Week of November 24, 2017

I told them not to talk politics at Thanksgiving…


Breaking: Sports Owner Gouged Loyal Fans

I know, I know. It’s a story as old as professional sports. But this one was especially egregious, and I’d never heard it before. Really, it’s kind of amazing. Bill Wirtz was the longtime owner of the Chicago Blackhawks. Wirtz was especially cheap. We all know of the NFL’s old blackout policy – NFL games were blacked out on TVs in the home team’s home market if the game was not a sellout by a few days before the game. The thinking was this would encourage fans to go to games. (The NFL scrapped this policy a couple of years back, likely when they realized TV money is more lucrative than fans in seats). But Wirtz, for decades, took it a step further. He didn’t allow local fans to watch ANY home game on TV, even if it was a sellout. His thinking was it created some exclusivity for ticket holders – the only way to see Blackhawks games was to actually go to the game. This is an unfathomably bad business idea, but that was Wirtz.

In 1992, the Blackhawks were really good. Balfour. Roenick. Chelios. They ended up making a run to the Stanley Cup Finals. In the leadup to the playoffs, the Hawks were a hot ticket. Wirtz had a brilliant idea for the playoffs: Pay Per View. He called it HAWKVISION.

For the low, low price of $16.95 per game, Chicago fans could finally watch their team’s home games from the comfort of their own home. I looked it up, and the team played 9 home games that playoffs. To watch them all at home, you’d have to pay $152.55 – adjusted for inflation, that is $270 today. Could you imagine paying that much to watch, say, the Warriors home playoff games on TV? And if that wasn’t bad enough, he brought it back for the following season, this time charging $29.99 per month, an inflation adjusted $53 today. Per month! To watch the home games for ONE team. HawkVision did not return after the 1994 lockout, but Wirtz’ tv policy did. Chicago fans could not watch the team’s home games on TV until 2007, when Wirtz died. Needless to say, the fans hated Wirtz, and booed the team’s attempt to eulogize Wirtz.

Well deserved, I say. -TOB

Source: In Unloving Memory Of HawkVision, A Low Point In Sports Owner Shamelessness”, Ed Burmila, Deadspin (11/20/2017)


When Good Promos Go Wrong

It was such a nice idea: The Bavarian Bierhaus, a Wisconsin bar, has long offered free beers to all patrons from the moment the Packers game begins until the moment the Packers first score. With Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, that’s usually been pretty quick. The Packers usually score on their first or second drive. The promotion gets people in the door, and then they stay for the game. It’s a nice way for the Bierhaus to differentiate itself from other area bars. But last Sunday, it backfired. Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone a few weeks back and he’s been replaced by Brett Hundley.

Hundley is no Aaron Rodgers. Last week the team got shutout, the first time that happened since 2006, which means the Bierhaus served free beer the entire game: from kickoff to final whistle. Owner Scott Bell estimates they gave away as many as 300 beers. Bell had a good sense of humor about it – saying everyone had a good time, and were even apologizing to him for taking his beer. Amazingly, the Bierhaus will continue the tradition this weekend. Karmically speaking, the Packers will return the opening kickoff for a touchdown. -TOB

Source: Packers Fans Drink Free Beer All Game at Wisconsin Pub Because Their Team Never Scored”, Carol Off and Jeff Douglas, CBC Radio (11/21/2017)


One & Done

There are the first ballot Hall-of-Famers. There are the multiple Super Bowl champs. There are those with Hall of Fame careers as players and as coaches or front office personnel. These are exclusive clubs within pro football, but perhaps the most exclusive club of them all is that of players who appeared in exactly one NFL game. These men are, as Ben Shpigel puts it, “Football versions of Moonlight Grahams”. He profiles six members of this club for his article, and it’s a pretty fascinating read.

Some, as you could guess, played only one game because of injury. Some finally made it into the game, only to have a change in management, which doesn’t bode well for the guys right on the edge. Some made the best of their opportunity, and some live with the regret of what they did with the moment. Some hold onto excuses, while others look back to that game as proof they made it to the summit.

It’s really interesting to learn how each of the guys view that game in the context of their respective lives. 

Mark Reed has been an engineer at 3M for 30+ years. He made his one and only appearance in an NFL game as quarterback for the Baltimore Colts. He completed 6 of 10 passes for 34 yards and an interception. He likes to tell his co-workers that he had a career 60% completion rate.

The real value of his time in the NFL came to Reed when, as a young father of two, he went back to school to finish his engineering degree. He remembers his coach telling him the difference between winning and losing is infinitesimal, a lesson that proved true for his life as an engineer.  “Everything that I learned from the N.F.L. as far as hard work and intensity, I basically took that to the classroom.I was just bearing down.”

It’s not that these guys were on a team for only one game. In most cases, they spent multiple seasons on various NFL teams’ practice squads waiting for their moment. Martin Nance’s moment came on 12/31/06. He started for the Vikings, had 4 receptions, and made a good impression on the team going into the off-season. That year, the team drafted bulked up on receivers and tight ends in the draft. With new investments at Nance’s position, it came as no surprise he was cut.

He reunited with Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh and waited for his next chance for over 2 years while on the practice squad. When star receiver Hines Ward was injured going into the 2009 Super Bowl, Nance was prepared to make it back onto the field on the biggest of stages. Ward ended up playing, and while Nance wears his Super Bowl ring with pride, he could see his time as a player was up.

Shortly thereafter, he went to graduate school at University of Michigan, snagged an internship at Gatorade, and has had a successful career in marketing ever since. He considers himself lucky to have left the game in relatively good health.

‘“I don’t walk around and wonder if I had a career in football; my body reminds me,” he said. “I know there are guys who are in more difficult situations than me, but I still consider myself strong and capable. I consider that a blessing.”’

Not all of the athletes featured made such a smooth transition, and you should tap the link below to read each of their stories. – PAL  

Source: One Game to Remember. Just One.Ben Shpigel, The New York Times (11/22/17)


Video of the Week

The best Georgia Dome implosion video.

Bonus Video

Mike Leach wedding advice.


PAL Song of the Week – Michael Gulezian – Watermelon


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My resolution? Meet a loose woman.

Dwight Schrute

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Week of November 17, 2017

There’s never a wrong time to share Vince Wilfork hitting a softball in overalls


What About The Great Ones?

Over the past month I’ve written about a 3-part series on spread of club sports in Minnesota: its impact on the young athletes, their parents (their parents’ checkbook), high school sports, and even the health-related issues popping up at younger and younger ages as a result of repetitive use.

My question throughout the series was “What is the point of youth sports?”. After reading and writing about the series, I suggested we cannot measure the success of a youth sport system by only looking to how good the best athletes become. Youth sports has to be about more than how far the best go, it has to avoid a participation equals success mentality, and we can’t lose a sense of a community – one defined by geographical proximity – in the process. Not the easiest recipe to perfect.

During that same period of time, the U.S. Men’s National Team was struggling with its own recipe. The team failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Missing out on the once-every-four-year tournament was a big failure for many reasons, and a lot of people are now trying to figure out what went wrong. The coach resigned, and a new president of U.S. Soccer is likely to be elected in February. But all of this matters less to me than having wait another four years the opportunity to see Christian Pulisic represent the U.S.A. in a World Cup.

TOB wrote a spirited summary of the loss and the cost of the U.S. not qualifying, and the the missed opportunity for us to see Pulisic. BTW, I think this might be the first time we’ve quoted the other guy’s story in a post.

The team has been graced with the Christian Pulisic, who is starting for a top tier team in the Bundesliga, and who, at age 19, pretty much no one disputes is the greatest American soccer player of all time. Pulisic has the vision, touch, and creativity that separates the great soccer players from across the world from the pretty good ones that the U.S. has produced in the past.

So I was writing about youth sports culture, and TOB wrote about the cost of the USMNT missing the World Cup, which is why I want to share this story Pulisic contributed to The Players’ Tribune. Here’s his experience of not only the failure to qualify, but also his take on youth soccer in the U.S. and his experience in the highest levels of club sports: academies.

Due to his dual citizenship (U.S.A and Croatia), Pulisic left the U.S. at 16 and was able to develop at what is regarded as the best training academy in Germany – Dortmund, which is funded by a professional team. He believes that made all the difference:

In the U.S. system, too often the best player on an under-17 team will be treated like a “star” — not having to work for the ball, being the focus of the offense at all times, etc. — at a time when they should be having to fight tooth and nail for their spot. In Europe, on the other hand, the average level of ability around you is just so much higher. It’s a pool of players where everyone has been “the best player,” and everyone is fighting for a spot — truly week in and week out. Which makes the intensity and humility that you need to bring to the field every day — both from a mental and physical perspective — just unlike anything that you can really experience in U.S. developmental soccer.

Without those experiences, there’s simply no way that I would be at anywhere close to the level that I am today.

It makes sense. For the best to reach their potential, they need to compete. They can’t always be special, and they need to learn how to respond to challenges and pressure.

I guess I want it both ways, right? I want youth sports to be the beacon of a community, but of course I want to cheer the absolute best of the best to bring home big wins, especially for the ol’ U.S.A. By all accounts, the club methodology is the right way to develop the skills of the most talented, but I don’t want to give up the quaint, neighborhood aspects of youth sports.

I think there are degrees to club sports. I understand the highest order of them – the academies and the like in the soccer world – but I wonder if a lot of the stateside club teams are profiting off of the youth academy model, rebranding them with gratifying names like “Perfect Game”, “Super Select”, and tacking on a hefty price tag.

So, yes, there should be room for both, but I wonder how broad the spectrum needs to be to account for us regulars and the Pulisics of the world.

Put in another way, a virtuoso violin player shouldn’t play with the high school symphony. A 12-year old with an exceptional math mind shouldn’t be sitting in Algebra to fulfill a sense of community. Their respective talent cannot be developed in that environment, and their contribution to community pride is to show what’s possible.

So where do I net out? Club teams are fine, but I’d be wary if they are expensive. If a check clearing plays a major role on whether or not a kid is allowed to play, then maybe investment is on the wrong side of the table. -PAL

Source: 1,834 Days”, Christian Pulisic, The Players Tribune (11/13/17)


Epic College Reunion

The 2018 Winter Olympics will not feature NHL talent for the first time since 1994. This stinks. I always want to see the best of each country, and while the ‘Miracle On Ice’ was possible in part due to no ‘professional’ players participating, the Iron Curtain created an environment where professional talent was indeed on display for the Soviets. Apples to oranges when compared with the 2018 and the NHL withholding its players from the games.

Quick tangent – don’t you think the NHL would love to put its players on an international stage? Wouldn’t the league benefit from that kind of promotion? Ditch the All-Star Game, take a 3-week break in the middle of the season, and let the studs play. I don’t know the inner-workings behind this decision, but on the surface it seems shortsighted.

All of this creates a pretty cool opportunity for some guys who’s hockey dreams were seemingly behind them, including four former college teammates at Yale – Mark Arcobello, Sean Backman, Broc Little and Brian O’Neill.

[They] have chased hockey careers in Finland, Germany and Switzerland. Together, they exemplified the traits of the American group that found its way to Augsburg: Those who let their N.H.L. dreams fade, who pursued the game wherever else they could, who now have an opportunity to add one spectacular highlight to their careers.

The team, for which the roster is not yet set, is off to a rough start: 0-3 so far, but these guys are thinking about the bigger picture, and put it in perfectly hockey terms.

O’Neill has been trying to manage his own expectations during the national team selection process. But he admitted he had at times imagined what it would be like to attend the opening ceremony and walk alongside the other athletes, “all dressed up in Ralph Lauren stuff.”

I’m trying to be positive about this, and when the NHL guys aren’t playing, these are the fun little stories that give you a little more umph to tune in. – PAL

Source: An Unlikely Yale Reunion on the U.S. Men’s Hockey Team”, Andrew Keh, The New York Times (11/13/17)


Video of the Week: 


PAL’s Song of the Week: Mandolin Orange – ‘Wildfire’


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There was a time when the only people who texted you were people you wanted texted you. Girls. 

-Darryl  Philbin

Week of November 10, 2017

Get it, Brian Boyle! This week, he scored his first goal since being diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia in September.


Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Counterfeit Autographs

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the draw of autographs – sports or otherwise – is lost on me. As we find ourselves in at least the second decade of the online marketplace, the hobby of collecting autographs is an even more removed experience. The signature symbolizes no interaction, no moment when the ordinary and extraordinary paths cross. There is no story, only an online bid.

While it should come as no surprise there are counterfeits out there, here’s a story that highlights a case which uncovers the how and the why behind one such counterfeit – Cliff Panezich.

Before Panezich forged the vast majority of 27,000 ebay items and sold more than $2MM worth of items on eBay, he was a baseball player looking for a shot. He was also an autograph seeker. The autographs were not for a personal collection.

2009 was his first year out of baseball. Panezich had gone undrafted after college ball, but had workouts with MLB teams and fared well enough in an independent league to earn another minor league tryout with the Phillies. His physical with the team revealed not one, not two, but three tears – two in his labrum and one in his rotator cuff. Surgery. Two years of rehab for an undrafted guy means the dream is pretty well squashed. This gave him more time for autographs. He and a friend took a road trip to Tuscaloosa to gather some signatures from Crimson Tide players.

This is what autograph investment looks like. Not exactly the kid waiting after the game for a glimpse of his hero:

//players.brightcove.net/2157889318001/default_default/index.html?videoId=5634642729001

This was a business trip, but the end did not justify the means:

Altogether it took Panezich and Bollinger nearly a week to gather the signatures they wanted, and Panezich says they shelled out more than $1,000 to players—but he figured the investment was worth it. He’d seen a team-signed Bama ball sell on eBay for roughly $800 earlier that month. Even if his own fetched just $500 apiece, “we were in pretty good shape,” he says. But once Panezich made it back to Ohio and listed the items on eBay, he says he found a marketplace newly flooded with what he believed to be forgeries—most selling for less than $150.

You can see where this is heading. Panezich embraces the forgery route, and he has a talent for copying signatures. When the feds close in on him and finally question him – they dubbed it “Operation Stolen Base” –  they wanted to see him in action.

The most surreal autograph session of Panezich’s life takes place a month later in a conference room in the FBI’s office in Boardman. He wasn’t arrested during the raid, but he’s since agreed to be interviewed under proffered protection in hopes of improving any future plea deal. The FBI and the Mahoning County prosecutor’s office have decided to pursue the case under Ohio’s version of the RICO Act—rather than bring federal charges—because of the number of potential defendants at the local level. (More than 20 other people, mostly in Ohio, are suspected of being involved in selling the forged items.) This makes Martin Desmond, a Mahoning County assistant D.A., one of the lead interviewers.

“I’m curious,” Desmond tells Panezich from across a conference table. “I want to see how good you are.”

Panezich shoots a look at his lawyer, Robert Duffrin—Is this really happening?—and is reminded that he’s under protection. He grabs a pen and a legal pad and asks Desmond to name an athlete.

“LeBron,” Desmond says, assuming Panezich will then ask to look at an example.

“Number or no number?” Panezich replies.

“Number.”

“Six or 23?”

“Do both.”

Panezich signs two variations—one the way James signed it during his first stint with the Cavs, the other the way he did it in his Heat years. One of the Ohio policemen at the table fires up his iPad and finds a real LeBron, and they all compare it with Panezich’s work.

To the investigators’ untrained eyes, it’s difficult to tell the autographs apart.

Panezich got six years for what is one of the largest eBay frauds on record. Hell, he even had his mom working for him. And while I find it hard to imagine anyone questioning his responsibility in all of this, Sports Illustrated’s Luke Winn brings up an interesting point – what about eBay’s role, if any?

The most successful party—in the end—appears to be eBay, which would have earned more than $300,000 on auction and PayPal fees on $2.4 million in sales. Although eBay cooperated in the case, a company spokesman declined to answer SI’s questions about whether it had contacted potential victims or returned any of the fees.

So – yeah – I have no problem with athletes turning down adult autograph seekers (story four from our September 22 post). Honestly, I have little sympathy for folks buying autographed items on an online marketplace, too. I don’t get it, and stories like this surely don’t help. – PAL

Source: Operation Stolen Base”, Luke Winn, Sports Illustrated Longform (11/06/2017)


Man, Roy Halladay Died, and I Barely Knew Him.

A bummer out of baseball this week, as former pitcher Roy “Doc” Halladay died after he crashed his small plane into the Gulf of Mexico. He was 40, and leaves behind a wife and two kids. This story hit the baseball world hard, as Roy Halladay was not just the best pitcher in baseball for a decade, but widely known as one of the nicest and hardest working players, too. He was tall and lanky, and he was all angles when he pitched. He was incredibly difficult to hit, winning two Cy Youngs, a remarkable 7 years apart, in different leagues. He only played in two postseasons, but boy did he make it count.

In his first ever postseason game, Game 1 of the 2010 NLDS, Halladay threw a no-hitter. It was only the second ever postseason no-hitter (the first being Don Larsen’s perfect game). I remember the game distinctly, even though I didn’t watch it, which is a perfect microcosm of my experience with Halladay’s career. As I recall, it was the first game of that season’s playoffs, and it started during the day, when I was still at work. I was intently focused on the Giants’ soon to begin series against Atlanta. I even had tickets to Game 1 the next night, so I wasn’t paying attention to the score of a Phillies game while I was at work. But I remember leaving the office right around 5:00pm, and heading over to a bus stop directly in front of Irish Times, a sports bar in San Francisco’s Financial District. I peeked inside and saw the Phillies leading 4-0 in the 9th. Meh. I got on the bus, and just before it departed, I’ll never forget a HUGE roar from the crowded bar. I thought, “Geeze, it’s only Game 1 of the NLDS, and the Phillies have won a World Series and another pennant recently. Calm down, Phillies fans.” Moments later I got an alert on my phone, telling me Roy Halladay had just completed a no-hitter. I had not only missed a playoff no-hitter, but unknowingly walked out of the bar, in the 9th, as he was closing it out. UGH.

As I said, it’s a microcosm of my, and many baseball fans’, experience with Halladay. The postseason is when many fans get to watch the best players in the league, but because Halladay made just five postseason starts, I simply did not get to see him pitch much. I did see him in person that postseason – he started Game 5 of the NLCS against the Giants, beating Tim Lincecum 4-2, in a rematch of the Giants 4-3 win in Game 1. But…I don’t really remember too much about Halladay that night. And I didn’t remember that Cody Ross’ two huge home runs in Game 1 came off Halladay, either.

But this week, I read a lot about how others experienced him. Like Blue Jays and Phillies fans, who saw him pitch every five days, the best in the game at the peak of his powers. I know how fun that experience is. Phillie fan Michael Baumann summed up why we love sports, and why we are sad when athletes die too soon:

But for me, and for numerous others who had the good fortune to be Phillies fans in a certain time and place, this is different, because of the memories he created, the community his team fostered, and, above all, the ineffable feeling of being part of something special that he inspired. I never met Roy Halladay, never high-fived him as a fan or interviewed him as a reporter, but he changed my life all the same.

Deadspin rounded up many of the tweets from players who played with and against Halladay. Brandon McCarthy seemed to capture Halladay best:

And I really enjoyed this old SI article, written at the height of Halladay’s powers, about his early career struggles, and what Halladay went through to turn it around. It’s really quite a remarkable story. Rest in peace, Doc. -TOB

Source: Roy Halladay Changed My Life”, Michael Baumann, The Ringer (11/07/2017); Roy Halladay Was ‘Your Favorite Player’s Favorite Player’”, Barry Petchesky, Deadspin (11/08/2017); What Makes Roy Run”, Tom Verducci, Sports Illustrated (04/05/2010)

PAL: I enjoyed the Baumann article as well. I actually highlighted the exact same passage TOB pulled out above. And to those asking why he was flying so dangerously – implying that he deserved it in some way – just go away (I’m not going to even link to the story about it, but you can find them if you want).


Damn The Birds, Build The Stadium in Oakland

The Raiders: Vegas. Warriors: San Francisco. Sports teams are dropping Oakland like a high school boyfriend or girlfriend come second semester of college. The A’s are looking to stay in Oakland with a privately funded, 35,000 seat stadium. They want to put it right by Lake Merritt near downtown Oakland.

But what about the birds?

Cindy Margulis, executive director of the Audubon’s Golden Gate chapter, said in an interview that a new ballpark built near the Lake Merritt Channel would devastate large numbers of bird species that nest each year at Lake Merritt, especially herons and cormorants.

The ballpark could cause a die off of birds and perhaps force them to leave the Lake Merritt area completely. And Margulis says she sees no way for the A’s to prevent what she predicts will be an ecological catastrophe.

I run around that lake a lot, and let me tell you something: The birds are out of control. I have no beef with the herons, but if they could find a way for the new stadium to kill off the seemingly millions of geese and their poop that litters every inch of grass around the lake, then I’ll personally contribute to the stadium.

Lake Merritt is a good looking lake. It’s a small lake, and it can smell a bit, but it’s a nice, downtown lake. People love to grill out and just hang on the weekends. It’s packed with folding tables, grills, and loud, bumping music. I love it, but for the geese.

Geese suck. They poop white poop everywhere, they waddle around like they own the place, and they’re jealous of the swans. Build the stadium. Damn the birds. Eagles are cool. Hawks are impressive. Owls: I’m in. The rest of them – meh. Birds are gross. Privately funded stadiums built near downtown are cool. Stadium > birds. – PAL

Source: New Ballpark Could Devastate Lake Merritt’s Birds”, Robert Gammon, East Bay Express (11/07/2017)

TOB: Good take, Andy.


Video(s) of the Week: 


PAL Song of the Week: Tim O’Brien & Darrell Scott – ‘Long Time Gone’


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“It’s all your fault. I took you under my wing and then you bit the underside of my wing”

-Guy Young

Week of November 3, 2017

Ben Reiter called it…3 years ago. 


Why Didn’t the Dodgers START Kershaw?

This article was written, and I read it, in advance of Wednesday’s glorious Game 7, where the Houston Astros extended the Dodgers non-World Series winning streak to 29 years. Here’s to 30, a nice round number. Now that the gloating is over, I just can’t get over how badly I think Roberts managed this, and why everyone seems to take it as a given that he didn’t. Specifically, why didn’t he start Clayton Kershaw in Game 7? In the last few seasons, managers have really begun to get creative with their bullpen use in the playoffs, especially in Game 7, and especially in Game 7 of the World Series. I don’t know if it began with Bumgarner in 2014, but it seems like his performance that night, after having dominated in Game 5, made every manager since realize you should live and die with your best. Before Game 7 this year, both managers said every starter, save perhaps the starter from Game 6, was available to pitch out of the bullpen if necessary.

But…this is what I don’t get. Kershaw is an excellent pitcher. Possibly the best of his generation. He’s struggled in the playoffs, but he was great this year at home, where the Dodgers were playing Game 7. He’s available. And not in an emergency. It was reported that Kershaw texted manager Dave Roberts and told him before Game 6 that he was available for that night’s game, after having been rocked and giving up two different 3-run leads two days prior in Game 5. Roberts replied, telling Kershaw he’d be closing out Game 7. So we know that Roberts intends to pitch Kershaw for at least the last 3 outs. This is not a break glass in case of emergency situation.

For his starter, though, Roberts went with Yu Darvish, who gave up 5 runs in 1 ⅔ innings, the same as he had in Game 3.

The Dodgers were down 5-0 when they brought in Kershaw. Yes, the pressure on him at that point is lower, but he was lights out and gave his offense a chance to come back. So why not start Kershaw? If you have the best pitcher of his generation, and you’re going to pitch him, why not start him? You can let him go until he begins to fatigue or gets into trouble. Here’s what Sam Miller says:

So, ideally, in a perfect world, you’d do the only logical thing: You’d start with your best pitcher, Kershaw. You’d let him go until you realize he’s not your best anymore. You figure out as you go how many pitches that is, and you figure out as you go how many outs that is good for. Then you bring in your second-best pitcher, Jansen. You do the same. Once he’s not your second-best pitcher anymore — which you’ll see, because you’re a baseball genius and spot these little tells that a pitcher has that he’s tiring — you look up at the scoreboard. Maybe it’s the third inning at this point. Maybe it’s the eighth inning. The difference between those two situations is massive, and you’re glad, looking at the scoreboard, that you chose to do it this way, because now you know exactly what you need to get from your third-best pitchers and beyond.

But you can’t do this, can you? Because, most likely, you’re still going to be asking a lot from Yu Darvish, and he needs to be good for this plan to work. He needs to be Yu Darvish good. And you just don’t know whether Darvish, coming out of the bullpen for the first time in his career, with all the nerves of Game 7 of the World Series affecting his preparation in the bullpen, is going to be able to handle that. If he can, he throws the final six or four or two innings and you hold the parade. If he doesn’t, you’ve just ruined the third-best pitcher you’ve got.

I just don’t buy that argument about Darvish. Later in the game, after their starter Lance McCullers also struggled, the Astros called on normally starting pitcher Charlie Morton. He slammed the door shut for 4 innings and finished out the game. Did Morton turn mentally soft because he wasn’t asked to start? No. Did Kershaw? No. If I’m managing Game 7 of the World Series, I am trusting my best pitcher, especially if he’s Clayton Freaking Kershaw, to get as many outs for me as he can. So, thank you, Dave Roberts. Thank you for starting Darvish. I had an enjoyable Wednesday evening. -TOB

Source: Managing Game 7 is the Most Difficult Job in Sports”, Sam Miller, ESPN (11/01/2017)

PAL: Why did the Dodger pick up Darvish midseason? So they don’t have to think about starting Kershaw on two days rest in a game 7. Because Kershaw can’t be the only guy if they want to make a World Series Run.

You ride or die with your generational talent. As much as I like to disagree with TOB, he’s right on this – if Kershaw’s told he’s pitching anyway, why not just start him and see how many innings you can eek out. Kershaw’s already great (3x Cy Young Winner, with a 2.36 ERA, averaging 248K per season, and his team wins almost 70% of the games he’s pitched), so you bet on him to be legendary.

Roberts (or the Dodgers front office – I wonder who was calling the shots, to be honest) completely and utterly overmanaged the world series, and they sh*t themselves, quite frankly. They wrote out a plan that made sense on paper, and then they proceeded to run their entire bullpen into the ground. The bullpen, which was perhaps the one facet of the game where they had an advantage over the Astros, ended up overworked and couldn’t deliver, which is understandable since they pitched the majority of the innings in the series.

As loaded as that team is, there is no guarantee the Dodgers will ever get back to the World Series. I think you need to keep this in mind when you manage. If this is the last World Series game this collection of Dodgers ever plays, who do you want on the mound. A fresh Yu Darvish – no scrub by any means, but did pitch awfully in game 2 – or Clayton Kershaw on ½ of a tank. I’d see how far Kershaw’s tank gets me – from the beginning of the game.

TOB: What’s wild to me is how many sportswriters (like Ben Lindbergh and Michael Baumann from The Ringer) I saw after the game saying Roberts was correct not to start Kershaw. Now, this reminds me of the scene in Swingers when Trent tells Mikey you always double down on 11, and when Mikey does and busts, Trent keeps insisting, “You always double down on 11.” Mikey says, “I lost! How could you say ‘always’?” But I do get their point. The outcome was unknown when he made the decision, so you shouldn’t take the outcome into consideration when determining if he made the right call (plus, who knows how things turn out if they do start Kershaw. Maybe he takes a liner to his head that ends his career or something). But my point is this: I thought this before the game, and I just disagree with the logic. Baumann and Lindbergh’s argument is that you don’t know what could happen, so go with Darvish because that’s why you traded for him. Sorry, if I’m a manager, I’m winning or losing on the back of a generational pitcher. If you beat him, so be it.


What is the Point of Youth Sports, Part III: Coaching High School Sports in a Club World

Let’s start the third and final chapter on youth sports with a quote that seems to pretty much sum up the current state of coaching high school sports today:

The e-mails from angry parents come faster and more often than any time in his 25 years as a high school coach, sometimes waiting for Carl Pierson by the time he arrives home from a game.

Each time it happens, the Waconia girls’ basketball coach knows a long night is about to get even longer.

After he enters statistics, uploads and edits game film and creates a scouting report for the next day’s practice, Pierson faces a choice: Take the time to carefully craft and send a response, or put it off until morning and endure a lousy night of sleep dreading the thought of hard feelings festering with a parent and their player.

The old adage says there is no ‘I’ in team, and that seems to be the problem in high school sports these days. As we’ve written about the previous two weeks, players and parents are investing a lot of time and money on personal athletic pursuits through pay-for-play club sports and 1-1 training. When a varsity high school coach – who gets about $6K stipend in Minnesota – doesn’t have little Johnny in the regular rotation – well, there’s trouble in paradise.

When expectations aren’t met, parents blame the high school coaches — whose work now extends well-beyond a season’s start and end — and even push for their ouster.

After the ouster of two high-profile boys’ hockey coaches — Jeff Pauletti at Roseville and Tony Sarsland at Elk River — Rep. Dean Urdahl authored a bill in 2013 to forbid parental complaints for being the sole reason to not renew a high school coach’s contract. The measure was passed into law, but its effects are hard to discern.

Fast-spreading complaints via social media can further stoke tension. In 2016, Tony Scheid resigned as Stillwater girls’ hockey coach, saying he and his family had been subjected to “unrelenting and vicious” verbal attacks from a group of parents.

Let’s just pause for a second. We can be such wimps. Such frauds. I include all of us – whether we have kids or not – because we are parts of communities where this crap happens every day, and ‘our kids’ isn’t limited to flesh and blood. We want our kids to learn about character and competition and teamwork and perseverance, but only if that happens in a way that’s acceptable to us – only while making varsity as a sophomore, and playing regular minutes/innings/shifts. When it doesn’t go our way, we act like wimps. We post pithy complaints on social media like teenagers, and we either work to get the coach fired or acquiesce to those that do. We don’t use the most minor of setbacks – a youth sports setback – to actually have a moment to say to our kids, “This is a challenge, and I’ve got news: You will be challenged for the rest of your life. It’s actually a big part of each day. How you respond tells yourself and the world what kind of person you are. This is what the word ‘character’ means.”

Full disclosure: I absolutely failed my first sports character test.

I was a sophomore on the high school baseball team. The catcher ahead of me, a junior, was suspended for two weeks (maybe I was a junior and he was a senior…I can’t remember). He served his suspension, and was back in the lineup. I was the designated hitter for a couple weeks, I’m wouldn’t be surprised my hitting cooled off, and then I wasn’t playing. The guy in front of me was a natural athlete, but didn’t seem to care too much, and that just ate at me. I wanted to succeed with every ounce in me. I had quit hockey to spend more time on baseball. I wanted to play D-I baseball. It was my only goal, I had a plan worked out to the day, and my plan was getting off course because an upperclassmen who didn’t seem to care about anything. I wanted to know why I wasn’t playing (even when maybe deep down I knew he was more gifted than I was), and I was worried that I wouldn’t get any college looks if, you know, I wasn’t on the field.

My brother and I met with the coach in the dugout. My feelings about his coaching are beside the point here, so I’ll just leave that alone. My brother did most of the talking while I sat there.

To this day I regret that I didn’t find the guts to talk with my coach one-on-one. Ugh. This isn’t something that comes up once every few years; I think about it pretty regularly.

What is the point of youth sports? It’s all the stuff we rolled our eyes about as kids – teamwork, competition, the feeling of earned success and a camaraderie that can only be achieved by spending seasons of ups and downs together with teammates you love and teammates you learn to get along with over time. It’s all the cliches. The cliches are true. They were when I was playing as a kid, and they are true at my job today. A great day at work is due to teamwork – and everyone buying into that idea. After reading this series, it’s hard to make a case that parents and players share my feelings on this.

Individual success in sports – like any other facet of life – is not guaranteed just because there’s been an investment of time or money or desire. We all know life isn’t fair. While adults seem to understand that truism when it happens to them, the idea that their children are faced to learn that lesson destabilizes mom and dad.

High school coaches – the good ones, the bad ones (and there are bad ones), and the indifferent ones – have always had to deal with crap parents, but they had leverage. With the ubiquity of club sports, it seems that leverage has shifted.

What’s lost in all of this is the the most beautiful part of high school sports – a team made up of kids from the same neighborhood or city winning a state championship. A group of guys or girls, who grew up playing together from when they were 10 years old all the way through high school bring home a goddamn state championship to their hometown. It’s beautiful.

Pride. I fear that’s what’s lost in all of this. – PAL

Source: Crunch Time Never Ends for Coaches”, David La Vaque, Star Tribune (10/24/2017)


$100k for an Elite Basketball Recruit is a Steal

As we’ve written about here before, NCAA basketball is embroiled in a developing pay-for-play scandal that broke when a number of assistant coaches from some of the top programs around the country were simultaneously arrested a few weeks ago. One of those recruits, Brian Bowen, was preparing to start his freshman year at Louisville. It has been alleged he, or his family, were paid $100,000 by Adidas for choosing Louisville.

At first blush, that sounds like a lot. But $100,000, even for one year of basketball, is not a lot of money.

Economist Dan Rascher, an expert witness in the O’Bannon case, estimates that Division I football and men’s college basketball players only receive about 10 percent of the $10-12 billion of annual revenue that they generate. By contrast, NBA and National Football League players receive roughly 50 percent of total league revenues. Three years ago, the National College Players Association, a campus athlete advocacy group, applied that same split to athletes in Football Bowl Subdivision conferences and estimated that the average basketball player was worth $289,000 a year.

That’s the average player at the average program. Bowen of course is not average. Louisville is not average. If Louisville paid its players 50% of revenue like NBA players get, each player on the team would be paid $1.72 million per year. The tenth pick in last year’s draft, for example, is making over $3 million this year, thirty times what Bowen was allegedly paid. This well beyond stupid at this point. Maybe he doesn’t need to get paid $1.72 million, but $100,000 is a bargain, and the players should get paid a fair amount.

Source: Brian Bowen is a Bargain at $100,000”, Patrick Hruby, Deadspin (10/26/2017)

PAL: I hate the notion of paying college players, but any semblance of amateurism left big time college basketball decades ago (UCLA in the 60s, right TOB?). Wherever you stand on the issue, this article breaks it down by the numbers, and it’s a pretty logical, measured argument. Glad TOB posted it this week. We just didn’t get to it last week.


Sports Screaming Explained

It’s in every sport now, the screaming. Tennis, Football, Track & Field, and all of the others. The screaming is to a point where we don’t really notice it anymore, but there was a time – not that long ago – when this didn’t happen.

After losing the first set to Monica Seles in ‘92 Wimbledon semifinal, Martina Navratilova went to the chair umpire to make Seles stop grunting after every shot. It was so unprecedented at that time that the umpire didn’t know what to do, so he gave Seles a warning. Seles went on to win the match, and by the end of the match, the grunting had turned into screams. Seles had opened the screaming door in women’s tennis, and “[o]ver the next 20 years, Navratilova watched in horror as an entire generation of tennis players proceeded to copy Seles.”

 

Nick Zarzycki does a nice job organizing a handful of theories as to why athletes now scream.

There have been several studies, including some that contend screaming can “increase our maximum jumping distance, improve our ability to withstand pain, and increase coordination.” As Zarzycki points out, there seems to be connection to the fight or flight response.

And fear is part of the fight or flight equation.

Working with neuroscientists at Dr. David Poeppel’s lab at NYU, Arnal found that screams are different from any other kind of human vocalization because they possess a sonic attribute called “roughness,” which is particularly good at activating the brain’s fear and danger processing centers.

So perhaps there’s something to either creating or reacting to danger when it comes to today’s sports. Vikings great John Randle was a big yeller (and all around gab machine on the field). What’s fascinating is when you wonder whether or not he was yelling at the offensive line as a reaction to danger or in an effort to create fear. Maybe a bit of both.

There are less combative sports where the breakdown between creating and reacting to danger is less complex. Take, for instance, the skeleton (the luge-type winter olympic sport where one competitor sleds head first down an ice track at 75 m.p.h.

 

Why do athletes scream? Because we’re all animals! – PAL

Source: Why Do Athletes Scream”, Nick Zarzycki, Deadspin (10/31/17)


Sporting Event Proposals are Never, Ever OK

There is no scenario in which a proposal of marriage at a sporting event is acceptable. I don’t care if you just won the World Series, Carlos Correa. There are no exceptions to this rule.

Sure, he was having the best night of his life, and – to repurpose a phrase TOB uses in the Dodgers writeup, he doubled-down and proposes. Exuberance is at an all-time high, she’s a total babe. He goes for it. I get it. It’s just the wrong play.

We are conditioned to give it the ah, that’s so sweet. Resist that urge. It is not sweet. To propose at a sporting event is unoriginal, thirsty, and puts the fiance being proposed to in an impossible position.

What’s she going to do – say no? Hey, honey. I know you just won the World Series, and you’re an incredibly successful, young, good-looking, wealthy shortstop who bats cleanup for the World Series champs, but…can we talk about this? Yes, the diamond the size of small island is beautiful. It’s not that. I just don’t feel like we’ve talked about each of our visions of the future.

So – yeah – that was never going to happen. Did I mention he’s the shortstop and bats cleanup? Hell, I might have said yes. But that doesn’t make it OK. Propose on your own time, and make that day special because you got engaged on that day. Of all the moments in your life, don’t tack that one onto any other special day, and don’t do it at a baseball game.

What’s that? Yes, I am 35 and never been married. – PAL

Source: Carlos Correa Celebrates World Series Win By Proposing To Girlfriend Daniella Rodriguez”, Emma Baccellieri, Deadspin (11/01/2017)

TOB: I have mixed feelings here. First, I think everyone should do it their own  way. She looked happy as hell. He looked happy. It was a sweet moment, good for them. On the other hand, when it happened I did think, “It makes for a bit of an awkward engagement night.” I mean, now he’s gotta leave for the trophy ceremonies, then head to the locker room for the champagne celebration, and then get absolutely hammered with his teammates. Is she in the locker room? Either way, once the celebration is done, Correa is drunk and celebrating his own thing, while also trying to celebrate their thing. In the end, I go with my gut: They seemed happy, so…


Video of the Week: 

https://clips.twitch.tv/InventiveLazyYamKeyboardCat

(Sorry, can’t embed)


PAL Song of the Week: Jeffrey Foucault – ‘Lodi’ (Creedence Clearwater Revival)


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“No, don’t call me a hero. Do you know who the real heroes are? The guys who wake up every morning and go into their normal jobs, and get a distress call from the Commissioner and take off their glasses and change into capes and fly around fighting crime. Those are the real heroes.”

-D. Schrute