M). The Scarlet Knights are getting money from seemingly anywhere. $11M in student fees diverted. $17.1M from the university’s general fund.

Why is this happening? Because Rutgers joined a power conference, and in 2021 the university will receive its full share of that TV contract money (as much as $40M). In other words, they would like you to believe they are investing in the future.

The problem is the people making those investments haven’t done a very good job. A large chunk of money can’t be called an ideal investment, as it’s being given to fired coaches, athletic program employees, and buyouts for sports marketing firms. Over $12M in total. Giving bad decision-makers more money is how you end up paying $12M for people to not work for you.

And the school just signed an 11-year, $65M contract with a new sports marketing firm.

Yes – ramping up to become competitive football and basketball teams in a “power conference” is going to take some money (the football and basketball teams were 0-9 and 3-15 in conference play this year). It also takes a bit more competence than what has been put forth is the article linked below.

And let’s be real for a second: Setting aside scandals of Penn State proportions, Rutgers is not going to consistently compete with the big boys of the Big Ten any time soon.

With that in mind, Rutgers might want to think long and hard about the path they are on and remember the following numbers as they continue take money from academics:

  • $45K: Cost of out-of-state attendance (tuition, room & board, books, etc.)
  • 30 percent: Amount of curriculum is taught by contract teachers

Let’s look at the bright side: Rutgers can look forward to participating in a bunch of Big Ten Homecoming weekends. They are the kind of team better programs bring in to guarantee a win with all the alumni in town. – PAL

Source: Chasing Big Sports Goals, Rutgers Stumbles Into a Vat of Red Ink”, Michael Powell, The New York Times (3/12/17)

Brent Musburger: Not America’s Grandpa – More Like Its Creepy, Degenerate Uncle

For years, Brent Musburger announced all manner of major sporting events – the World Series, major College Bowl Games, and the Super Bowl, among many others. I always preferred Keith Jackson (Whooooa, Nellie!”), but only by a hair. They both seemed like kindly old grandpa, beamed into your living room each week for the country’s biggest college football games – the sports I associate them with the most.

But over the years, Musburger started to show another side. It began with subtle gambling references – when a team got a late, otherwise meaningless touchdown in a blowout, Musburger said, “Some scores mean more than others.” The score had pushed the total points for the game over the over/under – so a lot of people won or lost a lot of money because of that touchdown. He grew more bold with his gambling comments, often referencing his “friends in the desert” and mentioning the insights they had provided him about that game. He even once even mentioned the early Super Bowl point spread in the closing moments of the conference championship game he was announcing, after getting the info from one of the aforementioned “friends in the desert”. Musburger came out of his shell more the older he got – few will forget the time he kickstarted Jenn Sterger’s career when the camera panned to her in the crowd at an FSU football game, and Brent said lustily, “1,500 red-blooded Americans just decided to apply to Florida State.”

In his last big game, he defended Joe Mixon, the Oklahoma running back, who had served a year-long suspension for breaking a female student’s face. The video of the punch was released just days before the game, and the 2-year old story was back in the forefront. Musburger did not come off well, and during the game was told of the Twitter backlash. He went off. Just weeks later, it was abruptly announced he was retiring, and a random SEC basketball game in January would be his last ever broadcast. Many assumed ESPN had finally had enough with Brent.

Not so, says Brent. He has “retired” to Vegas, and now hosts a sports gambling show on Sirius Radio. Brent hosts the show live in a studio in the middle of the gambling floor of a Vegas casino. This article profiles Brent as his show is getting kicked off. I knew he had become America’s creepy uncle, but goddamn, Brent loves gambling. It’s an entertaining read, as you see a side of Brent few have seen. -TOB

Source: Brent Musburger Used to Make Veiled Gambling References. Now He’s Dropped the Veil”, Adam Kilgore, Washington Post (03/14/2017)

PAL: 70 year-olds truly don’t give a shit about what other people think. A lot of them make semi-creepy comments about younger women. Most of them love Vegas. Musberger, 77, is simply old. His not giving a damn just happened to take place on national television. Go do the lame gambling show. Those shows are the worst.

Video of the Week:

PAL Song of the Week: Sylvan Esso – “Play It Right”

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“I’m over here in my unit, isolated and alone, eating my terrible tasting food, and I have to look over at that. That looks like the most fun I’ve ever seen in my entire life, and it’s B.S. – excuse my language. I’m just saying that I wash and dry; I’m like a single mother. Look, we all know home-ec is a joke – no offense – it’s just that everyone takes this class to get an A, and it’s bullshit – and I’m sorry. I’m not putting down your profession, but it’s just the way I feel. I don’t want to sit here, all by myself, cooking this shitty food – no offense – and I just think that I don’t need to cook tiramisu. Am I going to be a chef? No. There’s three weeks left of school, give me a fuckin’ break! I’m sorry for cursing.”





Week of March 10, 2017

Adrian knows it: Adult autograph seekers at Spring Training are an embarrassment. 

The story of MLB’s first true free agent has absolutely everything to do a with a farm loan.

S.I. ran an excerpt from Jason Turbow’s recent release about the Oakland A’s titled Dynastic, Bombastic, Fantastic: Reggie, Rollie, Catfish, and Charlie Finley’s Swingin’ A’s. If the following story is indicative of the broader work, then I’m going to love it. 

In 1970 A’s owner Charles Finley loaned a then 23 year-old Catfish Hunter 150K for a farm in North Carolina. Hunter would pay back the loan at a minimum of 20K a year + 6% interest.

No problem for a big league ball player, except that it was, because Hunter was making about 33K playing for the A’s in 1970.

Shortly after making the loan, Finley purchase an A.B.A. basketball team and was a little cash- strapped. The quickest way to get some money back was recouping his loan. He harassed Hunter and even Hunter’s father for the money, repeatedly calling the pitcher minutes before he took the mound on game days. But the loan was gone. Hunter had already purchased the farm.

Eventually, Hunter sold 80% of the farm to a family friend and returned the money Finley loaned him. But the experience set the stage with Finley the next time a contract came up.

“On Feb. 11, 1974, Hunter agreed with Finley on a two-year deal at $100,000 per—only the second multiyear contract the Owner ever awarded. Hunter was by that time among baseball’s best pitchers, with three straight 20-win seasons, three All-Star appearances in four years, and back-to-back top-five finishes in the Cy Young voting. Although his contemporaries were earning much more—Tom Seaver made $173,000 in 1974, and Steve Carlton $165,000—Catfish had no way of knowing that. He’d always wanted to earn six figures, and when Finley made the offer it seemed just fine.

“There was only one caveat, Hunter said. His attorney back home in North Carolina, J. Carlton Cherry, had advised him to defer some of it. Put it into a life insurance annuity, he said, which could be cashed in for additional income once Hunter’s baseball career ended. The benefit to this arrangement was that instead of being in a high tax bracket in 1974, Hunter would be taxed later on, when he was effectively unemployed and on the hook for a smaller amount.

“That is exactly how Cherry wrote the addendum: $50,000 per year, to be paid at regular intervals through the season, and $50,000 disbursed to an entity of Hunter’s choosing. Finley agreed. The benefit to Finley was that he got to hold on to the money in the interim, earning interest on it all the while.

“The difference with Hunter’s stipulation was that the Owner wouldn’t have the money at all—the annuity would. Even less palatable for Finley was the discovery that about $25,000 in taxes was due immediately, and he would be the one paying them.”

Immediately, Finley failed to pay the annuity. Hunter and his representatives demanded payment throughout the season, but Finley refused. Hunter and his representatives began to make noise that Finely was in breach of his contract and would try to get out of the contract and be a free agent after the season. The story started to make its way to he public during the 1974 World Series between the A’s and the the Dodgers. The A’s won, completing a World Series 3-pete, with Hunter tossing a gem in Game 3.

After the World Series, a 3-arbitrator panel ruled Finley had breached his contract, ordered him to pay Catfish the $50,000 annuity, and declared Hunter a free agent. MLB, and the A’s, were furious, but couldn’t do much. The best pitcher in baseball was suddenly a free agent. In the years before free agency, this was a big story. A bidding war took place in a small town in Hunter’s home state of North Carolina. Remember, a true free agent was uncharted territory for baseball, and some of the offers to Hunter were pretty fascinating:

  • Pirates offered limited partnership in 5 Walmarts
  • Royals: College tuition, money for the farm, and 50K for life (Hunter almost went with this one, and maybe would have, if not for a poorly timed joke by Royals’ brass)
  • Padres (owned by Ray Kroc) : McDonald’s stock, and a McDonald’s franchise.
  • The Yankees were involved, too (obviously), but Steinbrenner’s out of the picture due to a suspension making illegal campaign contributions to Richard Nixon and was temporarily banned from contact.

Hunter’s free agency has a hint of Forrest Gump to it. Baseball innocence – a player named Catfish – becomes a free agent due to a farm loan gone bad. In the process he’s a brushes up against giants of American industry (Walmart, McDonald’s) and politics (Nixon by way of Steinbrenner).

This is my favorite story of the year so far. – PAL

Source: How a contract breach led Catfish Hunter to baseball’s first real free agent”, Jason Turbow, via Sports Illustrated (3/6/17)

TOB: This book sounds great. Deadspin also had an excerpt, about the time A’s first baseman and former Cal football and baseball player Mike Epstein whooped the hell out of Reggie Jackson:

The team’s pass lists sat atop a picnic table at the far side of the room: a blue sheet for players to leave tickets for family members (the better seats), and a white sheet for friends. Reggie Jackson hovered above them, eyes squinting in scrutiny, until one name in particular caught his eye. “Berman?” he asked, perusing the blue list. “Who put down for these?” Per Rangers policy, players were allowed four seats from the blue list and only two from the white, so first baseman Mike Epstein had used his family passes for friends of his father—the delightfully named Sherman Berman and family—to ensure that they sat together. This was not unusual practice.

“I did,” said the slugger, “and it’s none of your business.”

“I’m appointing it my business,” replied Jackson.

“Don’t buy more than you can handle,” Epstein warned.

Years’ worth of proximity enabled the players who came up with Jackson—Duncan, Rudi, Bando—to differentiate his confrontational, bark-not-bite nature from something actually nefarious. For guys like Epstein who were new to the team, however, such distinctions were not always so easy.

Most of the players had only just arrived at the ballpark and were still dressing when the exchange took place. Watching the brewing confrontation warily, Joe Rudi was the first to pipe up. “Back off,” he sternly warned Reggie. “Don’t mess with him.”

 Reggie did not back off. “Those are family tickets, and there ain’t no Jews in Texas,” he said, invoking Epstein’s Semitic heritage. With that, he grabbed a pen and crossed out the names, one by one. Epstein, a former fullback on the Cal football team, flew off his seat as if at a tackling dummy. Reggie had no chance. “This was not a typical baseball fight,” recalled Ken Holtzman, who watched it go down from his nearby locker. “This was a fight fight.”

Epstein threw Jackson to the floor, straddling him and peppering him with punches. When he grabbed Reggie by the throat and began choking him, traveling secretary Tom Corwin raced to get Dick Williams, and players jumped up to intercede. First to the fray was Gene Tenace, hardly a diminutive figure, who found himself entirely unable to budge the irate behemoth. “Reggie’s eyes are spinning around in his head and I think, this ain’t working,” said Tenace, looking back. “I’ve got to get his hands off of Reggie. How am I going to do that?” Eventually the catcher wrapped his forearm around Epstein’s windpipe and, with full force, pulled. Epstein fell backward onto Tenace, sending both men tumbling to the floor.

Reggie Jackson, what a piece of work.

Blue Chip Recruit Has Yet to Play a Down

We’ve heard stories of – for lack of a better term – size marvel athletes at the in the youth ranks, usually in basketball and football. The rail-thin 7-footer from some random place. The 200-pound 5th grader who the league has barred for the safety of the other kids. Daniel Faalele isn’t exactly that story.

First of all, it’s not just that he’s a massive human being, it’s that he’s proportional and seemingly normal in terms of coordination and flexibility. He played rugby and basketball as a younger kid.

Writer Andy Stark puts in this way:

“Seeing Faalele in the flesh can yield one of two radically different impressions: When he’s by himself, he looks smaller than advertised because he’s so well-proportioned; when he’s alongside a normal-sized human being, he looks even more massive than his dimensions would suggest. It’s as if someone fed the size of the ideal NFL offensive tackle into a 3D printer and set the output to 120%.”

Second, he hasn’t yet played a down. He was living in Melbourne and football wasn’t on his radar. Faalele was working out in a gym when a Hawaii coach noticed him. The coach offered Faalele a scholarship on the spot. Next was a Michigan satellite camp held in Australia. It wasn’t long before Faalele and his mom grasped the potential for a college education and potential for a professional career, and they realized he would need to move to the U.S. to play high school football. He ended up at IMG. This is not a regular high school.

IMG is a sport academy. Actually, it’s the sports academy, with an alumni that includes José Fernández, Michael Beasley, Elton Brand, Kyle Turley, the Williams sisters, and André Agassi.

Third, he’s “playing” against some of the best high school players in the country. When he’s practicing, he’s practicing against a boatload of big time college football commits. He’s not a sideshow, and he already has offers from Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida State, Hawaii, Miami, Michigan and Oregon State while he learns the game.

When he came to IMG, he knew zero about football and its rules. The coaches on the team decided to keep him on as a practice squad to start with the basics (what a yard is, why and when teams punt the ball – stuff like that).  But Faalele is getting it, and has demonstrated a sincere interest in learning the game. When it comes together, the results are radical.

“In one of Faalele’s early practices (Derrick) Elder (offensive line coach) taught him to punch the pass rusher with both hands, then grab his chest. During a one-on-one drill that day, Faalele fired his hands to disrupt the lineman’s charge. Then one hand disappeared inside the rusher’s shoulder pads and the kid went limp. Sensing something wrong, Faalele let go and backed away. ‘He had grabbed [the defender’s] collarbone,’ Elder says, shaking his head at the memory. Elder clarified: Seize the chest plate of the shoulder pads. ‘His hands are steel,’ Elder says. ‘If he gets them on you, it’s over. Doesn’t matter if he has good technique or bad technique, it’s over.’”

Fourth, the coaches understand their responsibility here. They are likely never going to have someone so big with so much raw talent come into their lives. Faalele’s literally off the charts, and so they try to adjust accordingly. The head of sports science at IMG (like I said, this is not a regular high school) put it this way: “The pressure is on us. The support structure around him here and at his college needs to do right by him.”

All this is fun to think about, but as Staples writes, “[I]t won’t matter how huge Faalele is or how much power he can generate if he can’t perform as a player. By the time he makes his debut, he’ll be one of the nation’s most sought-after offensive line prospects.”

This is a well-written piece, and a fun read to boot. – PAL

Source: Think big: 6’9″, 396-pound Daniel Faalele has coaches drooling—and he’s never played a down, Andy Staples, Sports Illustrated (3/6/17)

TOB: I know juuuuuuust enough about both offensive line play and coaches trying to sell a product to be skeptical. Don’t get me wrong, I’m rooting for Faalele. He seems like a good kid, and it would be fun to see someone that big dominate football. But to be an offensive lineman requires at a high level requires much more than power, which Faalele has in spades. It requires foot speed, balance, agility, and a keen understanding of the game of football. He’s going to soon be facing some of the best athletes in the world whose goal is to run by him and crush the quarterback. Faalele’s coaches talk a lot about his power – the power he generates in the gym, the power he generates on the field, knocking players over in practice. And they mention he played rugby and basketball. But you don’t hear them actually say anything about how well he pass blocks, and that speaks volumes. The coaches say the pressure is on them to do right by Faalele – I think they would serve him best by moving him to nose tackle/defensive tackle, where he can use his weight and strength to anchor the defense, and blow up the offensive line. But, what do I know? I just write a sports blog.

PAL: Mark Schlereth, is that you?

Treacherous Baseball Dream

Great Cuban baseball players with MLB dreams have a scary proposition to face. They need to get out of Cuba and prove they no longer reside in Cuba before an MLB team can sign them to lucrative contracts (this is connected to the economic embargo). Defection from the island country is dangerous for all who attempt, but especially so for big time prospects. Getting players out of Cuba is a cottage industry, and it’s run by some scary dudes. Two such dudes – Bartolo Hernandez and Julio Estrada –  are currently on trial for their part in a human smuggling ring.

What makes this story more interesting to me is the elephant in the room that’s being called out through the testimony of the defense’s witnesses (3 employees of MLB teams): Major League Baseball – more specifically personnel from teams – know this is going on, and they have real incentive to know the moment a defector player is free to sign.

To assume personnel from teams are not aware of where and when players have defected – and who is helping them – is quite a leap for me. They know something illegal is happening, they know when it’s happening, and they know who’s facilitating the illegal activity. I believe this. And if I believe this, then I have to believe personnel from MLB teams also are aware that the people who help players defect also demand a cut of a player’s contract. In other words, there’s a bunch of illegal activity going on, MLB knows about it, and likely is smart enough to not ask any questions.

The players want to get out of Cuba to earn a life-changing amount of money for themselves and their families. Guys like Hernandez and Estrada help them, and are compensated for doing so. What’s wrong with that, you might ask. The players are put in a position of zero leverage, even after they successfully defect, and they can be held hostage until they agree to have a specific agent represent them (an agent like Hernandez, who is accused of more or less running the smuggling ring). People have been murdered over this cottage industry. Players face the threat of constant kidnapping while waiting to enter the United States. Yasiel Puig’s defection story, for instance, which we featured way back on May 11, 2014, is nothing short of a nightmarish thriller.

Of course the three team employees that have testified say they had no knowledge of the smuggling ring, and it’s mere coincidence that they happen to send over terms of the contract via email or have phone calls with Hernandez the very day players just happened to have entered the U.S.. Make of that what you will. At least they are being asked the questions under oath. – PAL

Source: MLB Execs Testify They Had No Idea Cuban Players Were Entering Country Illegally”, Francisco Alvarado, Deadspin (3/8/17)



Beer and Loathing in Scottsdale, a Guest Article

Scottsdale, Arizona–what a town eh? All the charm of a Kirkland-brand downtown Disney, combined with Cabo at a Nascar event. Sorry Portland and Austin, tattoos, beards and craft beer don’t really move the needle these days; Scottsdale is weird.

Copy/Pasted between the McDowell Mountains, sprawling across dramatic desert terrain, Scottsdale is a city that shouldn’t exist. But it does. For one reason. Spring Training Baseball.

Every year at the end of February, 15 Major League teams send a hodgepodge of superstars, journeyman, and future P.E. teachers down to the desert to get in playing shape for the upcoming season. I get why the players like it: hanging with your bros, a chance to impress and make the team, a break from the missus, I don’t know, get paid to play a child’s game. Sign me up.

But fans; why do we give a shit? Well, the #MAGA and/or bleeding-heart answer is James Earl Jones’ speech in Field of Dreams (“Because baseball Ray!”). And that may be true for a good handful of folks. However, the real reason is much much simpler–grab-ass. Even the “have a catch, dad?” people give in to a little grab-ass when it comes to Spring Training.

I know, I know, grab-ass is fun to say, and even as I write this, thinking about the term “grab-ass” makes me understand dad’s so much more (I know TOB is lickin’ his chops at the first time he gets to tell the kids to ‘quit playin grab-ass’). “But what are you actually talking about?” Right? I’m talking about those old black and white videos of players in baggie pants at their knees playing pepper, Babe Ruth taking BP in his long johns, goofy team exercises–that’s what we think about when we think of Spring Training. It’s a wonderful Norman Rockwell of what used to be, but that Spring Training no longer exists. Being an athlete is a year-round job, and for most of these guys, it has been since childhood, and even more influential is the business of professional sports. There’s no time for grab-ass when you’re an $18 million/year investment.

I don’t know how this evolved, what the turning point was, I remember a Sports Illustrated cover with Ryne Sandberg with some shocking headline about him making $6 million a year. Less than two decades later ARod would be making 4x that much. Maybe that was it. Fuck ARod. Anyway, point is, the fans have picked up the slack in the grab-ass department and that is why you go to Scottsdale, Arizona every spring; to escape the cold, lay by a pool, get drunk around some grass, then wander the streets high-fiving and arguing about anything you can possibly have an opinion about. – Rowe

TOB: Bravo, sir! Thank you for the contribution. You raise a good point about Spring training. It’s unnecessary for probably 90% of players these days. Maybe pitchers need it to get their arms ready after months of rest, but for everyone else – there’s too much money and they need to be in shape year round. But at this point Spring Training is Too Big to Fail. Fans come in drove and spend a buttload of money. There are dozens of stadiums across Arizona and Florida that exist solely for Spring Training. The hotels make a killing. The sports writers friggin loooooove it. Why the hell do sportswriters love Arizona so much? Phoenix is probably the worst city I’ve ever been to. I have zero desire to go back. And, I don’t really get the appeal – the tickets are not really any cheaper than  a regular season game. You see the best players generally play 2 innings before sitting down. It’s hot as balls, and you’re in a weird, flat land of endless strip malls. Meh. I’ll save my money and go to Giants game during the regular season.  As a counter point, is our video of the week below.

PAL: Do we have another Hunter S. on our hands here, folks? A little stream-of-conciousness thing going on here. Never seen that before. 1-2-3 Sports! gave Rowe a simple task: Go down to Spring Training and provide a report, and he comes back with this “grab-ass” aria.

Call me crazy, but I need to know if the Giants bullpen is improved, or if they will be historically bad again in the prime of a damn good lineup of Panik, Posey, Belt, Crawford, Pence, and kind-sorta Span.

Stop chasing Pulitzers on my watch, Mr. Rowe.

Had to haze him a little bit. Of course I like the flavor, Rowe. And ‘grab-ass’ is a great phrase. I think I’ll work it into a couple conversations at work today.

Video of the Week: 

PAL Song of the Week: Michael Kiwanuka (playing The Fillmore on May 19)- “Love & Hate”

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“Every Day, for eight years, I have brought pepper spray into this office. And every day, for eight years, people have laughed at me. Well, who’s laughing now?”

-D. Schrute

Week of March 3, 2017

Serena, Serena: Queen of the Mission

Serena Williams is the greatest female tennis player of all time. Few would dispute that assertion. Serena Williams is the greatest female athlete of all time. Not many would dispute that, either. Serena Williams is also cool as hell. She recently announced her engagement to Reddit co-founder Alex Ohanian. For most, the announcement came out of nowhere and was deeply funny. What an odd pairing (sample headline: “Who the heck is Alex Ohanian, and why would Serena Williams want to date him?” – Slate.com). I say good for her, though. Ohanian lives in San Francisco, which means Serena has been spending time here, especially in the Mission. On Sunday night Serena stopped by the tennis courts at Dolores Park and asked some locals if she could join them for a game of tennis. Their reaction is entirely appropriate: “Holy crap.”  So Serena played, in fuzzy boots:

Presumably, she beat the crap out of them. When I first read this I decided I’d pay $75 to get 30 minutes’ notice of this so I could see it, and maybe play. It also made me mad because we parked in front of those courts the day before. I missed her by only like 30 hours! I have famously maintained I could score at least one basket on Mike Bibby in ten tries. I still believe it. If I played Serena in tennis, though, I think I’d be lucky to put a ball in play. -TOB

Source: Serena Williams Surprises Dolores Park Tennis Player”, Laura Wenus, Mission Local (02/27/2017)

PAL: You would not score on Bibby (unless he allowed it), and you would not put a single ball in play on Serena (unless she allowed it). Based on the 5-7 times I’ve played tennis, it’s a true athlete’s sport (caution: expert analysis), and – damn – she’s impressive. Good work, Ohanian. Very good work, indeed.

We do forget that icons are people that walk their dogs at night, and sometimes that walk goes by a park. If I were the G.O.A.T., I’d like to think I’d make someone’s day like Serena did in this video. We also separate their age from their wiki page. Serena is my age, and this story makes complete sense to me. An 35 year-old legend with even a tiny bit of perspective making someone’s day makes so much more sense than a 21 year-old superstar making someone’s day.

With that said, I need to see her kicking this guys butt on video!

TOB: Bibby Assumptions: He has to play defense as hard as he did in the NBA (not very hard). He does not get to know it’s a bet, based on how bad I think his defense is. It’s just normal Bibby defense. I’d get 1 in 10, no sweat.

Baseball Players Remain Silent on Politics, Much to My Delight

Yes, I am a complete hypocrite in this regard, and I am deeply deserving of shame for it. I have been openly applauding professional athletes standing up for their political/social beliefs over the last year or so. Athletes like Kaepernick, LeBron, Melo, WNBA stars, and more, have earned my praise, because they agree with me. Jayson Stark points out, though, that baseball players have been noticeably silent, and attributes it to greater diversity within MLB, and the fact MLB teams have evolved to maintain the clubhouse as a sanctuary from the outside world. I’m not sure I agree. I just have a very strong suspicion many of my very favorite players would be much harder to root for if their social and political beliefs are in fact what I suspect them to be. Oh well. Go Giants! -TOB

Source: With Nation Deeply Divided, MLB’s Silence Speaks Volumes”, Jayson Stark, ESPN (02/28/2017)

PAL: This was a long-winded story about the flip-side: Athlete’s don’t have to take a political stand if they don’t want to take a political stand. However, I would warn MLB players that there is a historical cost to this stance. When we talk about politics in 2017 – and we will for decades and decades – not one baseball player will be mentioned. Football players and basketball players will make cameos in history books. In other words, what’s the cost-benefit analysis of short-term criticism vs. a legacy of any real value? In other, other words – grow a pair, baseball players. The collective eye-roll that takes place every time you refer to the clubhouse as a “sanctuary” is all but audible. 

Breaking News: Baylor Coach with No Perspective

Let’s get right to it. Baylor Women’s basketball coach had this to say on the court during senior night:

If somebody’s around you and they ever say, ‘I will never send my daughter to Baylor,’ you knock them right in the face,” Mulkey said (my emphasis added). “Because these kids are on this campus. I work here. My daughter went to school here. And it’s the best damn school in America.”

She then proceeded to drop the mic, as if she was anything other than the pathetic shill at a pathetic athletic department to a pathetic school that sold its soul for a temporary relevant football program.

And then she doubled-down post-game:

“I’m tired of hearing it. I’m tired of people talking about it on a national scale that don’t know what they’re talking about,” Mulkey said in a press conference after the game. “If they didn’t sit in those meetings and they weren’t a part of the investigation, you’re repeating things that you’ve heard. It’s over. It’s done.

“I work here every day. I’m in the know. And I’m tired of hearing it. The problems that we have at Baylor are no different than the problems at any other school in America. Period. Move on. Find another story to write.”

What is she tired of hearing about, you might ask?

52 alleged sexual assaults by 32 football players at Baylor over a four year period.

Let’s do the math on that, Kim. 52 alleged assaults divided by 48 months equals 1.08 alleged sexual assaults per month by the football team over the four year span. That is not the same on all college campuses, you idiot. And guess how many players were kicked off of the football team…


I’ve watched the videos several times, and I remain dumbfounded. At best, Mulkey is pandering to a base of Baylor faithful who feel personally threatened by the actions of their football program gone rogue (see: Penn State). At worst, she is undercutting victims of sexual assault in an institutional environment that, through either ambivalence or enablement – and those are the only two options here – allowed for this to continue.

Clearly, Baylor knows this is more than a – and I hate the implications of this phrase – witch hunt. School President: Gone. Athletic Director: Gone. Football Coach: Gone. Title IX Coordinator: Gone. Oh, and they offered to pay the tuition of one victim in order to keep her mouth shut. Christian values, indeed.

Go to hell, Kim Mulkey. You’ve forgotten what makes great institutions great – the students. I don’t know if Baylor was ever a great school, but I know it’s not now, and it’s partly because people like Kim Mulkey choose to stand by the institution of Baylor in the name of football relevancy rather than support its students.  

Source: Baylor’s Kim Mulkey was out of line with her comments on Saturday”, Rob Dauster, NBC Sports (2/25/17)

Plagiarism at Its Finest

I read this article and thought, “Why have I never thought of this?”. That’s a great indicator of a 1-2-3 Sports! Story, my friends.

Steve Green coaches a JuCo in Texas. They’ve been good for some time, but last year wasn’t very good at all by South Plains College standards (21-9). He decided it was time to re-think his philosophy. More specifically, he decided it was time to steal another philosophy.

Green become a student of the Golden State Warriors. Don’t get my characterization of student wrong: By student I mean the student who copies the homework of the best student.

“Green scribbled down every cut, every back screen and every curl. In pursuit of a goal that was so ambitious that it bordered on audacious, he consulted with his assistants and overhauled his playbook.”

In other words, Green watches what the Warriors do and tells his team to do the same thing.

He’s not clever or nuanced about it. He literally watches every Warriors’ game, takes notes, and implements. The results are – and this shouldn’t come as a surprise – very good.

Why isn’t half of college basketball doing this?

Incredibly fun story about a no-name junior college doing something noteworthy. Take five minutes and give it a read. – PAL

Source: Team Plagiarizes Golden State Warriors. Team Is Undefeated.Tom Cacciola, The New York Times (3/2/17)

TOB: He makes it sound so easy, we should try it. Phil, can you start charting plays this weekend?

Video of the Week


PAL Song of the Week: Prince – “When You Were Mine”

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“You know, can I say this? Why don’t we just give the $60 billion to North Korea in exchange for not bombing us?”

-J. Lyman