Week of September 6, 2019

 

Be impressive this weekend.


Has Twitter Killed Hard Knocks?

Boy, that was a boring season of Hard Knocks, huh? I didn’t expect to say that – Gruden! Antonio Brown! Mark Davis and his haircuts! Mayock! Carr! Ok, not Carr. I was never excited about Carr. The impending move to Vegas! It had the makings of a classic season. And yet…it didn’t work.

Mostly it didn’t work because the show focused on Antonio Brown and his many sagas this training camp. First his feet, which suffered from frostbite after improper protection during cryogenic therapy. Then his dispute with the NFL of his desire to continue using the same helmet he’s used since college. Fifteen years ago, this would have probably been a great season. We would have gotten all the behind the scenes chatter on those two topics, and we would have said, “Wow, this is great drama. So interesting to get all the behind the scenes details!”

But, in the instant information, Twitter age…by the time the show aired on Tuesday night, we had already seen all of it. We didn’t need to see what Antonio Brown thought because he had already tweeted it out (and it was covered online and on TV endlessly). We didn’t need to know what Mayock said because his post-practice statement telling Brown he needed to be all-in or all-out was posted on Twitter seconds after it ended and retweeted all over the place, and then on TV all day.

On top of all that, the show suffered because the NFL changed the roster cut rules a couple years back. Teams no longer have to periodically make cuts through camp. Those weekly cuts were the center of the show’s drama in previous seasons: get to know the borderline guys, watch them practice and play, see the coaches discuss their strengths and weaknesses in the coaches’ meetings, find out in dramatic fashion whether the player would survive the cut, and watch in agony as a young man’s dream was killed. God damn, that was great TV.

But that’s all gone now, until the final week, anyways – and then 37 guys got cut in one day and the final episode didn’t have the time to show more than a couple. So I’m concerned that a once great show is effectively finished – they may continue to air it, but it will no longer be great TV. They’ll just continue to show us stories we saw days before and lack any real drama.

But I hold a sliver of hope that the producers simply made a grave error in judgment on storylines. I hope they thought the Brown stories were too good to not address. Which is true – they couldn’t leave it unaddressed. But I think they erred by making it the focus of the show. Hopefully they take stock of what went right and wrong this season and don’t make this mistake again. I just hope they figure out a way around the new roster trimming rules, because a lot has been lost there. -TOB

Source: “‘Hard Knocks’ Season Finale Recap: The Raiders Go Out With a Whimper”, Claire McNear, The Ringer (09/04/2019)

PAL:  Agreed on all fronts, but the unintentional comedy is too good to resist. Jon Gruden is doing a bad impression of Frank Caliendo’s impression of Jon Gruden. At no point does he forget that he’s got a mic and a camera on him. David Carr’s brother/franchise QB tries so hard to be liked, to be seen as a leader, and no one – I mean no one – is buying what he’s selling. The corpse of Brent Musburger saying “knock on wood if you’re with me”. Mike Glennon’s freakish neck. Gruden’s hair. The b-roll of the smelly lake I run around. There are plenty of nuggets. 

I also am struck – every time I watch this show – at how professional most every one of the players is. Most of them are the furthest thing from a diva. They know it’s a grind, and they know who’s on the bubble, and they don’t resent the guys that end up taking their spots. 

It’s completely b.s. they don’t show much of the cut conversations this season, and it’s even worse that neither the G.M. nor Gruden even show up on camera for the cuts. 

The show isn’t good, and neither are the Raiders. But the show is so slick that it’ll make you forget that. Plus, I’m a sucker for montages and Liev Schreiber narration. Sue me. 

TOB: Hah, agreed on that last part. And the Autumn Wind opening each week would get me so pumped.


The Case For Memorabilia from Not A Big Memorabilia Guy

“I don’t want to be anywhere else. Put me on a wall, and bring me some prime rib.” – Former Giants Shortstop Rich Aurilia 

An autograph has never done it for me, and I don’t feel anything when someone shows me a selfie with someone famous. The story behind acquiring the autograph or selfie too often reveals itself to be a one sentence explanation. The memory is missing from a lot of memorabilia. 

The memories are what make The Shed in Nashville, Illinois (you read that right) so legendary amongst San Francisco Giants fans. It belongs to Kirk Reuter, the beloved Giants lefty from 1996-2005. Nicknamed “Woody” for what are now pretty obvious reasons, he was the loveable thumber that always seemed to be on the mound when the Giants played well (despite an ERA well over 4), with the team tallying a record of 165-113 in games Rueter started. As writer Grant Brisbee points out, some reasons for such a favorable record include a few excellent players on the roster during that time (“Barry Bonds. And Jeff Kent. And Rich Aurilia. And Barry Bonds. It also has a lot to do with Barry Bonds.”) 

Not only did the team win when Woody was on the mound, but he pitched for a team that finally got out from under the threat moving out of San Francisco. The Giants moved from one of the worst ballparks (Candlestick) to what is undoubtedly one of the best (Oracle Park). Talk of the team leaving San Francisco was replaced with talk of a winning ball club. 

Woody felt (and looked) like the regular guy on a team of cartoon athletes. So of course it would be him that formed a fast friendship with the clubhouse manager, Mike Murphy . Of course he wouldn’t shy away from asking for autographs from opposing players. Of course Woody would ask Willie friggin’ Mays for the shirt off his back and the shoes off his feet.

“Now that was a good story, too, Estes. Did I ever tell you that? When I took that from Willie?”

The earnestness and absurdity of the sentence breaks up the room. Ah, yes, who among us doesn’t have a story of taking a shirt and boots from Willie Mays?

“He threw out a first pitch. He comes in … he has a silk shirt, a sport coat … and his boots, these zippered-up boots,” Rueter said. “I’m sitting in Murph’s (Mike Murphy, clubhouse manager) office, looking at him and the ‘Say Hey’ on his shirt, and I said, ‘Hey, that’d look good in The Shed.’”

He says that last part with an affected tone, comically devious and cunning, like a charming cat burglar. More laughs around the room.

“He starts unbuttoning, and I go, ‘Heck, you gotta sign it!’ So he signs it, and I’m still looking at him. Then I’m like, ‘Well, crap, those boots … those would look good in The Shed …’”

More laughter, this time with Rueter joining in. He already knew how ridiculous this was, but it’s all coming back to him as he tells the story again.

“So then he walks out, and he’s walking out of our clubhouse. Murph gave him a pair of shower shoes, and then all he has on is a little tank top. That’s all he’s got as he’s walking out of the clubhouse to go to his car, and everybody is like, ‘You just made the best player ever go out of the clubhouse in shower shoes and a tank top!’”

Rueter’s laughter this time is full-body, again, and punctuated with clapping hands. If he were telling a story about taking my dog’s medicine and throwing it in the ocean, it still would have been impossible not to laugh along.

Now that’s some memorabilia with a memory. This is just one of the anecdotes from Brisbee’s story. There are plenty more, which got me thinkin…

My dad has a small collection of autographed baseballs. There are some respectable Hall of Fame guys ones up there on the corner bookshelf: Willie Mays, Harmon Killebrew, Carl Hubbel, and I think he’s got a team ball from 1987 World Series Twins. But there are two signed baseballs he talks about more than any other: Dave Winfield and Bob Feller. I’ll tell you about the Feller story later if you want to hear it. 

Dave Winfield is the greatest athlete to come out of the state of Minnesota. Forget Mauer. Don’t come at me with Kevin McHale or Bronco Nagurski, or even Phil Housely. Winfield is the answer. He was drafted in basketball, baseball, and football (despite never having played college football) – and considered by at least one publication third greatest athlete ever. Debate over. 

So Winfield’s brother, Steve, had a batting cage down on Rice Street, maybe two miles from home. One day, the word around the cage is Winfield, Dave, was going to be at the cage. My memory gets hazy, about how I got home, but I got home quickly and tore through the garage for a baseball. My dad had all the equipment for the little league teams at our house, including each team’s allotment of game balls for the year. It was clear that I was not supposed to tear into any new baseballs – that those were for each of the teams. So instead of bring one of the literally dozens of clean, new baseballs for the future Hall of Famer to sign, instead getting a new baseball at sporting goods store that was on the same street as the batting cage, I found the cleanest, somewhat tattered ball lying around the garage and had Winfield sign it. Later that night, my dad’s dismay was punctuated by booming laughter when I showed the ball I got him for the bookshelf. 

To this day, it remains one of my dad’s favorite stories to tell. Just cracks him up every damn time. 

And that’s what Brisbee is getting at, or at the least the part of his story that spoke to me. That same thing is what makes The Shed most meaningful.  

The Shed exists in its exact permutation because that’s how Rueter navigated his life, with events that both were and weren’t in his control. And that exact permutation happens to help describe why Oracle Park exists and how the Giants could sell it out season after season.

The stories are better than the memorabilia. Let’s say Gale Sayers signed a baseball that ended up in a plastic cube that was displayed at a restaurant. Here’s what that ball would mean to you: Gale Sayers, Hall of Fame running back, at some point in his life, held a baseball and, with his free hand, moved a pen around the ball in a distinctive motion. That’s it. Gale Sayers touched a baseball with a pen.

When it’s in The Shed, it becomes that time Gale Sayers came through town to see Dusty Baker, with an anecdote behind that. Guys like that were always stopping by the clubhouse to see Bake, and Murph would give Rueter a heads up. “Hey, Woody, such and such is coming tomorrow, so make sure you have a football or a basketball,” and this leads into another anecdote.

The Shed is a collection of this. This happened. And it was awesome. It’s an appreciation of just how strange this world is, and it’s curated by an 18th-round pick out of Murray State who couldn’t throw harder than 86 mph, fully aware of how unlikely and fortunate he is. This isn’t something that any ol’ player could collect and show off with the same zeal. It had to be someone who could appreciate it all the proper amount.

I’ve said it quite a few times, but I’ll say it again: that’s the good stuff. Brisbee does a great job capturing the spirit of the game and highlighting why an average pitcher can become a fan favorite. – PAL 

Source: Inside The Shed: Kirk Rueter’s tribute to Giants history has become an indelible part of the lore”, Grant Brisbee, The Athletic (09/04/19)


Football Is Chess, And That’s Why I Keep Coming Back

Almost every story I’ve written about football over the 5+ years we’ve been doing this has been negative. I’ve ripped the NFL for the Ray Rice story, concussions, treating players like children, the blackball on Kaepernick, and on and on. I’ve ripped the NCAA for not paying players while coaches and administrators make millions. 

If you didn’t know me you’d be surprised, then, that I like football. Sorta. Well, I hate almost everything surrounding football, but I really enjoy the game. It’s a nasty compromise I have to make with myself: I know how poorly football treats its players, but I can’t help the fact that I like the game. Call me morally soft if you must. But damnit the game is great. This video is a perfect example of what I love about football – former QB Dan Orlovsky breaks down the Oklahoma offense, and how they scheme to beat a defense.

It’s great! I hate myself for liking it, but it’s great. Sigh. -TOB

PAL: That much choreography with that many guys in concert…hell yeah the creativity and strategy makes for a great TV sport. Couple that with the athleticism, and the orchestra that is football is almost as great as it is scary.


Video of the Week: 


Tweet of the Week: 


PAL Song of the Week: Ali De Meola – “Mediterranean Sundance”


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I made my money the old fashioned way. I got run over by a Lexus. 

-Jean Ralphio

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