Week of May 26, 2017

On the weekend we celebrate one of our most loyal readers, the many faces of Ryan Rowe.

Yip, Yip, Yip.

ESPN has a very interesting and well-researched story about LeBron James’ free throw struggles this season. Whereas most free throw shooters, especially the good ones,  maintain the same pre-free throw routine for their entire careers, LeBron who is right at the league average for his career, has altered his pre-shot routine considerably throughout this season, and even within the same game. Whether it is blowing into his right hand, rocking back onto his left foot, or shrugging his shoulders, LeBron has employed 18 distinctive variations to his free throw routine this season, and he has used those 18 variations in countless combinations. Why? LeBron, shooting only 67.9% from the line, by far the worst of his career, might just have the “yips”.


It is, surprisingly, affecting how LeBron plays the game. This season, he took only two free throws (on the same trip to the line) in the final minute of a one possession game – way back on December 29. That’s it. That placed him in a tie for 117th, with a couple guys I’ve never even heard of. That’s not normal for LeBron. He’s averaged 18 such shots per season in his career, with as many as 32 in 2007-08. This tells us his free throw woes are changing the way he plays, because he is simply not trying to get to the rim in late and close situations. Could this affect his quest for a fourth title in the rubber match against the Warriors? It very well might.

There was another interesting nugget in this story:

In 1993, a white-haired podiatrist from Long Beach, California, named Tom Amberry etched his name in the Guinness World Records by making 2,750 free throws in a row. In March, Amberry died at age 94, leaving behind a 144-page manual, published in 1996, on mastering free throws. It includes seven steps to successful free throw shooting, stressing the importance of keeping things simple and routine. In a 1994 Sports Illustrated profile, Amberry offered this advice: “You have to perfect all parts of your technique, then it’s just focus and concentration. A free throw takes six seconds, and you can’t think of anything else during those six seconds — you have to put all other thoughts out of your mind. Each shot is a separate shot, and it’s the same ritual every time.”

First of all, 2,750 consecutive free throws made is incredible, moreso for a guy who was 70 years old. Second, I reeeeeeeally want to find that manual. How can someone write a 144-page manual on how to shoot a free throw? I bet it’s insane and hilarious. Someone find it for me. -TOB

Source: Fifteen Feet of Trouble”, Tom Haberstroh, ESPN (05/19/2017)

Becoming Curry

Danny Chau writes about Game 1 of the 2013 Western Conference Semifinals between the Warriors and Spurs, the night Steph Curry broke out and started to become the unstoppable force we know him as today. Prior to that postseason, Steph Curry was a pretty good, oft-injured, player mostly known for his outstanding three-point shooting, and not much else. He missed the majority of the previous season with the latest in a long line of ankle injuries that appeared to seriously threaten his career, and he was still so skinny that it just seemed impossible a guy his size could ever withstand the physical grind of an NBA season.

I’ll never forget that series, because I was particularly invested in the Warriors’ playoff success. Indulge me. That season, I was involved in a game of Turnerball, invented by my friend, Turner Sparks. Turnerball is simple. Starting at the all-star break, each player picks three teams to win a game, straight up, each week. You cannot pick a team more than once. After the regular season ends, the players then select who they think will win the NBA title in order of their regular season finish in a draft conducted through e-mail.

I had the 9th pick, and I was eyeing the #6 seed Warriors, playing the #3 seed Nuggets. Complicating matters was the fact I was on my honeymoon during the draft, and in fact would be on a long flight when the #7 and #8 selection was to be made. I was hoping the Warriors would be available when I landed. When I did, I turned on my phone and eagerly checked my e-mail. Despite having warned the group of my flight, I had a few e-mails wondering what the hell was taking so long, but I didn’t mind because the Warriors were there.

As I expected, the Warriors pulled the first round upset against the Nuggets (who were selected fifth in our draft). They went on to play San Antonio in the second round, and though they lost, Curry was a one-man wrecking crew. The offense was get Steph the ball, get out of the way, and let’s hope he shoots us to a win. The Warriors absolutely gave away Game 1, and still got the series tied at 2, before the Spurs closed it out in Games 5 and 6.

But Curry put the league on notice. He had arrived. He did things we’ve never really seen before – taking deep, contested threes, and making them over and over at a clip (watch the video above, but the shot at 03:52 into the video is illustrative). He might be my favorite basketball player to watch, and it all started in 2013, coming full circle this week when the Warriors brushed aside the Spurs, albeit without the retired Duncan or the injured Parker and Leonard, in four largely noncompetitive games in the Western Conference Finals. A rubber match with Cleveland awaits, and I can’t wait to see the best team and most exciting player against the best player. -TOB

Source: The Night Steph Curry Became a Star”, Danny Chau, The Ringer, 05/23/2017

Missed It By That Much

It’s one thing to never come up short on a dream by a lot. Take, for instance, me. I dreamt of playing for the Minnesota Twins when I was a pipsqueak. Spoiler: It didn’t happen. It was never going to happen. I got over it.

It’s another thing to come up short on a dream by the thinnest of margins. That must be a little harder to get over. That’s what Billy Witz’s story is about – the guys who made the last out in a World Series.

We’ve all heard it. Hell, many of us probably uttered the familiar lines while playing in the back yard. Bottom of the ninth. Two outs. Down by 3. And [enter your name here] walks to the plate as the [enter your team] last hope for a World Series…

Michael Martinez, a utility infielder for the Indians last year, lived a real version of that. So did Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Tony Gwynn, Carl Yastrzemski, Willie McCovey, Mike Piazza and Honus Wagner. And they all made the last out of a World Series. Read the story below to learn of the incredible way in which Ruth ended the 1926 season.

This story is also about Martinez, and his journey to that moment when he grounded out to Kris Bryant, ending the Cubs 100+ year championship drought (and extending the Indians 65+ year drought).

Baseball is the best. – PAL

Source: We All Remember the World Series Celebration. How About the Guy Who Made the Last Out?”, Billy Witz, The New York Times (5/22/17)

The Time Tupac Ran Into the Long Beach Poly Football Team at an In-N-Out in Barstow Just Hours Before He Was Shot

That title was a mouthful, but there’s really no other way to put it – and this is a fun story. Long Beach Poly is one of the country’s best high school football programs, producing tons of talent over the years, including DeSean Jackson, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Willie McGinest. In 1996, the coaches decided it was time to take the team on their first out of state road trip. They decided to go to Las Vegas, to play the defending Nevada State champions. It was a disaster. A team of mostly inner-city kids from Long Beach staying on the Las Vegas Strip? Yeah, most stayed out all night drinking and gambling…what you do in Vegas. Predictably, the team was listless the next day and got their butts kicked. On the way back, they stopped at an In-N-Out in Barstow. Who happened to be at the same In-N-Out, heading to Vegas?

After the two buses pulled into the allotted parking spaces along the northern side of the In-N-Out, players wearily rose from the green vinyl seats, when Robert Hollie, the Jackrabbits’ backup quarterback, gazed out a window and said, softly at first, “Yo, it’s Pac!”


“It’s Tupac!” he yelled. “It’s Tupac!”

That’s right. Tupac. Pac and his crew happened to be heading to Vegas to see the Mike Tyson/Bruce Seldon fight that night. Suge Knight was there, too. The kids made a bit of a mistake, though:

Hollie and Gary Barnes, a nose tackle, led a dozen or so teammates toward Tupac. According to multiple witnesses, the rapper had his back toward the players and was speaking loudly—and animatedly, with his hands—to the small number of Knight’s Mob Piru members beside him. They were leaning against the black SUVs. At one point, Tupac heard the approaching footsteps and spun. Meanwhile, two of his colleagues pulled out what looked to be Glocks. Hollie, Barnes and the others stopped in their tracks. “Bloods, you can’t be walking up on me like that!” Tupac yelled. “You don’t know me like that!”

“He was extremely paranoid,” Croom says. “He started cursing—he was irate. We were just kids, so it was definitely an overreaction.”

“He yelled, ‘Don’t run up on me!’” Lewis says. “The guys with him were big dudes. Really big.”

According to Rideaux, Tupac looked over the Long Beach Poly group, noted the collective youth and seemed to calm down. Around this point Knight had returned from inside the In-N-Out, and the players were equally shocked to be in his presence. “It was crazy,” Lewis says. “Not your ordinary rest stop break.” Tupac realized the teenage boys did not pose a threat.

“Where are all y’all little niggas from?” he asked.

“We’re from Long Beach,” Hollie replied.

“Oh, so y’all know my homie Snoop?” Tupac said.

A few nodded. They did indeed.

Everyone seemed to take a deep breath. The Glocks were put away.

“When we first approached Tupac, I wasn’t star-struck—I was scared,” recalled Rideaux. “There was this feeling of anxiety and unease. Growing up in Long Beach, you had these moments when the police would pass you and slow down to question you, even though you did nothing wrong. And you get that anxious feeling in your stomach. That’s how this felt at first.

“But because of the way Tupac embraced our group, it got a little lighter. A couple of guys peeled off as soon as they saw the guns and heard him talk angrily. But those of us who stayed around connected with him. It was brief, but it was a little connection. So that was nice.”

Tupac would be shot later that night, and died a few days later from the injuries. Reading the above, I can’t help but wonder – was living in fear like that Tupac’s every day life, or did he know something was up on that particular day? The story reminds me of the time I stopped at a fast food spot in the middle of I-5 in Nowhere, California, and in front of me in line was the WWE’s Big Boss Man and Dustin Runnels aka Golddust. I was not a huge wrestling fan at the time, but I knew them both from when I was as a kid. Still, it wasn’t Tupac. What a wild story. I can’t believe it took nearly twenty years to tell it. -TOB

Source: Tupac, Glocks, and In-N-Out: A Football Team’s Run In With the Rapper Revealed“, Jeff Pearlman, Bleacher Report (05/23/2017)

Video of the Week

PAL Song of the Week – There’s only one choice on this bachelor party weekend…Banda MS – ‘El Mechon’


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At one liquor store in Terra Haute, Indiana a guy walks in and the 60 year old female clerk looks at him and says, almost in disbelief, ‘Whaaaaaat’s up, wild man?” Life goals

R. Rowe

Week of May 19, 2017


Worst. Trades. Ever.

This is a quick and fun read – what are the WORST trades in sports history? But I have a major beef with the rankings here. First is the Babe Ruth being “traded” from the Red Sox to the Yankees. I say “traded” in quotes because his contract was actually sold, for $100,000 and a $300,000 loan. It’s a technicality, but I will allow it. It was a horrible decision. But then you continue down the list…Randy Moss from the Raiders to the Patriots for a 4th rounder, sure; Washington’s big trade to get RGIII in the draft, ok. Those are not good trades!

But then you get to #4. In order to draft NBA legend Bill Russell, the Celtics traded their #2 pick and, I kid you not, “a week with the Ice Capades”  to the the Rochester Royals for their #1 pick. Uh, what? I needed a little more context, and here’s what I found:

The owner of the Celtics, Walter Brown, was also the president of the Ice Capades.  Brown called up the owner of the Royals– Lee Harrison — with the following offer:  Brown would send the Ice Capades to Rochester for one week if the Royals would pass on Russell.

HOLY SHIT. As the article notes, Bill Russell went on to win five MVPs and eleven NBA titles, and is considered one of the greatest players ever. FOR THE ICE CAPADES FOR A WEEK. Mind-boggling. That’s so so so bad. That’s at least #2 on the list, and I will make a strong argument for it being #1 over Ruth to the Yankees if you get a couple beers in me.

Oh, and the Royals eventually became the Sacramento Kings, because of course they did. God damn, we always sucked. -TOB

Source: “Most Uneven Trades in Sports History”, David Ubben, Sports on Earth (05/18/2017)

PAL: Randy Moss is my favorite NFL player ever, and even I would have traded him after his two years in Oakland.

You Ought To Know Steve Palermo

Until this week, I thought I knew nearly everything about the 1991 World Series between the Minnesota Twins and the Atlanta Braves. It is more than just my favorite fan memory. A few of you may have heard me say that Kirby Puckett’s 11th inning walk-off home run remains the moment of my life in which I’ve experience the purest joy. I was nine, so I knew just enough to appreciate the drama of the moment and to have chosen a favorite player in Puckett, but not enough to know that there were more important things to life that the Twins winning the World Series.

The series was incredible: 5 of the 7 games decided by 1 run, 3 extra inning games, and an all-time classic game 7, in which Jack Morris went the distance to shutout the Braves 1-0. It was outstanding.

I never knew the most outstanding story from that series: Steve Palermo walking out to the mound before Game 1 and throwing out the first pitch.

Palermo was a Major League umpire from 1977 until July 6, 1991. He was eating dinner in Dallas after a game between the Rangers and the Angels when he and two friends rushed to help two waitresses who were being beaten and robbed by three men. Palermo and his buddy chased down one of the attackers while the other two attackers fled. They came back and opened fire. One of the bullets hit Palermo.

“Hit me, belt high, and tore a path through my body,” Palermo said. “And then instantly, I was paralyzed. I just kind of melted into the pavement. I knew right away that oh boy, this is serious.”

His doctor told him it was unlikely he would walk again. 3 months later, with the help of braces and crutches, he got himself to the mound to throw out the first pitch of the World Series. At the game, Palermo offered his assessment of his situation to the Pioneer Press:

“If I wanted to get out of this game, that would be one thing, but for somebody to take it away from me like this doesn’t feel right. I’m looking forward to being booed again.”

While he never umpired again, he remained very much a part of Major League Baseball. He worked as Bud Selig’s special assistant, an analyst, and eventually an umpire supervisor. His professional umpire career began when he was noticed umping a Little League game, and he was the third base umpire the day Yankee Bucky Effin Dent (as Boston fans refer to him) popped a home run down the left field line over the Green Monster. Palermo’s dad was a Red Sox fan.

“What, you couldn’t have called in foul?” his dad said after the game.

Steve Palermo died of cancer on Sunday. – PAL

Source: Steve Palermo, Whose Umpire Whose Career Was Ended by a Bullet, Dies at 67”, Richard Sandomir, The New York Times (5/15/17)

Source:Steve Palermo, a hero, former MLB Umpire and KC resident, dies at 67”, Blair Kerkhoff, The Kansas City Star (5/14/17)

TOB: A few thoughts:

-Please, don’t be a hero. Palermo says he’d do it again, and would hope others would, too. But, I can’t agree. Helping the woman being attacked was absolutely the right thing to do. But once the attacker fled, it’s not worth risking your life to chase the attacker down. Palermo was paralyzed, and he could have died. For what? Be a good human and help the victim, and then let the police do their jobs.

-Boy, do I love those AL/NL umpire hats. That is classic. I miss when the AL and NL were truly different.

-Phil left out my favorite part of the story about Palermo’s dad and the Bucky Dent home run. After his dad asks why he couldn’t call it foul, Palermo said, “It was, like, 20 feet fair.” His father replied, “So?” Ha!

Francona Better Not Ask Cash to Get His Shinebox

This is so good. Kevin Cash is the manager of the Tampa Bay Rays. He both played and coached under Indians manager Terry Francona. Cash was not a very good major league player. Francona and Cash obviously have a good relationship, because Francona is absolutely killing Cash every time the Rays come to Cleveland. Last year, the Rays were greeted with this message on the big screen:

Savage. And this year?

God damn, that’s good. But if I were Francona, I’d stop short of telling Cash to get his shinebox.


Source: Terry Francona Won’t Stop Owning Rays Manager Kevin Cash in Increasingly Public Ways”, Patrick Redford, Deadspin (05/15/2017)

PAL: Being an MLB manager sounds like a pretty awesome gig. You essentially get to wear sweatpants to work every day, and you can pull rank on a scoreboard operator. Does it get any better?

Overthinking It

I don’t care about college softball (unlike some fictional presidents), but this story is ludicrous. Add to it that Minnesota is on the wrong end of it, and – well – now you have a 123 post, don’t you?

The U women’s softball team went 53-4 this year. By any measure of baseball or softball, in any level of competition, that’s a hell of a record. Good enough for the team from up north to be currently ranked #1 in the country. And when the selection committee released its seedings, The U failed to garner a top-16 seed in the NCAA tournament.  How in the you-know-what is that possible?

A laughable explanation:

When selecting the top 16 seeds the committee emphasizes a team’s performance against Top 25 teams along with other variables including strength of schedule. Additionally, two regular-season rankings were released, however, the rankings are not used by the committee when determining the seeds and final bracket that was released yesterday.

When the committee compared Minnesota against other teams being considered for the top 16 seeds, Minnesota did not have as many regular-season Top 10 and Top 25 wins as compared to other teams. The teams that were selected as the 16 seeds had at least one or more Top 10 wins and between four to 18 Top 25 wins. Minnesota did not have any Top 10 wins and only two Top 25 wins.

Furthermore, Minnesota’s strength of schedule was 114. The top seeded teams had strength of schedules ranging from 1 to 36.

That strength of schedule is glaring—I’ll give the committee that— and ranking sports teams is a subjective pursuit without head-to-head games, and that’s especially the case for a fringe sport like college softball, but give me a break. At some point wins have to matter more than the qualifiers of a win, e.g., quality wins, strength of schedule.

In a sport in which one conference – the SEC – had every single damn team make the tournament, you have the a team that’s ranked #1 in the country in the coaches poll to fail to garner a top-16 seed. Talk about paralysis by analysis. Go Gophers! – PAL

Source: The Top-Ranked Softball Team In The Country Is Somehow Unseeded In The NCAA Tournament”, Dan McQuade, Deadspin (5/16/17)

TOB: This is just so stupid. IMAGINE. For one minute, that…Gonzaga was ranked #1 in the country. They have a soft schedule every year, and this hypothetical year is no different. But they plow through everyone they play and are ranked #1 in the country. And the Selection Committee decided they were only a 8 or 9-seed. People would go nuts. 

But you know who hates this as much as Minnesota? Florida. Florida is ranked #2, and now has to play the #1 team in the first round.  So, not only did the Committee not give #1 Minnesota a regional to host, but they put them in #2 Florida’s regional. That means they thought Minnesota is 32nd best team. The only other question I have is for Phil: What does Miami have to do with this story?

Video of the Week: 

PAL Song of the Week – Van Morrison – “Real Real Gone”

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“Paulie may have moved slow, but it was only because Paulie didn’t have to move for anybody.”

-H. Hill

Week of May 12, 2017

Ingenuity is a beautiful thing.

Big Baller or Big Bluster

We have covered Lonzo Ball and his one-man-hype-machine father, LaVar, before. I thought LaVar was kinda funny. Not everyone agrees. After proclaiming he’d be looking for a $1 billion (yes, with a b) dollar sneaker deal for Lonzo and his brothers (both still in high school) or he’d start his own shoe company, LaVar and Lonzo made the rounds at the big sneaker companies. He…did not get a billion dollars. LaVar reported Nike offered Lonzo a 5-year, $2 million per year deal. The Balls did not accept, and I would have loved to have been in attendance at that meeting.

Instead, this week, LaVar announced Lonzo’s first shoe, on their own “Big Baller Brand”. It’s…fine.

If it was under $80, I might even wear them. Others have pointed out they look like the Kobe 8, which isn’t a bad thing. That’s a nice shoe!

But these shoes are not under $80. Or $100. Or $200. These shoes start at $495. Five hundo!!! For a pair of shoes! And they go MUCH higher. Plus, there is no way to know if they are even decent shoes. It’s not like LaVar Ball has been producing shoes for decades. Five hundred dollars!! GTFOOH. Even funnier, they are also selling these stupid slide sandals for $220.

These are not affordable for most anyone…but that’s kind of the point.

LaVar is attempting to market the shoe as a luxury item/brand – to create a status symbol. I’m betting he will fail spectacularly, but I imagine people thought he was insane when he was guaranteeing his kids would play in the NBA, so who knows. Check out the article, though. It breaks down why Lonzo’s offer from Nike was so small (compared to, for example, John Wall’s $15 million per year deal given before he played a game). The economics simply don’t make sense for shoe companies, unless you become a true star who can give your company credibility. -TOB

Source: Why the Hell Are Lonzo Ball’s Sneakers $495?”, Dan McQuade, Deadspin (05/05/2017)

PAL: The Balls are DIY, and I’m all for that as a business philosophy. We need more of it! The problem is that LaVar Ball doesn’t know his product, and he’s impatient. That’s a dangerous starting point for a business.

The value of Big Baller Brand (a cringeworthy name) is currently based on one unknown data point: Lonzo Ball’s ability to excel in the NBA. If he appears to be a transcendent player next year, then BBB has a slim chance of success, and that’s looking past, as one expert notes in McQuade’s article, the fact that LaVar knows nothing about the sneaker business. I’m not sure Lonzo being great is good enough. As McQuade’s article points out, there are a lot of great players in the NBA who can’t push shoe sales.

It’s reported that LaVar was not just looking for an endorsement deal from the likes of Nike, Adidas, or Under Armour; rather, he wanted them to license Big Baller Brand. Do you think the execs openly laughed him out of the room when he made that demand, or texted each other what a piece of work during the meeting?

If LaVar was looking to negotiate with the big three shoe companies, or — better yet, a bidding war to ensue — then he grossly overestimated his leverage.

I can understand two options for the father-son duo (let’s keep the younger Ball boys out of this for the moment):

  1. Play it safe. Take the $10MM as an insurance policy and renegotiate after the 5 year endorsement. If Lonzo’s for real, then he’s essentially a sneaker free agent in the early stages of his prime. That’s when you have the leverage. Worst case scenario, Lonzo has a career ending injury day 1 and you walk away with millions.
  2. You bet on your son. Don’t take the $10MM. Put every ounce of energy making sure Lonzo is ready to kick ass game 1 of his rookie season. He has a fantastic first half of his rookie season. Surpasses the hype and he’s a legit MVP candidate. At that point you go back to the shoe companies with some leverage and demand the licensing deal + a whole lot more money. Or, you launch Big Baller Brand with some some juice that’s based on actual performance.

The path they chose doesn’t make business sense to me, and that’s why I don’t buy LaVar when he says it’s all about his kids. Right now, until Lonzo steps on an NBA court, it’s about LaVar. That’s why they launch Big Baller Brand now. That’s why he makes foolish demands with companies that have a pretty good idea of how to market athletes. He doesn’t want to wait, and marketing his son is his job right now. Waiting either minimizes the father’s role as a public figure (at that point, it will be about Lonzo the player), or worse, demonizes him as a father who got in the way of his son’s ability to succeed.

Back At It Again

The Golden State Warriors are sweeping their way towards a NBA Finals for a third consecutive year (8-0 in the playoff so far). They’re stacked with talent: 4 of the 5 starters were All-Stars this year. Some would argue that anyone could coach this team to a championship, but head coach Steve Kerr has played a major role in turning a 50-win team team into a historically great, championship team. I include him in the “stacked with talent” category.

As many know, Steve Kerr is not coaching the team right now. He had back surgery in July of  2015, and it did not go well. He missed 43 games last year, and now he’s missing the playoffs this year due to nausea, head, and neck pain stemming from the original surgery. He had a corrective spinal-cord-leak procedure at Duke last week (how terrible does that sound?), and there’s no timetable for his return.

The Warriors are on a historical run that Kerr’s leading, and it’s so strange to see such large chunk of it take place in his absence. When his coaching career is complete, I’m sure some hot take talking head will look to minimize his success due to his absence, and that will be dumb argument. Even while away, Kerr is making his impact known.

He’s watching tape, strategizing offensive schemes and player rotation with acting head coach Mike Brown. He’s also communicating directly with players. It all makes for a easily written story—Kerr’s impact is felt in his absence—but I just come back to how difficult it must be to be put in such a great coaching position (his first coaching gig), only to have to watch from afar, especially for a former player whose professional life has largely taken place on the court.

Suffering through greatness. This also seems to be foundation of Kerr and Bob Myers (GM) friendship.

I would be shocked if the Warriors didn’t cruise to another championship, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Kerr isn’t on the sideline to see it, and that doesn’t seem right. – PAL

Source: Warriors’ Steve Kerr trying to help without imposing orders”, Connor Letourneau, SF Gate (05/09/2017)

TOB: This whole story has me very sad. As longtime readers (3 years!!) of this blog know, I am a huge Steve Kerr fan. I don’t have much else to say. I have actually avoided clicking tweets or links about Kerr, because I don’t want to read bad news. I am hoping his body will heal, and he’ll return to continue making the game of basketball even better.

Talent > Technology

Nike wants to own the first sub-two-hour marathon. It is the driving force behind a multi-year marketing campaign called “Breaking2”, and last week they put on quite a show.

The concept: Create the absolute ideal conditions to run the fastest marathon possible. It would not count as an official time, but that was not the point. If you asked Nike, it was about human potential, and as Sarah Barker points out, it’s also about selling merchandise through a production of awe.

Nike announced their plan to breach the two-hour marathon six months ago, though they said they’d been working on it since 2014. They made soaring statements likening their mission to a moonshot, Roger Bannister’s four-minute mile quest, a dreamer’s starry-eyed push at the limits of human potential, but let’s face it—Nike is a retailer, first and last. The plan was to control external factors—weather, altitude, course—and apply the latest and greatest shoe and clothing design, hydration, fueling, training techniques, pacing strategies and physiological knowledge—all with marvelous retail potential—to already accomplished athletes. They chose Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge, Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa, and Eritrean Zersenay Tadese, in the same way they chose the Formula 1 racetrack in Monza, Italy, as the perfect parts for their marketing machine.

I’ve watched chunks of the race (it’s worth skimming through here). It’s essentially a three-hour Nike advertorial mixed in with live footage of the runners making laps on a Formula 1 track. Pre-taped features on the science, the gear, the nutrition, and short bio features on each of the runners. It’s heavy-handed, but done cool and interesting in a way that Nike has mastered over the years. It motivates you to run, but only after you buy some new-fangled Nike shit.

Of the three runners, only one – Eliud Kipchoge – finished the race within a shouting distance of the pacers (the pacers would rotate in 5K increments). His time: 2:00:24. With the current world record standing at 2:02:57, it may seem like we’re very close to breaking the two hour mark. We are not. Running – not racing – on a closed track in ideal settings with a pelaton-like wall of world class runners to draft off of is far from racing. I’d say it’s a 50/50 shot that a clean 1:59:59 marathon happens in our lifetime.

Barker’s beautifully written article is not only a dissection of the infomercial, but the surprising conclusion. While Kipchoge did not succeed in Nike’s “moonshot” (its comparison), watching a generational talent do the one thing he was seemingly born to do under ideal conditions is mesmerizing:

It was the Kipchoge show. The commentators blathered endlessly about Nike science, but that all went out the window the minute the camera focused on Kipchoge. Nike’s gimmickry did little for the other two unfortunates, which was driven home like a knife with every velvet step Kipchoge took. Flying on after 30K, faster than any human had ever run, it was increasingly clear that this part, going over the wall where the strain on mind and body must have been excruciating, this was about one extraordinary athlete. The shoes, all that, had fallen away, useless, silly. What was happening was not Nike-made, and had very little retail potential. It cannot be reproduced on others. Though no doubt unintended, Nike produced a two-hour opus by Kipchoge, on Kipchoge.

Good work, Kipchoge. Good work, Sarah Barker. – PAL

Source: Nike’s Two-Hour-Long Eliud Kipchoge Documentary Was Beautiful”, Sarah Barker, Deadspin (05/08/2017)

It’s Back: The WHL Bantam Draft Name Game

We covered this last year, too, and it’s still so goddamn funny. The WHL recently held its Bantam Draft (14-15 year olds), and the names are so stupid and hilarious. God damn you, white people. As Barry Petchesky points out, “This is a snapshot of a time and place: naming conventions in the American and Canadian Wests (including Mormon Country and the Prairie Provinces, crucially) circa 2002.” Behold:

There are FOUR different ways to spell “Kaden” and FIVE different ways to spell “Braden”. As Petchesky says, “We will have a President Braeydaen in our lifetimes.” I can’t argue.

Other highlights: Cohner. Come on, what? TRUE!!!!! They named their kid TRUE.

Nurse: You need to come up with a name for the birth certificate.

Parents: Oh, that’s true.

Nurse: Got it, thanks.

There is a Talon and a Talyn. There’s a kid named KRZ. WHAT THE HELL COME ON. KRZ??? What kind of name is that? Oh god, it’s pronounced “Cruise”. I am dying laughing.  A kid named Cannon? Ok, actually, that’s pretty dope. If only LaVar had named one of his kids Cannon. -TOB

Source: The Future of Hockey Remains a Bunch of Kids With Irritating Names”, Barry Petchesky, Deadspin (05/05/2017)

PAL: People can name their kids whatever dumbass name they want. I feel the same way about standard names as I do about people without tattoos. In 10 years, nothing will be edgier than a tattoo-free college student named John.

The thought of an expecting couple in bed kicking around these names, then talking about the spelling of the name has me laughing out loud right now.

You know what the shit of it is? Krz might grow to become a grounded, generous, kind person, and I would never know it because it would be damn near impossible to get over that first impression.

Machismo and the Mexican Fighter

Art by Jim Cooke/GMG; photos via Getty/AP

This is a great article putting Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr.’s blowout loss last weekend to Canelo Alvarez into historical context. This article explores the Mexican psyche, the origins of “machismo”, and goes in-depth on the 1996 fight between Oscar de la Hoya and Julio Cesar Chavez (Sr.), including why Mexicans and Mexican-Americans embraced Julio Cesar Chavez and considered Oscar de la Hoya a “gringo”. I urge you to set aside 45 minutes and read this. -TOB

Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. Lost So Much More Than a Fight“, Roberto Jose Andrade Franco, Deadspin (05/11/2017)

Video of the Week

PAL Song of the Week: Bob Dylan – “Abandoned Love”

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Society teaches us that having feelings and crying is bad and wrong. Well, that’s baloney, because grief isn’t wrong. There’s such a thing as good grief. Just ask Charlie Brown.

Michael Scott

Week of May 5, 2017

That’s how I’d look if I watched 206 picks of the draft (Kelly was this years Mr. Irrelevant – the last player selected)

Bad is Good

One of my favorite stories of 2017 so far. Karen Rinaldi is a “kook” surfer. That’s slang for someone who’s not good at surfing. It took her five years to catch her own wave, and she’s far from good now, but she loves it. It’s not just the sport that she loves, but what it gives her: The freedom from a world polluted with perfection.

When I do catch a wave and feel the glide, I’ll hold onto that feeling for hours, days or even weeks. I’m hooked on the pursuit of those moments, however elusive they may be. But it’s not the momentary high that has sustained me. In the process of trying to attain a few moments of bliss, I experience something else: patience and humility, definitely, but also freedom. Freedom to pursue the futile. And the freedom to suck without caring is revelatory.

No one ever tells you how much you suck at something. Unless you have a mean boss, an abusive parent or a malicious friend, most people are happy to help us maintain the delusion that our efforts are not in vain. No, we cannot count on people around us to let us know how much we suck. It is far more acceptable to compliment than to criticize. So the onus is on us as individuals to admit to ourselves how much we suck at something. And then do it anyway.

To the physical meditation in humility and sympathy in a culture of “cocksuredness” – that strikes a chord with me. Doesn’t it feel like everyone’s super into everything they do, and they are super serious (re: proficient) about it, too? It’s not enough to go skiing, you have to go on some epic Art of Flight type excursion. It’s not enough to mess around on the guitar, you have to be in a band playing Hardly Strictly. It could be that I’m projecting here.

I read this article, and I wonder how much our pursuits are influenced by Facebook or Instagram. Do we do things for the feeling, or do we do things for the reaction? Rinaldi provides a great reminder to do it for the feeling, no matter how bad we look in pursuit of it. – PAL

Source: (It’s Great to) Suck at Something”, Karen Rinaldi, The New York Times (4/28/17)

TOB: Surfing seems to me an activity that would be ok to do even if you sucked. You’re in the ocean, floating around, catching some rays, etc. What’s not to love? Though, doing it for FIVE years without EVER catching a wave takes some persistence that I doubt many possess. But, I get it. Though I am not a good singer, I love to belt out any song I know. Hell, as I type this, my 2-year old and I are singin’ the hell out of the Frozen soundtrack, his latest favorite. But otherwise, I don’t particularly enjoy spending time doing things I suck at. For example, I wouldn’t often choose to play soccer, because I’m not very good, and I’d rather spend my time  doing something I enjoy more. I get her point – it’s freeing to not be good, and still take enjoyment.  But the trick is finding an activity that you suck at and still enjoy. Easier said than done.

When to Put an Old Catcher Out to Pasture

Catchers, generally, are not great hitters. The venn diagram of people who are great hitters and have the skill-set to be great catchers has a very small overlap. So, when a great-hitting catcher comes along, almost immediately people start to ask, “When are we going to move him to first base?” Playing catcher is very tough on the body; it shortens careers and saps power. Moving to first base allows the player a longer, more productive career.

The question has been asked of Giants catcher Buster Posey pretty much from the time he entered the majors. He won a batting title and hit 28 home runs in 2012, being named MVP for his efforts. But that was five years ago. He just turned 30 and has hit just 5 home runs since last year’s All Star break. He’s still got a good batting average, but he hits for almost no power. History shows there will be no reversal – he will only get worse. And so, the discussion about when to move Posey to first are heating up. Move him to first, prolong his career another five years, and maybe even improve his hitting. Seems simple, right? Well, maybe not.

First, Posey doesn’t want to move:

“If I ever got to the point where they said, ‘Hey, we feel like this is better for the team,’ I’m not gonna be a guy that’s stubborn and says no,” Posey says. “Until they tell me that, my value is behind the plate. As cliché as it is, it’s about winning ballgames.”

Perhaps more importantly, is the concept of positional value. Even diminished, Posey is probably the best hitting catcher in the league. He would be far from the best first baseman in the league, though. As Jerry Crasnick points out: “[I]f a catcher is a strong producer behind the plate but middle-of-the-pack at another spot, what’s the point?” He’d also force Brandon Belt, at this point the Giants best hitter and a good defensive first baseman, to move to left field (or out of the organization) to make room. And THEN you have to replace Posey at catcher, who will not be as good of a hitter OR a catcher as Buster.

And if you think moving him to first will improve his hitting because he’s no longer enduring the grind of catching every day – look to Twins first baseman Joe Mauer. Mauer also won a batting title and an MVP. Then, injuries and the catching grind took its toll. Mauer became a singles hitter and could barely stay on the field. So he moved to first base…and he is a bottom of the league first baseman, ranking 22nd in slugging percentage last season. So, as Posey says, “I’m not saying this in an egotistical way, but I think there’s value in having a good hitter behind the plate and being able to put a bat at first base as well.”

He’s right, and the Giants know this. As Grant Brisbee points out in a companion article:

“Are the Giants better with Posey catching, Belt in left, and Shaw at first, or are they better with Nick Hundley catching, Posey at first, and Belt in left? You know the answer to this. And it doesn’t have to be Belt in left, either. The same question applies to the outfielder of your choice. Let’s say the Giants do something wild, like ‘acquire a good left fielder.’ Are the Giants better with Hundley catching and Belt on the bench in that scenario, just to get Posey out from behind the plate?”

You know they aren’t, and you know that they aren’t better with Hundley catching and Belt sitting in any scenario. This is an argument about the short-term, which isn’t really the primary concern elaborated by Crasnick, but it’s going to work for every season. If 

Replacement catcher + Posey at first + left fielder

… is better for the Giants than …

Posey catching + first baseman + left fielder

… then the real issue is that the Giants need to get a new left fielder.

Exactly. Let Posey, still a great hitter for a catcher, and the best defensive catcher in the league, well…catch, damnit. As Buster said: “Maybe my career is three years shorter this way. But I know I’m getting the most out of it.” -TOB

Source: A Catcher’s Dilemma: How Much Longer Can Buster Posey Stay Behind the Plate“, Jerry Crasnick, ESPN (04/27/2017); Buster Posey Still Wants to Catch, and the Giants Will Let Him“, Grant Brisbee, McCovey Chronicles (04/28/2017)

PAL: With the exception of 2 years in his career, Mauer’s been primarily a singles hitter from day one. That MVP season was a sticks out like a sore thumb on his baseball reference page

As a guy who logged a some time in the squat, I love watching Buster Posey play. Favorite Giant to date. He’s one of those guys that is so good at something so difficult that he makes it look ho-hum. And while his power numbers at the plate have been declining, I think he just might win a batting title this year. You heard it here first!

Mauer, known as ‘Baby Jesus’ back in Minnesota when he was winning batting titles (2006, 2008, 2009) and Gold Gloves (2008, 2009, 2010) for the Twins, was everyone’s favorite catcher. My mom remains in the “Joey Mauer” super-fan club. He should have been mine, but his knack for dumping singles into left field with two outs and nobody on base drove me nuts. 

I’m lucky to have been in San Francisco to watch Posey – every bit as good defensively as Mauer – rake at the plate while leading the teams to titles.

I’d take Posey over anyone else of his generation. You can have Molina and his neck tattoos. It’s also worth noting Bruce Bochy, a former catcher, has been captaining the Giants ship throughout Posey’s career, and I like how they are utilizing interleague play, mixed in with some games at first, to keep his games played in the 140-150 range, while limiting his catching games to a bit over 100. That move, which they’ve been doing for a couple years now, will buy Posey at least a couple more years behind the plate.

Video of the Week:

Ahem. That’s a former Cal Bear with the smart, and patient, play.

PAL: Cal, Cal, Cal. A Cal fan would appreciate patience. They’ve been waiting for a winner since god knows when.

PAL Song of the Week: Monsters of Folk – “Whole Lotta Losin'”

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“Webster’s Dictionary defines wedding as: The fusing of two metals with a hot torch.”

-Michael Scott