Week of August 25, 2017


Dodgers Mess Up Hill’s History & Other Tough Breaks In Pursuit of the No-No

Rich Hill, a journeyman lefty for the Dodgers, almost had a very special night on Wednesday. He is one of the few pitchers to take a no-hitter into a tenth inning. He is the first pitcher to lose a no hitter on a walk-off home run. What’s more, the dude had a perfect game into the ninth.

As SI’s Ted Keith points out, this isn’t Hill’s first close encounter with perfection:

This wasn’t Hill’s first taste of perfect disappointment. Last Sept. 10 he had been removed from a game against the Marlins in Miami after throwing seven perfect innings because Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts was concerned that Hill’s recurring blister problem would pop up again and limit his effectiveness or ability to pitch at all in the postseason. It didn’t.

Despite his recent success, Hill (37) hasn’t exactly had the career you might expect from a guy who’s come this close to history. While his MLB debut came in 2005, he has only 7 years of MLB service. Arm injuries, back injuries, and recurring blisters are just the beginning. He tried to become a side arm specialists as a reliever. He returned to the minors. In 2015 he was out of baseball and playing catch with teenagers when he decided to give it one more shot. This time it would be on his terms as a starter and going back to his old, more traditional motion. By December, 2016, he had signed a 3 year/ $48MM contract.

A perfect game or a 10-inning no-hitter would have been a cool cap to his comeback. It’s too bad the world-beating Dodgers couldn’t muster one measly run for the old lefty. Such a damn shame the boys with the whitest uniforms in all the land found a way to mess it up, isn’t it?

Yep, Wednesday night was a tough beat for Hill, but, as Keith chronicles in his article, his is surely not the worst loss of all-time. Check out the list to see for yourself, but it’s hard to top Harvey Haddix’s heartbreak in ‘59. Check out this line:

12 2/3 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 K

Facing the two-time defending National League champions, Haddix retired the first 36 batters he faced, but Pittsburgh had not yet been able to push a run across against Milwaukee’s Lew Burdette despite picking up 12 hits. In the bottom of the 13th inning, the Braves finally got a baserunner when Felix Mantilla reached on an error by third baseman Don Hoak. Eddie Mathews, who led the majors with 46 home runs that year, followed with a sacrifice bunt and Haddix then walked Hank Aaron intentionally to set up a possible double play.

Instead Joe Adcock hit a ball over the wall in right-centerfield. Aaron, thinking the ball landed in play, stopped running and Adcock passed him on the bases. He was ruled out but Mantilla’s run, the only one that mattered, still counted, giving Milwaukee a 1-0 victory.

Don’t feel too bad, Rich Hill. Haddix had it worse, and he didn’t have $48MM to help him grieve.

By the way, did you know that more people have gone to the moon (24) than have thrown perfect games in Major League Baseball (23)? Also, the only completed no hitter of more than 9 innings that I can find is Fred Toney’s from 1917 (let me know if I’m missing any). What’s even crazier is that game in 1917 marks the only time in MLB history when two pitchers made it through 9 innings without giving up a hit. Toney preserved his, while Hippo Vaughn (what a great baseball name) lost his on a base hit in the 10th. The only run scored came by way of an infield hit by Jim Thorpe. Baseball is the best. – PAL

Source: Extra Heartbreaking: From Haddix To Hill, Top Five No-Hitters Lost After The Ninth Inning”, Ted Keith, Sports Illustrated (08/24/2017)

TOB: This tickled me. In a bad Giants season, while the Dodgers march to an inevitable World Series title, I needed this. But Dave Roberts played this terribly. After the 9th, Hill had thrown only 95 pitches, so I’m guessing Roberts figured he wasn’t gassed, and wanted to give him a shot at the no-hitter. But once the Dodgers didn’t score in the top half of the 10th, unless you’re going to let pitch the ELEVENTH, then what’s the point of letting him pitch the 10th? I just can’t believe, even if he maintained his no-hitter through ten, that he’d have pitched the 11th. I wish a reporter would have asked Roberts about this.

Some Things Are Bigger Than Sports

After the terrorist attack in Barcelona last week, Fernando Alvarez, a 71-year old competitive swimmer competing in the Masters World Championship in Budapest, asked race officials to hold a minute of silence for the 15 victims. Officials declined. Because…well, there was no explanation. Alvarez was not content with this answer. So when the race started, Alvarez held his own moment of silence, standing on the starting block long after the other swimmers had jumped into the water and begun the race.

Alvarez ultimately did jump in the water, and completed race. In the ultimate act of pettiness, race officials did not list him in the official results. Nice. Idiots. -TOB

Source: Spanish Swimmer Sacrifices His Race To Pay Tribute To Barcelona Victims”, Patrick Redford, Deadspin (05/21/2017)

Chess is a Young Man’s Game  

If you were to ask me to name chess players, I could name two: Bobby Fischer and the “Kasparov” guy. There’s also something on Netflix about a kiddo named Magnus (current #1 player in the world). That’s where my knowledge ends.

Chess seems like a game built on study and experience. I’m guessing a great player must commit the various strategies (and the one’s employed by his/her competitor) to memory, and draw on competitive experience to make the best decisions at pivotal moments.

It seems like a player would age nicely. More experience, more knowledge, better player.

This is not the case:

Like athletes, and – well – like all of us, chess players’ abilities peak in in their late thirties, and then most of them get worse.

Garry Kasparov, 54, is perhaps the most iconic chess legend. At 22, he became the youngest undisputed world champion. Now, 12 years since his last competitive match, he’s making another go at it. It’s not going exactly perfectly. His record thus far at a 10-player, round robin tournament with some of the best, was five draws and a loss as of Wednesday, August 23, 2017.

It appears Chess is a young person’s game, and Kasparov, considered one of the best of all-time (and this game goes back a few years), is trying maintain is elite status into his senior years. Our mental abilities, like our physical abilities can fade slightly. In a game as competitive as chess, at the level Kasparov is trying to compete, that slight downturn can make a huge difference. -PAL

Source: Is Garry Kasparov Too Old To Dominate Chess Again?”, Oliver Roeder, fivethirtyeight (8/16/17)

TOB: I’ll point out that in high-level chess, draws occur at a very high rate. For example, in the 1984 World Championship, the first Kasparov competed in, ended 5-3-40. Yes, 40 draws in 48 games. The fact he’s 0-1-5 suggests to me he’s lost his fastball, but is still very good. In fact, the chart up there suggests his rating is damn near the same as Magnus’ rating. Also, you’ve never heard of the Spasky Bishop Block? Spasky practically invented chess!

If You Put Your Mind to It, You Can Accomplish Anything

In a short and entertaining article, the Ringer’s Kevin Clark explores the possibility of an in-game 70-yard field goal. Is it possible? Well, kinda. Justin Tucker of the Baltimore Ravens is the most accurate kicker in NFL history. In college, he hit a 67-yard, in-game field goal (the NFL record is 65). Tucker absolutely believes he can make it from 70 in a game, and practices it often. He has hit from 79 in practice, and believes he could hit from 84 in Denver, where the altitude allows the ball to travel farther. Here he is, at Pro Bowl practice, hitting from 75.

Tucker has the ideal weather in mind (80 degrees), and the game situation would have to be right, but he knows he can do it. His holder, Sam Koch, has no doubt he’d make the kick, if given the chance. But there’s the kicker: no coach is likely to give him a chance. If the kick is short, there’s the possibility of a long return for a touchdown the other way. There’s also the possibility of a blocked kick being returned, because the trajectory of the ball needs to be lower. NFL coaches are almost universally conservative play-callers, and would rather take their shot with a Hail Mary, which they see as having far less risk. But, if it’s the end of the game and you’re down 3 points or less (but not tied of leading), where’s the risk? Who cares if the other team returns it for a touchdown. Once the kick misses, you’ve lost. The return is of no importance. So, come on, John Harbaugh. Don’t be a wuss. You know your brother would try it. He’s got guts. Do you, John? Do you? -TOB

Source: Justin Tucker’s Quest for the 70-Yard Field Goal”, Kevin Clark, 08/22/2017

PAL: Can you think of another sport that has a valuable, outlier play like kicking a field goal in football? The vast majority of the game is played one way – big, athletic men running and throwing a ball. Then, at a crucial moment, some skinny dude runs in from the sidelines and kicks a ball through a couple posts for 3 points.

TOB:  Rugby has similar kicks – both like football’s field goal and PAT. But that makes sense – the games are related. And, how dare you call Seabass skinny.

Video of the Week

PAL Song of the Week: Leo Kottke – “Tiny Island”

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I hate, hate being left out. Whether it’s not being picked for a team… or being picked for a team and then showing up and realizing the team doesn’t exist. Or that the sport doesn’t exist! I should’ve known. Poop ball?

– M. Scott

Week of August 18, 2017

That’s almost 90 mph.

Is Floyd Mayweather Going to Take a Dive?

Next week, Floyd Mayweather, the best boxer of his generation, is going to come out of a 2-year retirement and “risk” his 49-0 career record against Connor McGregor, an MMA fighter who has never boxed professionally in his entire life. When this first was rumored months ago, I shook my head at the obvious cash-grab publicity stunt. I vowed not to order the fight, and ignored the story for months.

And then over the last couple weeks, my curiosity got to me. After all, the best part of a big boxing match is the spectacle – and this would surely be a spectacle. McGregor is a better self-promoter than Mayweather. Mayweather is loud and brash and braggadocious, but if you look closely, you can get the sense he doesn’t believe what he’s saying (indeed, Mayweather did not always demonstrate the Money Mayweather persona). McGregor, on the other hand, strikes me as a truly deluded meathead who believes every dumb word that comes out of his mouth.

Now that the table is set, we can eat. When the fight was first announced, I figured both guys just saw it as a nice pay day. McGregor has never made a fortune, because the UFC controls fighter pay. Mayweather has made hundreds of millions, but he’s not very good with his money. He even owes a very large tax bill to the IRS. But then I read this interesting article by a former fight promoter, Charles Farrell, with a seemingly thrown-away line that put a bug in my ear:

If [Mayweather] didn’t care about the legacy he single-handedly constructed (and, as a brilliant con man playing out the string at the end of a long, long con, he shouldn’t care), his final stroke of genius would have been to bet against himself at the beginning of the odds cycle during the very brief time they were 225-1—before jackpot hunters and McGregor hysteria brought the line closer—and then lose the fight in a freakish manner that didn’t hurt his reputation or foreclose the possibility of a redemptive rematch and would allow him to walk away with an additional hundred million dollars or more.

That would be the ultimate fuck you. I don’t think Mayweather is smart enough or secure enough to pull it off.

I just kept thinking about this and thinking about this. Would Floyd do this? Would he risk his perfect record? And then I started to piece some things together, like the director of Loose Change. Consider:

Right after the fight was announced, each fighter released a training video. Here they are, side-by-side:

Mayweather, though 40, looks as sharp as ever. McGregor, who again is not a boxer, looks like dog crap. He’s slow, rather uncoordinated, and looks like the amateur boxer he is. So, why would McGregor release this video? At first I thought, maybe this idiot doesn’t realize how bad he looks? Then I wondered if he wanted Mayweather to see it and not take him seriously? But after I read that passage above about Mayweather taking a dive, I got to thinking: Mayweather opened a -2,500 favorite (meaning you’d have to bet $2,500 on Mayweather to win in order to profit just $100), and Gregor opened at +1100 (meaning a bet of $100 would net you $1,100 if McGregor wins). So, what if they coordinated this video release to try to get the betting public to put money on Mayweather, and thus drive the odds on McGregor higher still? Ok, the evidence is weak so far, but let’s keep going.

Mayweather retired at 49-0, equaling Rocky Marciano’s record for most wins in an undefeated career. This fight would make it 50. Farrell thinks Mayweather will not risk that legacy. But, Mayweather is not as dumb as some think. What if, after he retired, he realized no one cared about 49-0? While generally considered the best of this generation, no one seriously ranks Floyd in even the Top 10 fighters of all time. Maybe Floyd, facing financial troubles, decided his legacy was worthless, and why not make his $100M on this fight, and also bet a huge amount of money on McGregor to win. At the opening odds, Mayweather could bet $10M on McGregor and net himself another $110M. Plus, if he loses, a rematch would be likely, where he could make another $100M. This is all still speculative. Is there anything more concrete I can point to that suggests the fix is in? I’m glad you asked.

Floyd has had a long history of hand problems. It’s one of the reasons his fights got so boring as he aged. He’s a defensive wizard, yes. But he was at one time a knockout artist, too. 13 of his first 15 fights ended in knockout. 19 of his first 27 did, too. After that, only 6 of his last 22 fights ended in knockout, the rest going to decision. Not surprisingly, around that time is when his hand issues began. In his 26th fight, he suffered his first career “knockdown” when Floyd punched his opponent and felt so much pain in his hand that he dropped his hand to the ground. He was never really the same fighter. Late-career Floyd embarrassed opponents with his footwork, quicks, and smarts. But he did not destroy them, and rarely even put them in trouble. It was like watching a boxing clinic, not a war.

What’s this have to do with Floyd throwing the fight? Well, about a month ago Floyd’s dad was interviewed. His dad has been part of the hype machine for this fight, saying Floyd is gonna “whoop [McGregor’s] ass.” But in this interview, Floyd, Sr. let it slip that he doesn’t think his son can knock McGregor out because Floyd, “has something wrong with his hands.” This is not really news to anyone following Floyd’s career, except for the fact that after a two-year break, the hands are still a problem.

And this is where things get inexplicable. In boxing, fights in Nevada at 147-pounds and above (this fight will be at 154-pounds) must use 10-ounce gloves. This is to protect the fighters. But last week, both McGregor and Mayweather petitioned Nevada boxing authorities to allow them to use 8-ounce gloves. McGregor is known as a strong puncher in MMA, and MMA fighters use 4-ounce gloves. His preference for lighter gloves makes sense. But for Floyd? Who is not a strong puncher, has a history and reportedly lingering hand injuries? Why on Earth would Floyd Mayweather want smaller gloves? He wore 10-ounce gloves in his matches against Oscar de la Hoya, Miguel Cotto, and Canelo Alvarez (he did wear 8-ounce gloves in his rematch against Marcos Maidana, but that was a peculiar case where Mayweather was risking both his 147 and 154 pound titles, and both fighters were required to make the 147-pound weight).

Surprisingly, on August 17, the Nevada State Athletic Commission agreed to a one-time exception. They will use the smaller gloves. I can’t shake the feeling Floyd is trying to set up a situation where he loses, has an excuse for it, and sets up a rematch. As I said at the outset, if he bets against himself and sets up a rematch, he stands to make an enormous profit. If he simply wins, he won’t be set for life, after paying his outstanding tax bill, plus the taxes on this purse.

Charles Farrell doesn’t think Floyd is smart enough or secure enough to do it. But considering all I’ve outlined, it makes ya think, doesn’t it?

Source: Floyd Mayweather, Jr. Vs. Conor McGregor Is The Second-Biggest Possible Fuck-You”, Charles Farrell, Deadspin (07/28/2017)

PAL: The 0 in Floyd’s 49-0 record is what makes him culturally relevant. Everything about his brand, aura, mystique is contained within that zero. I would argue it’s priceless to Mayweather.

While I understand you’re pulling the 10MM number out of thin air, it leads me to questions. When someone makes a $10MM bet, word gets out. I mean, that seems like a massive number. Even if Mayweather passed out the money to a handful of people to make the bet for him, there would be buzz, right? Also, he’s at claiming he doesn’t have the cash on hand to pay his taxes (he’s asked the IRS to give him until after the fight to pay the taxes), but he’d put the money up on a fixed bet. Never mind the legacy – does he have the cash to pull this off. If not, who would bankroll it? This seems like a plan you’d want as few people as possible to know about. I wouldn’t be borrowing money to throw a fight. 

Yes, the largest best is a $880,000 (I haven’t seen $888K). The Maloof brothers — former owners of the Sacramento Kings — put it down as a PR play for a charity. I know this because the bet was big enough to attract national press. One of the Maloof brothers was on Dan Patrick’s radio show on Wednesday. Again, it seems like a PR move on their part, but a bet for less than $1M attracted a lot of attention. Just saying.

Hey, if you’re right, then this would be a great call. Almost as great as my Patriots comeback call in the Super Bowl. I should’ve put my money where my mouth was, and maybe you should, too, TOB.

TOB: As you note, I pulled the $10M figure out of thin air. But it’s not far-fetched. Of course he can’t place personally place a bet against himself, and of course he can’t have someone make a $10M bet all at once. As you said, the largest bet taken by a casino is $880,000 (on Mayweather). But if Mayweather gives 10 of his buddies $1M each, and they made bets at various casinos, they could easily dispose of the $1M each rather quickly. Of course, there are always mob-types to arrange this, too. It’s boxing, and it’s Vegas.

As for the 49-0 – this was my thought, too. But my argument here is that, after two years, he realized 49-0 doesn’t matter as much as he thought it would. I am so angry at myself for thinking this, let alone typing it, but I can’t wait to see what happens.


Trick Play Freezes Time

Every high school baseball team has a trick play. They are fun, choreographed, off-the-wall, sometimes outright rule-breaking plays that rarely work.

There’s the one where the pitcher fakes the pickoff throw, and everyone on defense acts as if he has thrown the ball into the outfield:

There’s the old hidden ball trick:

There’s the straight fake throw from a catcher

And there’s the old third-to-first:

There’s also the rumored “skip third” play where a baserunner simply cuts the corner at third base and advances home. This only works if there are two inattentive umpires calling a game. I’ve never seen it and I can’t even find evidence of it on YouTube.

There are a lot of trick plays, but I’ve never heard one as creative and bizarre as the one at the center of the this story.

For one, the ‘Skunk in the outfield’ play lasts over two minutes and thirty seconds. That is an absolute eternity for a baseball play to be live.

Second, it  exposes a rule I never knew existed. “In the rulebook, the baseline is not — contrary to what most people think — the line between two bases. Rather, it’s a straight line between wherever the runner is and the base he’s going for when a tag is attempted.”

Third – and perhaps most ingenious – is The Skunk Play is sheer absurdity. It depends on the defense reacting to something it’s likely never seen before.

So, with runners on first and third here’s how it works:

Did the play work? You’ll have to read the story to find out. Sam Miller clearly had fun writing this story, and it’s one of the most enjoyable reads so far this year. – PAL

Source: “Skunk in the outfield”: How the most epic trick play in history broke baseball, Sam Miller, ESPN (08/17/2017)

TOB: Great read. I love this play. [PAL: SPOILER ALERT. TOB indicates the outcome of the play in the next sentence.] Hats off to the pitcher, though, who defensed it perfectly. When it began, he didn’t balk or panic, which is what the play is designed to get him to do. That’s a ball player!

Respect The Game!

Good: Funny choreographed handshakes amongst adult teammates.

Bad: Handshake between teams.

Why don’t MLB teams shakes hands after a series? Be it the formality of the NHL playoff series or the more informal gathering at the center of an NFL football field or NBA court – the tradition holds true in other major sports. Why not baseball? ESPN’s Dave Schoenfield breaks it down in his column and gives us a tease that a handshake might be coming to an MLB game real soon.

We’ll get to that in a second. Why no handshake?

Baseball teams play almost every day for 7-8 months out of the year. Unlike other sports, the regular season is broken up into either a three or four game series. A handshake after every game would be a bit much. I get that, but I didn’t know that there’s actually an MLB rule that prohibits it: “Rule 4.06, which has been on the MLB books since at least 1950 and dictates that ‘players of opposing teams shall not fraternize at any time while in uniform.'”

Schoenfield points out that the rule does nothing to stop opposing players for shooting the bull during batting practice or the lovefest that ensues when a first basemen and a baserunner laugh it up during the game, but it’s interesting the the rule exists in the first place.

For a game that loves to use the argument of “respect the game” more than perhaps any other sport, it seems incongruous that a handshake doesn’t take place after the last game of a series or at the very least when a playoff series ends.

This all might change, for one night at least, in Williamsport, PA.

On Sunday evening, Matheny and the Cardinals will face the Pirates in the inaugural MLB Little League Classic. The game, which takes place right smack dab in the middle of the Little League World Series, will be played at Bowman Field in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. The pint-sized park has about 2,500 seats, nearly all of which will be occupied by Little Leaguers and their coaches and families. Translation? If ever there were a time to green light Operation Handshake, this would seem to be it.

First of all, how cool is it that an official MLB game – in August – is being played at a 2,500 seat park, in Williamsport, during the Little League World Series? Is this being promoted? This is the first time I’ve heard about it. MLB should be shouting about this as its answer to the NHL Winter Classic. I would love to go to this game, and if they do it next year, TOB, we got to go.

Second, this is absolutely the setting for an MLB handshake. Little League preaches about sportsmanship like it’s gospel. It feels like the announcers have to mention it a minimum of once every inning. Let’s see the idols live by the same expectations we preach to the kids. I dig it. The only thing that would be better is if an MLB player bawled after this game like a 12 year-old who just lost at the Little League World Series. If it would ever happen, it would probably will be a player from the Cardinals. – PAL

Source: “Forgotten lessons from Little League: Why don’t MLB players shake hands after games?”, Dave Schoenfield, ESPN (08/15/2017)

TOB: Yadier.


The Taste of Revenge is Salty

The Pittsburgh Penguins’ Phil Kessel is a supremely talented athlete. He doesn’t have the appearance of one, despite being one of the fastest skaters (if not the fastest) and a big time goal-scorer in the NHL. All the more reason to like him, right? Especially considering he has back-to-back Stanley Cups.

Before Pittsburgh, he was run out of Toronto. In fact, Toronto will be paying over $1M of Kessel’s salary for the next eight years for him to not play for the Leafs. It got bad between him, the fans, and the media – I’m sure Kessel’s to blame for some of it – but on his way out one columnist tried to give him a kick in the ass. Per, Steve Simmons:

“The hot dog vendor who parks daily at Front and John Sts. just lost his most reliable customer. Almost every afternoon at 2:30 p.m., often wearing a toque, Phil Kessel would wander from his neighbourhood condominium to consume his daily snack.”

Kessel neither lived nor worked near Front and John Street. Although the rumor was more or less dismissed, Toronto fans looked at his chubby face and bad attitude, and the hot dog story stuck.

Kessel hasn’t forgotten either:

I think that’s what Duane Kuiper calls “ownage”. – PAL

Source: Phil Kessel Ate Hot Dogs Out of the Stanley Cup,” Satchel Price, SB Nation (08/14/2017)

What Is Art? Are We Art? Is Art Art?

Every time the Marlins hit a home run, the gigantic “sculpture” in left-center field is set in motion. If you’ve never seen it, enjoy:

When the stadium first opened a few years ago, people were horrified. It was the butt of many jokes. But time passed, and as often happens, the once reviled “sculpture” became…sorta beloved. The sculpture hit its peak at the All-Star Break, hosted by the Marlins. This great article by Grant Brisbee is a good example. Not long after the break, though, the Marlins announced their intention to sell the team to a group that includes Boring-as-Hell Derek Jeter. It did not take long before news leaked that the group, and Boring-as-Hell Derek Jeter in particular, planned to remove the sculpture. WHY DO YOU HATE FUN, JETER?

Thankfully, the local government has stepped in. The sculpture will not be going anywhere:

Standing 73 feet tall, the mechanical display sends marlins and flamingos whirring whenever the Marlins hit a home run (TOB Note: Haha. Still funny). It was commissioned as part of Miami-Dade’s Art in Public Places program, which requires construction of county buildings to include art as well. The sculpture by well-regarded pop artist Red Grooms is named “Homer,” cost $2.5 million and, like Marlins Park, belongs to Miami-Dade’s government.

“The County commissioned and purchased the Home Run Sculpture with the public art funds generated by the ballpark project,” Michael Spring, head of the county’s cultural affairs arm, said in an email Thursday. It “was designed specifically for this project and location and is permanently installed. It is not movable.”


Source: “County on Marlins home Run Sculpture: ‘It is not movable.’ (Also, the Mayor Doesn’t Like It)“, Douglas Hanks, Miami Herald (08/17/2017)

PAL: If anything, it will serve as a very large reminder to never publicly finance another stadium.


The Falcons new stadium opens this season. Cool, cool. Another terrible waste of taxpayer money. But that’s not why I’m writing about it. I’m writing because the stadium has a Chick-fil-A inside. Mmm, delicious, chicken-y (homophobic) Chick-fil-A. Wherever your politics land, Chick-fil-A is inarguably tasty. Not the best, but tasty, especially for fast food. Falcons fans are no stranger to Chick-fil-A. It is headquartered there, and there are dozens in and around the city of Atlanta. But if you’re at a Falcons game this Fall, it is very unlikely you’ll be able to get some Chick-fil-A. Why? Well, Chick-fil-A observes the sabbath. No Chick-fil-A, no matter where it is located, is open on Sundays. Can you see where this is headed? Yes, they built a Chick-fil-A, in the stadium, that won’t be open on Sundays, when NFL teams generally play. It will only be open when the Falcons play on Thursdays or Mondays. This year, that will occur once. HAHA. Dadgum, that’s some terrible planning. -TOB

Source: The Falcons’ New Stadium Has a Chick-fil-A, Which Won’t Be Open For Most Falcons Games“, Matt Bonesteel, Washington Post (08/16/2017)

Video of the Week: 

PAL Song of the Week: Ryan Adams – “Ashes & Fire”



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“I hate disappointing just one person. And I really hate disappointing everyone. But I love Burlington Coat Factory.”

-M. Scott

Week of August 11, 2017

Swing for the fences, Benny.

The Olympic Gift That Keeps on Giving

One year later, it is safe to call the Olympics an absolute disaster for the city of Rio de Janeiro. The laundry list of problems is exhausting:

  • 15 of 27 venues have not been used even once since the Olympics ended.


  • The Maracaña, the iconic soccer stadium built for the 2014 World Cup just two years prior to the Olympics, has been vandalized and had its power shut off due to an unpaid $950,000.00 electric bill.
  • Olympic park, “long hailed by Brazilian politicians and Olympic proponents as a path to upgrade one of Rio’s poorer neighborhoods, is shuttered.”
  • “The community pool that was supposed to come out of the canoe slalom course was closed in December and has yet to re-open.”
  • The pool at the Deodoro Aquatics Center “is now covered in bugs, mud and rodent feces.”


  • A fire from a “flying lantern” torched the velodrome roof, badly damaging the track.
  • The plan to turn the handball arena into four public schools has been abandoned.
  • The 31-tower Athlete Village, which was said to be turned into luxury condos, sits largely vacant.

Oh, but that’s not all! No, no. That is not all!

“Promises that the Olympics would modernize Rio and make its streets safer and favelas cleaner have also failed. According to Brazil’s Institute of Public Safety, street robberies are up 48 percent and deadly assaults by 21 percent, to the highest rates since 2009. In the first three months of 2017, violent crime spiked 26 percent compared with the same period in 2016. The state of Rio is still unable to pay its teachers, hospital workers, police and other public employees on time, if at all. Many favelas still lack running water or proper sewage removal.”

When Brazil was awarded the 2016 Olympics way back in 2009, its politicians promised the Olympics would transform the nation’s sports infrastructure. And it did, for a while.  The government and private industry poured money into Brazilian athletics over the next 7 years in order to maximize Brazilian performance at the games. But since?

“Athletes who had been showered with opportunity in the lead-up to Rio were now in the middle of a nightmare, a few with the Olympic medals around their necks…. And perhaps no segment of Brazilian sports has been hit harder by the post-Olympic downturn than aquatics. For 26 years, the Brazilian Postal Service sponsored Brazil’s entire aquatics federation. But after Rio, that investment was slashed by 67 percent, from $5.2 million to $1.7 million a year. Earlier this year, the president of the Brazilian Olympic Committee, Carlos Arthur Nuzman, admitted that economic investment in Brazilian sports has recessed to where it was in 2000, nine years before Brazil was even awarded the 2016 Games.”

In some ways, this is for good reason. The economy is so bad, and the corruption so deep, that the country can’t afford to spend money on athletics:

“Coupled with sagging oil revenues, the people’s lack of trust in government led Brazil into its worst recession in history. Ten days after the closing ceremonies, Rousseff was impeached, largely blamed for the country’s crisis. No segment of the government was immune from scandal, including sports leaders. Coaracy Nunes Filho, the president of the Aquatic Sports Federation, and two of his directors were arrested and charged with the misuse and misappropriation of $13 million in funds, for their own personal gain and by giving favorable contracts to associates. Sensing a larger problem, the TCU launched an investigation into 10 sports entities, including Brazil’s Olympic Committee. Nine of the 10 were found to be misusing public funds. The only organization that wasn’t: the Brazilian Confederation of Sports for the Visually Impaired.”

Unlike the U.S., Brazil’s government has long provided stipends to its Olympic athletes. Those stipends are being slashed. And who can fault that, at this point? As Judo Gold Medalist Rafaela Silva puts it, “Everybody will want a good performance in 2020, but sports are no longer a priority. We understand the government had to decrease the investment. How can you justify the expense of millions on sports when we have no hospitals?” -TOB

Source: After the Flame”, Wayne Drehs and Mariana Lajolo, ESPN (08/10/2017)

PAL: It’s been a pretty common topic over the past few years: hosting the Olympics does jumpstart an economy is bureaucrats promise when they are pitching the idea. I’ve made my opinion known several times on the blog that the Olympics should rotate between a handful of locations with the infrastructure in place and a history of putting on the event. Those arguments can feel a little abstract. Drehs’ story does a good job of putting the impacts of the Rio games right in your face:

Even some of the medals awarded to the athletes have tarnished or cracked, with more than 10 percent of them sent back to Brazil for repair. Rio officials blame poor handling by the athletes.

Almost a year since the Games closed, the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee still owes $40 million to creditors. Bloomberg reported in April that the Olympic organizers were attempting to pay creditors with air conditioners, portable energy units and electrical cables. In July, the organizing committee asked the International Olympic Committee for help with its debt; the IOC said no.

Above all else, the perhaps the most fitting symbol of the lasting impact of Rio 2016 are the seedlings every athlete carried with them during the opening ceremony. These seedlings were to be planted in Rio to help offset the environmental impact of the games, but they also represented a bigger promise: Rio 2016 was not to be a circus that came through town, but rather it would mark the beginning of a long term investment in the community and its athletics. Where are those seeds now?

[J]ust over a year later, there is perhaps no greater example of the Rio Games’ complicated legacy. The seedlings sit in planting pots under a sheer black canopy on a farm 100 kilometers from Rio. Prior to last week, Marcelo de Carvalho Silva, the director of Biovert, the company responsible for the seeds, hadn’t heard from Olympic organizers in months. He had no idea what the plans were for the seeds, but he painstakingly watched over them for free, knowing what it would mean for his company — and the country — if something happened to them.

That’s when the TCU, following up on the Olympic promises made for Rio, started asking questions. And then, sure enough, Olympic officials finally reached out. Twenty-four million seedlings were supposed to be planted to offset the environmental impact of the Games. But that has not happened. The trees that were part of Olympic Park are dying from a lack of irrigation and maintenance. The mayor blames the organizing committee; the organizing committee the government. And, as a result, there is a stalemate.

What a scam.

I Was So Much Older Then, I’m Younger Than That Now

The Ringer’s Bryan Curtis explores the retired athlete’s impulsive, seemingly unavoidable need to tear down the accomplishments of today’s athletes. As Curtis notes, this has been going on since at least as long as modern sports have existed – in September 1939, Hall of Famer Tris Speaker was asked about young Joe Dimaggio. Speaker spat, ““Him? I could name 15 better outfielders!” Joe D was 26, and finishing up a season in which he’d hit .381 with 30 home runs, and an OPS of 1.119, FYI (Speaker later walked back his assertion…sorta).

More recently, Dennis Rodman said the early-90s Run-TMC Warriors were better than today’s Warriors. His reasoning? Run-TMC scored 130 points per game, and the Warriors did not. For the record, the Warriors scored just 115 last year, while giving up 104, while the Run-TMC Warriors scored 116 and 116 (never close to 130), and gave up 119 and 115, in 1990 and 1991, respectively; they missed the playoffs in 1990 and won a single round in 1991. The current Warriors fared a bit better.

Michael Jordan is perhaps the most interesting recent case. When asked to compare Kobe and LeBron, MJ said Kobe is the better player because “5 is more than 3”, referring to the number of titles each player won. This analysis is flawed on many levels. For one, Kobe’s career is done. LeBron is still in his prime. For two, it ignores so much more that goes into career. No one other than Laker fans would argue Kobe was the better player than LeBron. But Jordan has a reason to argue Kobe is better – Kobe, who again is retired, is no longer a threat to MJ’s legacy. After all, 5 is less than 6, using Jordan’s logic.

Legacy protection aside, what’s this phenomenon all about? Curtis makes a strong argument:

Anyone who has listened to their grandfather complain about the modern world knows these complaints are most interesting as a window into the insecurities of an aging man. Imagine a star player being the greatest for his entire career. Then, in his golden years, he is constantly baited: What do you think of the New Guy? Is he better than you? Are you ready to surrender your title as homerun/touchdown/scoring king?

The particulars of the gripe are less interesting than the yearning behind it: Oh, to be a young man enjoying the pleasures of the modern world. Now that’s a story.

(In true Ringer fashion, the ending of this story is abrupt and off-putting. But, I still enjoyed the article, so there you go.) – TOB

Source: Sportswriting’s Old-Timers Game”, Bryan Curtis, The Ringer (08/08/2017)

PAL: All this talk of Mike Trout being the best centerfielder – give me a break. Kirby Puckett has 2 World Series rings. 2 is more than zero. Puckett is the best. That’s all I can add, because Curtis nails it. However, he fails to mention how much we love it. We love talking about what the old, out-of-touch player said about so-and-so. It fills our afternoons of sports radio and podcasts every day.

Tell Me Who You’re Loyal To

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

I remember reading somewhere – maybe it was about Chuck Klosterman talking about Kevin Durant coming to the Warriors – that the real “team” of an athlete isn’t found on jersey they wear, but rather the shoes they wear. Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Steph Curry – Nike and Under Armour will likely pay them more money than any NBA team. These are the athletes primary employers. 

It makes sense when you extend that thinking to coaching and trainers, too. Coaches come and go. There are exactly 3 NBA coaches that have been with their team for more than 5 years. With a revolving door of coaches (and their staffs), who is thinking about the individual player’s development over the long haul?

Enter Rob McClanaghan. This former gym teacher is carving out one hell of a life for himself as a trailblazer in the new world of specialized trainers. He’s not there to make sure Steph Curry is lifting weights or adhering to his diet. Nope, he’s there to make sure that beautiful, perfect shot stays just so. Makes sense, right? A lot of guys can keep a professional athlete in shape and eating right, but not a lot of dudes can keep a shooter’s stroke finely tuned.

McClanaghan’s small empire started like many small empires – with a flier. The high school gym teacher started with kids, then met college players in the area. His persistence and his players’ results finally got him a gig at the legendary ABCD camp (invite only camp for the best high school players in the country). At around that time, in 2007, former NBA player and new sports agent B.J. Armstrong had an idea.

[I]t occurred to Armstrong that elite draft prospects should spend the nearly three months between the college season’s end and the NBA draft training to transition to the NBA, rather than playing in the various, then-popular All-Star games. Armstrong saw the average age of draftees drop and more NBA teams hire coaches with “development” in their titles.

“The draft started placing emphasis on potential,” Armstrong says. “The guys were 19 and 20 instead of 22 and 24. Summers went from honing your craft to real basketball development. The attention to potential shifted development.”

A mutual friend suggested Armstrong discuss the idea with McClanaghan, whose name had become known around the league.

In the span of 5 years he went from charging $40 for a personal lesson with a kid to training lottery draft picks and NBA stars like Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Steph Curry.

We’re seeing it more and more in all sports. Like McClanaghan, quarterback coaches, hitting instructors, and skating coaches are working with ‘clients’ from middle school to professionals on one component of the game. Honestly, a part of it makes me shake my head, but I concede that it makes sense, I guess. More than anything, I like how McClanaghan saw an opportunity and hasn’t taken his foot off the pedal ever since. – PAL

Source: Meet the Man Behind Your Favorite NBA Jump Shots”, Sam Fortier, The Ringer (08/09/2017)

Video of the Week

PAL Song of the Week: Neil Young – “Till The Morning Comes”

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It’s funny that pirates were always going around searching for treasure, and they never realized that the real treasure was the fond memories they were creating.

-J. Handy

Week of August 4, 2017

TOB and family are off camping this week. Looks like it’s just me. 

The Biggest Catch

When I stop to think about it, the notion of upper decks in baseball stadiums are crazy. Go up a couple hundred feet in the air. Sit on ledge on a steep incline, and drink alcohol. Then, when a $6 baseball is hit in our direction, we lost all sense of where we are. Multiple decks holding tens of thousands of people are stacked on top of each other with short railings to keep us from falling to the deck below us.

People die at baseball games from falling over short railings. In 2011, a fan died after falling over a 20 foot wall in Arlington while trying to catch a ball Josh Hamilton tossed him between innings. Tyler Morris fell 35 feet from the upper deck a year before that in the same stadium. He broke his skull, but didn’t die. Another fan died at Turner Field in 2015 after falling from the upper deck. 

The thought has crossed my mind at nearly every game I’ve watched from the upper deck. It wouldn’t take much. A missed step at the wrong time and I’m in a bad way. It’s a nightmare scenario, and Randy Kobman has lived through it. Per Dave McKenna:  

On April 22, 1981, an Ohio teenager named Randy Kobman skipped school to go to Riverfront Stadium to see the Cincinnati Reds play the Atlanta Braves. In the bottom of the 8th inning, Reds slugger George Foster fouled a pitch from Gaylord Perry into the grandstands behind home plate. The ball caromed off the the press box and headed back toward the field. Kobman, sitting in the front row of seats in the stadium’s second deck, moved toward the aisle to make a play for the bouncing ball. He caught it. Then he flipped over the railing.

How he holds on, I’ll never know. I can’t believe I’ve never heard this story or seen this clip.

McKenna’s story isn’t just about that clip; rather, he uses that moment as a junction to explore multiple paths of the story. In fact, we have two stories that use a blurry instant in that manner. McKenna digs into those impacted on that day (George Foster, and Lee Corso – yes, that Lee Corso of College GameDay, among others). He and Kobman explore Kobman’s life after that moment.

But perhaps the most alarming component of this story is the fact that people continue to fall over railings at baseball games. Kobman’s catch happened in 1981! Last I checked, it’s 2017.  The notion that anyone has fallen over a railing at a baseball game in the last in the last 26 years is at least absurd and quite possibly negligent. Of course, I understand not wanting to obstruct a spectator’s view, but there has to be some common sense here.

On a lighter note, Kobman ditched school to catch a the Reds play the Braves. While he didn’t die, his cover was most definitely blown. Solid read! – PAL  

Source: The Kid Who Didn’t Die At Riverfront Stadium”, Dave McKenna, Deadspin (8/1/17)

Glove Love

This is some fun writing here, folks. The premise: home runs alone make for bad highlights. What’s more important is Sam Miller absolutely nails just what does make for a good highlight:

A great highlight is like a magic trick, in which the magician pledges to do something impossible, does it in a way that surprises you, and manages not to fully give away the secret. How did Nolan Arenado make this throw? How did Kenny Lofton make this catch? How did David Wright use his bare hand?

How did Aaron Judge hit a ball so far? Well, the answer’s pretty simple. He’s stronger than everybody else and he hit the ball squarely. It’s not that that’s not incredibly impressive. It’s just impressive in the way that a great clean-and-jerk or a record long jump is impressive. He was capable of an act of extreme strength and this is it. It’s less like a magician doing a trick and more like a guy who can bang a gong loudly. Like, incredibly loudly, but still, that’s the act.

To prove his point, Miller gives us some spectacular ‘magic tricks’, including this gem from Mark Buehrle:

And then you’re in a YouTube wormhole of great baseball plays – most all of which are defensive plays. It’s a delightful wormhole, one from which I reluctantly emerge. Fun story, excellent writing, great video clips. – PAL

Source: Dig the longball? Here’s why home run highlights are the worst”*, Sam Miller, ESPN (7/21/17)

*When did we officially give up on headline writing? “Dig the longball? Here’s why home run highlights are the worst” – really? That’s the best we can come up with? I’m guessing there’s some pretty convincing research telling websites and blogs that clever headlines don’t get the clicks that painfully obvious headlines receive, but this headline sucks even by those standards. How about “The Worst: Home Run Highlights”? Do we have to reference a Nike ad from 20 years ago? Give me a little effort, guys!

How To: Iconography

This is the second David Davis story we’ve shared on 1-2-3 Sports! Both are about iconic olympic photographs. The first, posted on 8/19/16 examines the moment olympic favorite Mary Decker realizes her dream is running away from her. Today, we look at sprinter Ben Johnson.

There’s no point in avoiding the cliché: if a picture is worth a thousand words, then give me both. That’s exactly what Davis does in his deep dive into Ron Modra’s photograph from the ‘88 Olympics:

For all-time photographs like this, the right person needs to be at the exact right place at the exact right time. The circumstances matter, and the circumstances are many. How Modra captured this shot is not just about snapping the shot, it’s about how he got there. There being 20 meters off of the start line instead of the finish line. There being Sports Illustrated. There being in Canada leading up to the Olympics. Hell, there being a photographer in the first place.

As a kid he helped out around his dad’s small printing business. One of his jobs was to shoot displays. After serving in Vietnam, he avoided college by shooting sports for local papers in Milwaukee. Turns out, 1970 was not a bad time to be earning your stripes as a sports photographer in Brew City:

A self-taught “grinder,” Modra finagled credentials to shoot Milwaukee Bucks games. The Bucks were an expansion club, but behind their big three of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then known as Lew Alcindor), Oscar Robertson and Bob Dandridge, they won the 1970-71 NBA championship in only their third year of existence. Modra’s work was noticed by the PR department for the other new pro team in town: the Brewers, owned by Bud Selig, a local car dealer who had bought the Seattle Pilots out of bankruptcy and moved them to Wisconsin in the spring of 1970.

He worked hard, produced, and was eventually noticed by Sports Illustrated, which was the leader in sports journalism. His wasn’t a meteoric rise. Hell, he wasn’t even on the ‘A-Team’ at SI when he snapped the shot of Johnson at the olympics. I’ll leave it there, because you should really read the entirety of Davis’ story.

There’s the story of the photograph, and then there’s the story of what the photograph has come to represent. Davis puts it simply and powerfully: “Indeed, Johnson’s transgression was the first time that a major sports star was caught, exposed publicly and penalized harshly for steroids.”

Turns out, there’s a hell of a lot of luck involved, too, which makes this an even more fascinating read. Take the time to enjoy every word of it. – PAL

Source: The Story Behind The Iconic Photos Of The Olympics’ Dirtiest Record”, David Davis, Deadspin (8/2/17)

Video of the Week: 

PAL Song of the Week: Led Zeppelin – “Rock And Roll”

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“I wouldn’t miss it for the world. But if something else came up I would definitely not go.”

-M. Scott