Week of June 28, 2019

Sorry we missed you last week, we were too busy boppin’ at the College World Series in Omaha. But we hope you enjoyed TOB’s story on our trip to the U.S. Open. Now, get out there and enjoy the summer. 


The Generalist from Lakefield, MN

I’m back in Minnesota this week. Every year prior, I’d be back home helping my dad get everything ready for our Fourth of July trip up to the lake, but this year – in many ways – is different. For one, the family is not heading up to the lake but over to Keller Golf Course just off of Highway 61 to celebrate my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. In a month from now, my big family will all head out west to San Francisco for my wedding. And third, my friend is an NBA Champion who gets a Patrick Reusse column written about her in the friggin’ Star Tribune!  

(For Bay Area folks, this would be like Ray Ratto writing a column about your college buddy) 

I’m filling up my Honey Bunches of Oats, about to enjoy the simple pleasures of a cup of coffee, a bowl of cereal, and the sports page on a quiet morning. Reusse’s column is off to the side of the main sports story of the day about the guy who looks after the dirt at the horse track. The headline is non-specific -“Quiet, confident and top of her game” – but I see that Resch name right in the first sentence: “A conversation with Jim Resch quickly revealed the strength of his roots in southwest Minnesota.” 

I know a Jim Resch from southwest Minnesota. Hell, Natalie and I were having a beer with Teresa’s dad, Jim, not a month ago at the bar Local Edition just off of Market Street in San Francisco. That’s because Teresa, my college roommate, invited Natalie and me to party after an NBA finals game between the Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors. Teresa is the vice president for basketball operations and player development for the Raptors. We all know how the Finals went for Toronto. Now, T-Resch as I know her, is getting her due in her home state with big column in the sports page. 

The column is vintage Reusse. It charts Resch’s path to her role as a NBA executive, and how she truly is a pioneer for women in a professional sports league. Teresa’s path started in Lakefield, playing basketball, starring on a state championship volleyball team, and earlier in life winning a champions trophy when she showed Spartinia, the ewe lamb, at the Minnesota State Fair in 1994. 

It talks about her time at Augie, where we met, and where Teresa became an All Conference volleyball player in the NCC, the now defunct North Central Conference. I’ll never forget when that team her freshman year made it to the national championship match that was being played at Augie. We were sure they were going to win. The Elman was packed, and then we saw the Hawaii Pacific team come onto the court. They were all huge, adult women from Hawaii and South America. We didn’t need to see more than a couple points to know how the season would end for Teresa and her teammates. 

Reusse then details how Teresa took an internship at the NCC office, where she was given from the league commissioner: “There’s plenty of opportunities arriving for women in sports organizations. If you want that, go to grad school and get an MBA with a sports connection.”

So Teresa did what she always done – she worked her ass off and wasn’t afraid to take a chance on something new somewhere new. She earned an MBA in St. Thomas, Florida, took a bunch of unpaid internships and was eventually hired to work in the NBA League office. Teresa’s ascent to her current role isn’t as straight of a line as you might think from there, but now you can see how she got where she is today. 

So I’m reading this column about my friend (who better be coming to my wedding – RSVP, TResch!), and of course I’m pretty damn proud, but I am also surprised to learn something from my friend…through a quote of hers in the paper. 

The job has evolved in six years. It’s tricky even to describe it. There’s a new book called Range, and it’s about generalists – people who do more than one thing, several things, for a business, for an organization. I’m one of those. My job is to try to ensure that everybody that touches the Toronto Raptors can compete in a championship organization.

Such a surreal moment that I will never forget. And I will never forget how hard she worked for this success. 

I texted T as I was reading the story. Her response: “Big question is did the photo of Spartinia make it?!”

  1. Teresa or someone in her family sent Patrick Reusse a photo of a lamb for this story, and that is so excellent.
  2. Of course that would be T’s first question.

No, the photo of Spartinia didn’t make it, Teresa. They went with this one instead:

You’re living good when you get to watch your friends and family accomplish great things. With my parents 50th and Teresa’s story in the local paper, I’m living really good these days. – PAL

Source: Quiet, Confident and Top of Her Game”, Patrick Reusse, StarTribune (06/27/19)


How to Manage a No-No

This is really cool. Giants manager and soon-to-be Hall of Famer is retiring after this season. Bochy has had a hell of a career, including 3 World Series wins and a fourth World Series appearance. He’s also managed a bunch of no-hitters, and one perfect game. In this article, Boch reflects on those games, and the near-misses. You won’t be surprised to learn that Bochy manages differently if a no-hitter is in play. 

There is no way to account for a bad hop or a bloop, but time and again, Bochy has tried to increase the pitcher’s odds, even if it’s just an incremental gain. Bochy’s plan in those games is pretty simple. If the game is close, as it was with Peavy in New York, he might try to squeeze an extra at-bat out of his best hitters. But most of the historic games for Bochy’s Giants have not been close through the middle innings, and he repeatedly has looked for an edge.

“Ultimately you’re there to win the game, but you’re also there to help the pitcher if he’s got a legitimate chance to pitch a no-hitter,” Bochy said. “That’s kind of what you prepare for as you look down your bench. You ask, ‘What is my best defense?’ “

His biggest regret, though, was a change he didn’t make, in a game where Jake Peavy took a perfect game into the 7th inning:

Peavy was perfect through six, but Mets starter Jacob deGrom hadn’t allowed a hit, either. When left fielder Michael Morse grounded out to end the top of the seventh, Bochy thought about putting in Gregor Blanco to shore up the outfield defense for Peavy’s run at history. Instead, Bochy decided to try for one more inning out of his powerful No. 5 hitter.

Daniel Murphy came up in the bottom of the inning and lined a ball to left. Morse initially broke in and to his right before going back on the ball, and by the time he tried to reach his glove up, it was too late. Murphy cruised into second with a double.

“I couldn’t believe I didn’t do it,” Bochy said. “I thought about it, and sure enough, the ball was hit there, and the baseball gods punished me. That’s what I’m always conscious of, to help the pitcher out. I gambled there, and it got me.”

Bochy has gone to great lengths to not unnerve a pitcher. During Matt Cain’s perfect game in 2012, he wanted to get a reliever loose, just in case. But he didn’t want Cain to see him warming up in those on-field bullpens, so he had Shane Loux warmup in the batting cage behind the dugout instead. When Cain got to two outs in the 9th, Loux threw down his glove and ran to the dugout to prepare for the celebration.

This was just a really good article, interviewing a master of his craft. Enjoy! -TOB

Source: How Bruce Bochy’s Managerial Genius Manifested in Giants’ No-Hitter Bids”, Alex Pavlovic, NBC Sports (06/13/2019)

PAL: It’s great to hear a manager prioritize the opportunity of a guy doing one of the coolest things – throw a no-hitter in a big league game – over pitch count or even a reliever getting ready in the bullpen. It also reminds my how asinine it was for the Dodger to remove a pitcher from a regular season game when he had a no-no going. Unforgivable.


Baseball’s On The Clock

The current collective bargaining agreement between players and owners in MLB runs through 2021, but talks are already beginning. The New York Times’ Tyler Kepner summarizes the urgency centers on the union’s belief that “[Y]ounger players are rarely paid what they are worth, while veterans are now in much less demand, leading to lower salaries for what were once their prime earning years.”  M.L.B., while making no promise to a change prior to the current C.B.A. expiring, is willing to sit and listen. 

I think there’s a whole lot more at stake leading into 2021, and I think the players and the league know it. I think baseball, by far my favorite sport, is in trouble. 

We’ve conceded it’s a local sport years ago, but I bet the viewing numbers locally are fading. We focus on the money regional sports networks generate for MLB teams (either through contracts or ownership), but I’m curious how many people are actually watching regular season games consistently. Here’s a story from FanGraphs from last year that does a deep dive around attendance, viewing, and growth. 

Home runs are boring. Big Mac and Sammy may have brought baseball back with the long ball in ‘98, and it was cool for the first 10 years I watched Baseball Tonight, but it takes something truly special for a home run to get me going. Home runs are up over 17% year-over-year, and MLB is on pace to break the single-season record for home runs by over 450 home runs. Strikeouts are up. Walks are up. Home runs, strikeouts, walks – they get pitchers and hitters paid, and they are so boring to watch. Dan Patrick nailed it earlier this week – there’s no movement in baseball because of the adoption of the three true outcomes. I have no doubt the math proves this to be the best approach over a long season, but I don’t care about watching the pursuit of these outcomes for 3-4 hours, much less all season long. I don’t know what the solution is, but I sure love to watch an organization try to combat this trend with crazy speed, defense, and something crazy like a bullpen full of ambidextrous pitchers. 

Contracts are too long. Mike Trout might be the best player in my lifetime, and I’ve watched the Angels center fielder play less that 10 times in his 7+ years. The Angels are medium at best, again, and again this dude’s going to win an MVP in obscurity. He’s very likely staying in Anaheim for the next 12 years, earning over $35MM a year until 2031. I would do the same, of course, but Trout on a .500 team on the West Coast sucks for everyone but Angels fans. 

Look at the NBA right now. Player movement sparks interest on a national level. Baseball should cap contract lengths at 5 years, and young players should be eligible for free agency 4 years after they are drafted (assuming they sign). This will both allow for players to move from team to team, and prevent teams from holding young, exciting players in the minors to hold off free agency for another year. 

So it’s good MLB and the union are starting chats now. They have time, they have a lot to figure out, and I hope they think outside the box for the long-term health of the game. We’ll need a lot more than two roided out ball players hitting home runs to bring the fans back if there’s a work stoppage in 2021. – PAL

Source: M.L.B. and Players’ Union Set to Begin Early Labor Talks”, Tyler Kepner, The New York Times (6/17/19)

TOB: I’m less concerned about the home run/strikeout stuff – the game is constantly changing, and it’s clear they have changed the ball, once again, to further increase home run rate. The balls are slightly larger, the seams are lower, the leather is smoother, and the ball is rounder. It amazes me when a successful organization cannot help but tinker. It reminds me of when the NBA tried to introduce a new ball, and the players nearly revolted. 

But I am concerned about the contract stuff. The system is so screwed up right now. Minor leaguers should be paid a living wage, and as Phil said, you shouldn’t have to wait seven years after you hit the bigs to hit free agency – especially for any player who went to college, your best days are behind you by the time you get there. And, as Phil notes, teams have gotten smarter and don’t want to pay the aging vets for past performance. So what’s the solution?

One idea I like is giving everyone a mid-level base salary, and then using a stat like WAR to pay players large bonuses after the year. I’m sure the vets would balk – but if you produce, you get paid. If you don’t, you still get paid, but you’re not getting $30M to hit .220. Ahem, Bryce.


The NBA Toys With Major Schedule Change, But Will Fans Pay the Price?

It was reported this week that the NBA is considering major changes to its schedule, which has been 82-games since the beginnings of the league. Any changes would not take place until the 2022-23 season, but the changes are radical, as far as sports leagues, which change at a glacial pace, go. The discussion reportedly included reducing as few as a handful of games, up to a reduction down to 58 games, where each team hosts every other team once. 

The proposed reductions could allow the NBA to include some proposed tournaments. One such proposal a mid-season cup tournament (styled after European tournaments like the FA Cup, an English soccer tournament among not just the Premiere League teams, but all teams down to division 10). Another proposal is a postseason play-in tournament, where teams the bottom teams in each league play a single-elimination tournament for the last 1-2 playoff spots, but also retain the opportunity to remain in the lottery, even if they win. I’m not sure I get the point of the midseason cup, unless we allow the G-League or perhaps even professional club teams from Europe to compete. But fans clamoring for this are going to pay the price.

I think it’s clear the season is too long. It’s so long, and a reduction is player friendly. But a season reduction is not fan-friendly. I realize that the Warriors ticket prices are the highest in the league. But they are simply not affordable. It costs $100 just to get in the door, and that was at Oracle. It will get even worse next year when they move to their new arena. So what do you think will happen when they reduce the availability of their product? It’s simple economics. The prices will go up. I imagine teams will universally raise season ticket prices, and that, plus product scarcity, will cause the secondary market to soar. Fans all across the country will get priced out. And that sucks. 

But that’s not the only way fans will pay. As someone who cares about NBA history, I am concerned with how this will completely change the record books. No one will ever touch Kareem’s (or LeBron’s if he gets there) career scoring record. No one will come close to 73 wins. No one will come close to Curry’s career 3-pointers made record. We will have to start a new record book, and I think we will lose a lot of the league’s history when that happens. 

I am not generally a person who thinks we should do something the same way because that’s the way we’ve always done it. And I think these new ideas are fun. But I do hope the NBA thinks of all the ways this will affect the fan… hahaha. Hahahaha. Sorry. What the hell was I thinking? Of course they won’t. -TOB

Source: Sources: NBA Talks Fewer Games, In-Season Event”, Kevin Arnowitz, ESPN (06/26/2019)


Video of the Week


Tweet of the Week: 


PAL Song of the Week: Looking Glass – “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)


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I am glad that today spurred social change. That’s part of my job as regional manager.

– Michael Scott

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Two Days In a Gorgeous Hellscape: The U.S. Open at Pebble Beach

We attended last week’s U.S. Open, and TOB had some thoughts.

Two Days In a Gorgeous Hellscape: What It’s Like to Attend the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach

While watching last year’s U.S. Open, I saw an ad for this year’s tournament, played at the relatively close Pebble Beach Golf Course. Phil and I decided to attend, and purchased tickets a year in advance. Neither of us had ever been to a golf tournament before, nor had we been to Pebble Beach. We decided attending both Saturday and Sunday was the perfect plan. We could try a few spots and vantage points on Saturday, and use that to inform our plan of attack on Sunday.

The night before we left, the reality of the fact I was going to leave my wife with two kids for two days while I watched golf seemed to set in for her. She peppered me with questions. What are you going to do? Watch golf. Isn’t that boring? Yeah, I had to admit, maybe. This is so stupid. Is that a question? She was not thrilled.

The next morning, Phil picked me up at 5:30am, and we hit the road. With her questions fresh in my mind, and Phil’s fiance’s similar questions fresh in his mind, we asked ourselves: What kind of person attends these things? What’s it like to attend a golf tournament? What’s the best way to watch a golf tournament in person? We’d soon find out the answers to these questions and many more.

Who Attends the U.S. Open?

Let’s get this out of the way: Lots and lots of white people. More specifically, though, white people who really love golf. If you think you love golf, you are probably wrong. A person who attends the U.S. Open, many of them flying across the country to do so, love golf in a way I can’t get my head around. They love to watch it. They love to talk about it. They love to analyze it. They love to crack jokes about how much better the pros are than they are. Lots of old white guys leaned over to us after a big shot and made some variation of the following joke: “Heh heh, you don’t want to see me try to get up and down from there.”

So, obviously, golfers attend the U.S. Open. But not your once-a-year duffers like your hosts, here. Golfers who take it really seriously. So seriously that they wear their golfing gear to the U.S. Open. I’m talking performance golf pants and golf shoes – hand to God we saw people in golf spikes! It’d be like going to a football game as a fan in full uniform. They dress like they dress when they play, but they aren’t playing. It’s wild. This was a big topic of conversation for us all weekend.

The U.S. Open is also a great place, apparently, to show off your bonafides as a golf fan. Before we even got on the shuttle Saturday, I saw three Masters-branded clothing items. We decided to count them, hoping to find 100 such items on the day. We barely got there, finding #100 in the line to board the shuttle home, but by God we did it.

The Masters-branded clothing item is a very specific statement: I Have Been to the Masters, Thus I Am a Very True and Devoted Golf fan. Some people were wearing two and three Masters-branded clothing items. We saw many groups where they were all wearing Masters-branded clothing items. During one trip to the concessions, Phil saw a Masters-branded braided belt and I almost cried when he told me about it, because I was so mad to have not seen it myself. Phil and I had a lot of laughs imagining these old guys packing for their trip, panicking as they couldn’t find their Masters shirt. “HONEY! WHERE’S MY MASTERS SHIRT!!! I TOLD YOU TO MAKE SURE IT WAS WASHED AND READY!”

On top of Masters-gear, there were an incalculable number of 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach-branded clothing items. Hats, jackets, shirts, windbreakers, sweaters, sweater vests, t-shirts, sunglasses. You name it, they sold it, and thousands of fans bought it. We saw people with huge bags of 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach-branded clothing items, and we saw thousands that threw those items on top of whatever it was they arrived wearing. Then you had a decent number of guys busting out their 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach-branded clothing items. We even saw two guys with 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach-branded clothing items, and boy was golf fashion in 2000 awful. By the way, those two items were in pristine condition, so you know those guys kept those jackets protected carefully the last two decades, only busting them out for special occasions.

More obscure but equally as bonafides-signaling were the other U.S. Open-branded clothing items. Shinnecock, Erin Hills, Oakmont, Pinehurst, Congressional, Bethpage, Torrey Pines, Oakmont, Winged Foot, and the Olympic: All have hosted the Open over the last twenty years, and I saw hats and pins and shirts from each.

Another thing that can’t be ignored is that U.S. Open attendees are, or seem to be, overwhelmingly pro-Trump. Given that I live in San Francisco and enjoy my liberal bubble, this was a bit disorienting. We saw less MAGA hats than I expected, but we saw a LOT of MAGA-adjacent hats. By that I mean, a U.S. Open 2019-branded hat in a very specific shade of red, that when viewed from more than a few feet away causes most observers to think it IS a MAGA hat.

Given the political climate, in my opinion, wearing such a hat is a very specific choice to make a political statement. But there’s more. Personally, I think war is bad. I find military flyovers to be distasteful, especially as the current administration seems to be sounding the drums of a war against Iran. But shortly after the tournament ended Sunday, two military jets performed a flyover. It was crazy loud. The crowd cheered in approval, and a U-S-A- chant broke out. Phil and I muttered quietly. 

But the funniest moment occurred when we first got to Pebble Beach on Saturday. Just as the free shuttle (again more on that later) got to the gates, we saw a small handful of protesters holding signs about global warming. The loud and talkative man with a thick southern accent who was sitting in the seat directly behind us could not let this go without comment.

“Protesters, hah. They probably went to Berkeley.

I, a proud Cal grad, whipped around in my seat.

“And what’s wrong with that?”

He stammered. “Uh..nothing. I hear it’s a good school.”

“Yeah. Ok.”

I sat back down. He continued, “They’re probably taking time off from their job at the EPA.” A joke so dumb I didn’t even respond. But yeah, preserving our environment, what a stupid friggin liberal idea, huh, Bubba?

Not two minutes later, as we approached the course, emerging from the forest as the ocean and landscape of Pebble Beach came into view, this dude remarked, “Sure is beautiful here.” I thought Phil and I were going to self-combust. But like good adults we bit our tongues and then griped about that idiot on and off for the next two days.

So, who attends the U.S. Open? Mostly white guys, from climates where golf is very popular (ahem), and all of the political leanings that come with that (ahem ahem).

What’s it like to Attend the U.S. Open as a “Sporting Event”?

I grappled with the answer to this question throughout the experience, and in the days since. As we left on Sunday, right as I was asking myself whether I would ever do it again, Phil asked me that very same question. I had to pause. Would I do this over again knowing what I know now? Yes. Would I ever come back again, though? To answer that question, I must explain a few things.

Golf is a deeply weird sport to attend. It’s unnervingly quiet. The players and officials demand silence as players begin to line up their shot, and that culture is also self-policed by attendees. Even when players are 250 yards away and can’t possibly hear you, the fans shush each other as a player begins to shoot. And there’s little ambient noise. There’s no music. There’s no announcer. There’s nothing but long stretches of silence, interrupted by brief and relatively tepid applause, with an occasional mild cheer. If you are used to attending baseball, basketball, or football games, it’s a bewildering experience.

The lack of announcers, particularly, makes it hard to follow the action, because as you sit in any single place watching two golfers take a couple shots, there are 34 other golfers on the course that you can’t see, and you have no idea what’s going on with them. They did hand out these dorky looking radio earpieces, but even trying to follow all the action on there is difficult, as the broadcast focuses on the leaders. So you’re left to scoreboard watching, with scores posted for each player’s hole after it’s completed. I will say that is a thrilling moment. “Oh boy, they’re posting Koepka’s score on 6 – did he get that eagle he needed. … … … NO!”

Also, the food sucks. Every single concession stand had these exact food options, with no variation: Hamburger. Grilled chicken sandwich. Bratwurst. Chicken caesar wrap. Turkey cheddar sub. Lay’s original potato chips. THAT IS IT. And none of those hot items were any good. Ok, the brat wasn’t bad, because that’s almost impossible to screw up. But it also wasn’t particularly good. And each concession had the exact same beer options: Budweiser (in a delightful Yosemite branded aluminum bottle). Michelob Ultra aluminum bottle. Sculpin can. I realize that the club does not normally need to produce food for 40,000 people so they don’t have permanent kitchens that can feed that many people, but it seems like they could have provided a bit more variety, and a bit higher quality.

Golf is also weird to attend because everyone roots for all the players. Basically, the fans root for good shots, no matter who makes the shot. Yes, there are favorites. Phil astutely pointed out that the fan favorites seem to be the guys with a nickname that fans can shout. Dustin Johnson is peppered with calls to “DJ!” Matt Kuchar, Stiffer of Caddies, is showered with drones of KUUUUUUUUUUUUCH!” Tiger is of course Tiger, and Mickelson is a cheesedick though beloved. But for the most part, fans cheer good shots and groan in solidarity with bad ones. Most of the fans golf, and they seem to empathize with the players, both good and bad. So when I openly root against the amateur from Stanford like I absolutely did, and cheer when he misses a short putt on 18 Sunday like I absolutely did, the eyerolls and anger are palpable.

Golf is also weird because your glimpse of both the players and the action is incredibly brief. On Sunday we sat, all day long, in the grandstand on the 18th green. We saw every single player come through: Tiger. Mickelson. Spieth. McIlroy. Koepka. But we saw each guy for what feels like 30 seconds. They appear as tiny specks on the horizon, take just a couple shots when you can actually make out their faces, and then they disappear. If you’re a huge Tiger fan, unless you brave the crowds and try to follow him for the entire day, you see him for about a minute, at best. It’s like if your favorite baseball player is Buster Posey, and you wait all year for him to come to town – then he sits on the bench all day and comes out for a single, one-pitch at bat, and disappears back into the dugout.

And even when you do see the players, they are not superhuman specimens like you see in other sports. I thought Brooks Koepka would look like a linebacker. But when we saw him tee off on the 6th on Saturday, Phil and I could not get over how he’s actually kinda skinny: chicken legs and skinny forearms – and he’s one of the bigger guys!

The fact that players look like normal people has an interesting effect, especially in concert with all of the above: the U.S. Open doesn’t feel important or dramatic or special. I’ve attended big sporting events, and it always feels so exciting. But at the U.S. Open, for most of the day you’re with a relatively sparse crowd watching some normal-looking people play golf, with no announcers giving you context in hushed tones.  It feels so incredibly normal, and far less exciting than I expected.

What’s the Best Way to Attend a Golf Tournament

Ahead of the tournament, I was very excited to answer this question. And I’ll give golf this: there are practically infinite ways to watch a golf tournament. Some people follow their favorite golfer from hole to hole. Some people camp out at one spot. Some people are there to get drunk and enjoy the scenery. Some people want to show off their golf gear. Some people are there for the pure sport – to see some great golf shots.

On Saturday, we went in with almost no plan. In the morning, we first stopped by the driving range (don’t do that) and then we walked almost the entire course, just to get the lay of the land. We scouted positions, watched some golf, scouted some more positions, watched some more golf. Then, in the afternoon, we found a relatively small and empty grandstand on the 6th hole, and we parked it. We didn’t intend to stay long, but suddenly the big names were on their way and we had a front row view of the tee box. The 6th is a par-5, so we were going to see some bombs, and it was good. We saw all the big names from very close, and it was neat. We even got on TV making fun of Phil Mickelson’s personal logo, which commemorates his unathletic yet mildly iconic jump after he won his first Masters.

The problem with being on the 6th hole though is that when the last group goes through, there are still 2+ hours of golf left on the course, but no more golf where you are. So as the last group approached, we left the grandstand to beat the exiting crowd and tried to find a new spot. After some more meandering, we found ourselves in the grandstand at 18, and we realized that this was the best spot to be, something I did not expect myself to conclude.

So on Sunday, we considered getting a spot in the grandstand for the iconic 7th hole (a very short par 3 right on the ocean) for a little bit before heading over to 18 before it got too crazy. But the lines at 7 were long and not moving because people don’t leave.

So we popped over to the 5th for a minute, another par 3, but it was kinda boring and I started to get antsy about getting into the 18th grandstand, which is far bigger than the others, but is also very popular. From 5, we had a solid view of the 18th grandstand and could see it was already almost half full, at least two hours before the first group would even arrive.

So we elected to head over, and we did just in time. We got great seats, and camped out the rest of the day. Once the grandstands fill, there’s basically a one in, one out policy. Except! They understand people need to use the restroom and eat and whatnot, so if you are already in and plan on returning they give you a card with a time on it – you have thirty minutes to get back without having to wait in line. So we spent the rest of the day alternating trips to the bathroom or concessions, marveling each time at the length of the unmoving line to get into the special place we’d staked out, and patting ourselves on the back for having such foresight.

We of course also had the grouping schedule, so we could plan those breaks accordingly. When the big names and the final groups came through to finish their tournament, there we were, in our seats that we occupied for approximately nine hours.

The nice thing about that setup is that because the 18th is a par 5, there was almost never a lull in the action. Group 1 would tee off and then walk to their shots in the middle of the fairway. They’d take their second shot and head up to the green. Before they got to their ball, Group 2 behind them would tee off and walk to their shots in the middle of the fairway. Then, as soon as Group 1 completed the hole, Group 2 would take its second shot to the green. Compared to our day at the tee on 6, where we awaited players finishing the par-3 5th hole where only one group can play at a time, there was very little sitting around without anything going on. Plus, we got to see the end of the tournament, from great seats, as the other 40,000 people in attendance crowded 10-people deep along the fairways.

So, the best way to watch a golf tournament is in the grandstand at the green on a par-5, preferably the 18th hole so you can see the end.

So, Would I Go Again?

Well..I wouldn’t say attending the U.S. Open is a purely fun activity, though I did have fun hanging out with Phil for two days, talking about life, cracking jokes at the things we were seeing, and analyzing the experience while living it. But…

The U.S. Open returns to Pebble in 2027. At that time, my kids would be nearly 13 and 11 (geeeeezus). If they wanted to go, I’d go. I certainly wouldn’t be champing at the bit, but I’d go. I’d spend a little more money to get a hotel closer to Pebble. I might only go Sunday, and I’d probably take the following Monday off work, to avoid having to drive home so late. And if the Open ever returns to the Olympic Club, a place I could get to on a short bus ride from my house? I would definitely go.

In the end, the people watching is too magnificent to pass up. Also, now that I have a taste for attending an event like this, I really want to go to a major tennis tournament. Or an obscure event at the Olympics. Or maybe the X-Games? Luckily, I have a wonderful and understanding wife. -TOB

Week of June 14, 2019

That red sleeve on the left is my college buddy, Teresa Resch. She’s the V.P. of Operations for the Raptors. She’s a champ, on the stage with the team. Done good, T!


Thank You, Gabriele Grunewald

I had not heard of Gabriele Grunewald until news of her death at the age of 32 made it to the national websites, but that’s not a good enough reason to keep this story to myself. To our Minnesota readers, let us know if Grunewald, a MN native and University of Minnesota graduate, has been a big topic recently.

For the rest of you, I just want to share with you her story so you can take the time to appreciate this incredible woman. Her drive, her dignity, and what looks like such a beautiful friendship and bond with her husband. You can read a more complete summary of her life here, but for those who don’t click through:

Grunefield walked onto the track team at the University of Minnesota and turned herself into one of the nation’s best at the 1500 meter distance. The day before a race during her senior year, she was diagnosed with adenoid cystic carcinoma, a cancer of the salivary glands. The next year, after surgery and radiation, Grunefield came back and kicked ass, finishing second in the nation in the 1500.

She signed a deal with Brooks and became a professional. Cancer came back in 2010. She kicked ass again. “It’s like I lost all excuses for not pushing myself to reach my fullest potential,” she said. In 2012, she fell one place short of qualifying for the Olympics, but put up a personal best time shortly thereafter. In 2014 she became an American Champion at the 3,000 meters. In 2016, she made it to the Olympic Trials final, despite the cancer coming back. Along the way, she and her husband, Justin, shared their story, inspired a hell of a lot of people, and raised a bunch of money.

“It’s important to me to step on the starting line even if I’m not kicking everyone’s ass. I’m doing my best, and that’s what my story’s about.”

I say we all owe it to ourselves and Gabriele Grunewald to give it our best today. – PAL

Source: Gabriele Grunewald, Who Defied Cancer By Racing At The Highest Level, Dies At 32”, Patrick Redford, Deadspin (06/13/19)


Raptors Win. Klay Goes Down. What Just Happened?

I’m not exactly a Warriors fan, but I am a fan of the Curry-era Warriors. They play a brand of basketball that is so exciting, and they make the sport more fun. There’s nothing better than a Curry hot streak – when every time he releases it you know it’s about to drop perfectly through the net. So it’s taken me about 24 hours to digest their NBA Finals loss to the Toronto Raptors.

A lot of people say, “Not to take anything away from the Raptors, but…” I’m not going to say that, because I do have to say that this is not a strong NBA Champ. I think we’ll look back at this Raptors team and scratch our heads. It took injuries to one of the top 2 or 3 players in the NBA and a top 10-15 player in the NBA, and the Raptors still struggled to put the Warriors away, with Curry missing a three that could have forced Game 7. Nothing about this Raptors team is particularly exciting to watch, and the series should not have been close without Durant, and with Klay hobbled early (and out late).

But they won, and that’s that.

I’m more intrigued about what happens now. Because the Warriors didn’t just lose – they were decimated by injury, heading into an offseason where most expected Durant to leave. Now, with the achilles tear, does KD stay? Are teams really going to give him a supermax – he’ll be 31 next season and it might be two full seasons before he’s 100% healthy? Or does KD’s injury cause him to reevaluate his situation and elect to take the extra $60M or so the Warriors can offer him over other teams? Or does he punt his decision for a year by not opting out and becoming a free agent next year? And if he does sign elsewhere, how does that affect other free agent decisions, knowing they’d be going somewhere (New York, Brooklyn, the Clippers) without KD for Year 1 of a 4-year plan? Does it affect Kyrie Irving? Kawhi? And what about a possible Anthony Davis trade?

And What about Klay? I think the Warriors give him the max, and I think he takes it. But where does his ACL tear leave the Warriors next year? They cannot sign any free agents of note to help them – whether they re-sign Durant or lose him – so what does that roster look like next year? The team was already aging, and now they essentially have to punt next season, in terms of being a true contender. Or do they have enough to make the playoffs next year, and then bring Klay back just before the playoffs? And even KD if he stays? Are they still a contender?

So while I think this Raptors team is kind of a blah champ, this Finals will still be unforgettable. It may be the end of one of the top dynasties in NBA history. Plus, in the span of less than two games, the course of the NBA future completely changed. Wild.

Also I want to give a special shoutout to Klay Thompson, who really tried to finish the game with a torn ACL, and even came back from the tunnel to drain his two free throws when he realized that if he did not shoot the free throws himself, he could not return to the game at all.

What a nail. -TOB


How Is This Legal?

Florida State University’s athletic department is going private. What does this mean? Iliana Limón Romero of the Orlando Sentinel summarizes it as follows:

The switch will also give FSU athletics all the privileges of a private corporation, including declining any public-records requests while still preserving its sovereign immunity. The immunity clause for state agencies caps any jury judgments or settlements reached by the athletics department at $200,000. Any further settlements would have to be approved by the state Legislature to avoid undue burden on taxpayers, a privilege not enjoyed by traditional corporations.

The idea that a state-funded institution could decline public-records requests is insane. At the risk of oversimplifying the purpose of public-records requests, it seems obvious Florida taxpayers, as well as out-of-state students, parents paying tuition, and alumni deserve to know what’s going on at the university, including the athletic department.

As Deadspin’s Lauren Theisen points out, the athletic department at FSU needs more public scrutiny, not less (the same could be said for just about every big-time college athletic department). In the last five years, there have been multiple accusations of domestic abuse (former QB Deondre Francios), sexual battery (former QB Jameis Winston, who, in a separate incident, was later suspended by the NFL for groping an Uber driver), and animal abuse. In the Winston example, FSU settled with his accuser for $950K to drop the Title IX lawsuit. Info I think taxpayers, FSU students, FSU parents, and alumni have the right to know.

In Theisen’s words:

Florida State gets these new privileges without one big drawback that usually goes with them—the athletic department still will be subject to an immunity clause that limits any jury judgments or settlements to just $200,000. Anything higher would have to be approved by the state legislature, because it’d be paid by the taxpayers. Obviously, that’s not a perk a private corporation normally enjoys.

That minuscule limit came into play earlier this decade, to the benefit of UCF’s athletic association, after Ereck Plancher collapsed and died during a football practice in 2008. In 2011, a jury awarded Plancher’s family $10 million, but after the organization appealed all the way to the Florida Supreme Court, they didn’t have to pay more than $200,000.

Under this arrangement, not only would Florida State’s athletic leadership not have to be transparent in the event of a scandal or tragedy—similar to the way Maryland was held accountable after the death of Jordan McNair—but there also would be an artificial cap on the judicial consequences for their actions.

FSU isn’t the first school to privatize its athletic department. University of Florida has operated this way for years, as has the University of Central Florida. This is calculated and sinister. – PAL

Source: FSU announces plans to privatize its athletics department”, Iliana Limón Romero, Orlando Sentinel (06/08/19); Florida State Is Privatizing Its Athletic Department To Shield Itself From Scrutiny”, Lauren Theisen, Deadspin (06/10/19)

TOB: The short answer is it’s legal because the legislature, which undoubtedly has graduates/fans of the Florida and Florida State football teams crafted sweetheart legislation that harms the people of Florida but makes the Gators and ‘Noles better able to field competitive football teams. Which is some real bullshit.


This ‘Content’ Wasn’t Made For You

I am not sure you’ll find this story as interesting as I did, but it touched on a subject that, as someone who works on creative for an ad-supported platform, I find myself debating on a nearly daily basis: what is an advertisement?

Considering you’re reading this on an incredibly obscure website, we are alike. We love sports. We love watching games, we love reading great sportswriting, and we spend our commutes listening to sports podcasts or sports talk radio. We love just about all sports content. We are the reason all of this content exists, right?.

Not always.

In Tom Ley’s words:

When editorial products and advertisements become more “naturally integrated,” it becomes harder to determine just in whose service the work is being created. It muddles the nature of the thing you’re reading, very much by design.

Instead of seeing a media company create something that it thinks its readers will enjoy and then presenting that thing to those readers alongside unaffiliated ads, we’re seeing one create something that’s meant to satisfy its advertising partner first and its readers second, if at all.

Which brings us back to that image at the top here. Notice the stat category. Check out the assist column. See the State Farm logo? You might think, No biggie. Maybe you’re right.

So how about the video?

 

Is that an ad? As Ley points out, this “what-if” scenario is exactly the type of thing that Simmons has been doing for years, but would Simmons have done this segment if State Farm wasn’t paying for it? Again, maybe you think, Who cares? What’s wrong with that?

In that indifference a war is being fought and billions of dollars are being spent. Content people and ad people jockey over inches, pixels, and social influencers. Sellers trying to hit their numbers raise their voice to creative directors and legal to have a brand mentioned just one more time. Endless email threads with multi-colored, inline responses about hashtags, logo placement, and so many other seemingly pointless things fill the inbox. Slack channels churn with sidebars to the sidebar. I know, because I’m on the threads, the slack channels, the endless regroup meetings.

While standard advertising remains a powerhouse, the new horizon of advertising is where content and ads are indistinguishable from each other.

Like him or not, Bill Simmons has a major influence on what sports stories are told and how a lot of people get their sports content. As the CEO of a content company, he finds himself straddling the line between revenue and content. In this seemingly innocuous story/ad, he’s is selling off his most valuable asset to an advertiser: they way he thinks about and talks about sports. In this instance, he’s not thinking about creative sports content on our behalf. Those ideas were for State Farm.   

To be clear, this is happening everywhere. Sponsored content takes place on Facebook, IG, Twitter, YouTube. It’s pitched every day at Pandora and Spotify. It happens on news sites, too. Digital advertising is keeping the lights on for every sports and news website and every podcast network. Any tiered service (free option with ads, subscription option with no ads) out there exists because of ad revenue. Outside of subscription-only services (Netflix, The Athletic), ad revenue is the business model.

It’s a catch-22: for every State Farm sponsored “what-if” video that a sports and pop culture website spends time on, might there be an important story that lacks the resources or attention to be reported? On the flip, very few sports websites would exist without the likes of State Farm, and therefore even less stories would be told.

Of course I don’t mind Bill Simmons doing an ad for State Farm, but I do have a problem when that ad is presented as content.

Ley thinks it’s about how the ads are presented in the context of content.

An advertisement should feel somewhat intrusive, if for no other reason than to remind the reader that the ad has no meaningful relationship to the work it is appearing next to, and also that said work was created for the sake of the reader alone.

I don’t know if I agree with Ley’s solution – it minimizes the notion that advertising can be compelling, artistic, and inspiring while selling you something. It also has to be said that Ley is writing this story on Deadspin, a direct competitor with The Ringer.

All that said, I hope State Farm paid The Ringer a boatload of cash for this, and I hope they use some of the money to pay for some really great content that’s made for me and not State Farm. Maybe they will, and maybe they won’t, but I do know this stupid little assist logo and YouTube sponsored segment cheapens something that I care about. Even if just a little, it lessens my thought of The Ringer, and maybe I don’t visit as often this month as I did last month. – PAL

Source:Naturally Integrate Me Into A Hole, Please”, Tom Ley, Deadspin (06/13/19)

TOB: It’s gross, especially because the What-If segment is dumb. What a boring topic: “Let’s go back in time 5 years and choose a random injury and wonder what happens to the NBA.” And this was produced during a very compelling playoff season! And the discussion was bad! Also, if anyone wants to pay me money to work their brand into 1-2-3 Sports! content, please e-mail me at 123sportslist@gmail.com.


Video of the Week


Tweet of the Week

PAL Song of the Week: Rhye – “Open”


 

Week of June 7, 2019

 

Fin.


11 Miles

Perhaps better than any story in recent memory, this Michael Weinreb feature pins down the complicated and uneasy feelings that comes with living in San Francisco and Oakland these days. This is a story about the Golden State Warriors moving eleven miles, and just how much weight is in those eleven miles. It’s a hell of a read about the “gilded age of tech gentrification.”

As billions in tech money swirls up from Silicon Valley – up into San Francisco, and over the Bay Bridge to Oakland – the area now, undeniably caters to uber-rich. It’s a beautiful place to live, as I have for almost fifteen years, but I am not a millionaire. I wonder how the hell we’re going to afford and enjoy a life here. And that’s coming from the guy who works for a tech company that’s helped usher in this era!

I urge everyone to click-through and read the entire story, but this paragraph sums up the broader stakes:

The longer this boom goes on, the more it seems as if the old, weird Bay Area—the region that shaped contrarians and activists like Allen Jones, and long supported ragtag franchises like the Warriors—might not be coming back. And if San Francisco is going to stay this way, and the Warriors are going to stay this way, maybe you can make the case, as team president Rick Welts essentially has, that the Warriors have become too big for Oakland; they’ve been such a sweeping success that they’re now built more for The City than The Town. The Chase Center, Welts told Forbes, is meant to rival the Staples Center and Madison Square Garden. The unspoken context is that the Chase Center is meant to further elevate San Francisco into a city like Los Angeles or New York. Maybe that’s the right play for a region that is now the center of the tech world, but it also feels like a reflection of yet another power city that’s in danger of hollowing out its old spirit.

I find more than a coincidence that I’m writing this summary from a hotel in Brooklyn looking over to Manhattan. – PAL

Source: Eleven Miles, but a World Away: The Warriors Make Their Last Stand in Oakland”, Michael Weinreb, The Ringer (06/05/19)

TOB: Let me start by noting that I live in San Francisco.

When the Warriors first announced they were moving to SF, I was very lukewarmly against it. I didn’t really see the point, other than the owners making money. Oracle is not a palace but it’s a nice place to watch a basketball game.

Plus, it’s going to make it impossible for me to attend a game. Oracle is easy enough to get to, when I want to see a game. Yes, Chase Center will be easier, but the move will likely render me unable to attend a game for a few years. The prices at Oracle are already outrageous because the team is so good. It’s hard to get in the building for a mid-week regular season game against a non-marquee opponent for under $100 per ticket. Good luck finding lower level for under $175. And ticket prices are about to get stupid. So I trade some travel time for the fact I won’t be able to afford to go. Not exactly thrilling news.

But it was hard to get bent out of shape over such a short move. What I find curious about all the noise now, though, is that l was not the only one lukewarmly against it. As Weinreb notes, “Civic opposition over the move never reached a fever pitch.”

In the article, Weinreb talks to Sam Fleischer, a Warriors fan studying sports history in grad school (wait, how do I do that, too?):

“There’s an urban dynamic to basketball, in a socioeconomic sense, that built up through the second half of the 20th century. Oakland’s just like that. It connected a sport to a community that didn’t have a lot of disposable income. Basketball was ubiquitous in that regard.”

But if we’re being honest, the move doesn’t change a lot. As I noted at the outset, the cost of attending a Warriors game is sky high right now. As Weinreb discusses, many longtime fans were priced out years ago. The move to SF changes a lot less than what has happened over the last decade. Look at this photo from Game 4 of the Finals, which very well might be the last game ever played at Oracle:

The fans who can attend games now are not diehard fans. So, why am I now reading think pieces on what it all means? I don’t buy the “being ripped from the city that supported them through good and bad” narrative. First, I do feel for the Warriors fans in the article who feel like they’re losing their team. But Warrior fans come from all over the Bay Area, and always have. Second, San Francisco lost the Warriors to Oakland long before it was the other way around. I wonder what the reaction was then: my guess is a collective shrug of the shoulders.

Because I think a lot of the (still relatively mild) uproar over this stems from the Take Culture we are in. Everyone has to have a take on everything. The Warriors building a new arena and moving 11 miles has to be symbolic of some greater narrative about the differences between the two cities. It has to be about Class War. It has to have a Winner and a Loser. It has to be good or bad. It can’t just be.


The Funniest Article I’ve Read In a While

The sign of a great writer is when they can hold your attention on a subject you are not all that interested in. Such is the case here, with this article by Rave Sashayed on Phil Kessel’s free agency. I don’t watch enough hockey to really understand who Phil Kessel is, but I do have a general understanding that he’s not well liked. But Sahayed’s article had me LOLing throughout. Here’s my favorite passage:

Anyway, guess who’s the epicenter of this year’s drama? Yes, it’s hockey’s cranky but lovable uncle, Phil Kessel, and he is not going to no gadt-damn Minnesota, gaddammit. The no-trade clause in Phil’s contract reportedly has a list of eight teams the Penguins can send him to without prior consent, and Minnesota’s not one of them. So he was able to quash a potential deal that was on the table last week, per Josh Yohe at the Athletic:

…[N]umerous sources confirmed that Kessel is unsure if he wants to play in Minnesota. He did research on Minnesota and the Wild during the past week, the sources said.

First of all, this is a hilarious sentence. The thought of Phil Kessel painstakingly googling “minnesoda where” and “minnesota weather sucks ass yes or no” and “minnesota montana same?” is absolutely thrilling to me.

And don’t bother adjusting your little nerd glasses and going, “Umm excuse me, Phil Kessel spent a college season in Minnesota and his superstar Olympic champion sister went there, he definitely knows where it is.” I sincerely don’t care. I am picturing a late-’90s model desktop IBM, the kind that runs Encarta, and Phil Kessel is hunched over this computer with his glasses on laboriously typing “google minesota best value bulk mesquite smoking chips delivery,” and then he accidentally steps on the surge protector and the computer powers down and he roars “GADDAMMIT AMANDA, WHY IN THE HELL DID YOU BUY ME THIS GAHD-DAMN MACHINE!” No one can stop me from imagining this and having a wonderful time.

Read the whole thing. -TOB

Source: Can’t Everyone Just Stop Hollering At Phil Kessel While He’s Tryin’ To Watch The Teevee?“, Rave Sashayed, Deadspin


Video of the Week:


Tweet of the Week:


PAL’s Song of the Week: Fleetwood Mac – “Hold Me”


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Excellent…wait. Immodium or Ex-Lax?

-Michael Scott