Week of September 27, 2019

102 yards, no bounce.

Muhammad Ali Sells Us A Honda Civic  

As we walked into Ken Harvey’s Dublin Honda, I leaned over to Natalie and said, “Now, I might be a little blunt in there, but I’m not in a bad mood or anything.” 

It was 7:35PM on a Tuesday night. I had just taken BART to the last stop so we could spend god knows how long in a car dealership only to buy our leased Civic (text from my brother, Matt: “Good luck getting out of there in under 3 hours”). Natalie drove there right from her Tuesday night grad school class. It’s been brutally hot in the East Bay this week, and it was still hot that night. I was wearing a dark blue shirt, so maybe it wasn’t obvious that I was pitting out. I didn’t care one way or the other. 

I could say neither of us wanted to be there, but that would make us no different from anyone in the world walking into a car dealership on a Tuesday night. That’s the deal when buying a car, right? You don’t know exactly how, but you know you’re gonna get hosed. 

We needed a reliable car. I’m in the process of donating a 2002 Escape, some of which our dearly departed Maxine treated as a chew toy (specifically, the windshield wiper nob on the steering wheel), and Natalie has about a 25-mile work commute. Additionally, I could do without my father-in-law asking “What car you driving?” whenever we make a trip over 30 miles. His faith in the Ol’ Yeller (the banana yellow Escape) waned long before mine did. 

Natalie was leasing the Civic. It’s black, it’s got the handsfree for the phone. It has 47K miles, and it’s affordable. Done and done. 

We had been to Ken Harvey’s Dublin Honda the previous Saturday, and I thought we cracked the car dealership experience: find yourself a rookie salesperson. We found DJ. DJ was great; when he asked if we wanted to “roll our lease over into a 2019”, we told him we were not interested, and he said, “OK.” When he asked if we were interested in any other models, we said nope, and he said, “OK.” He then came back both times and said, “My manager was wondering why you don’t want to roll…” We told him we just don’t, and he said, “OK.”

We liked DJ. We wanted to buy this car from DJ. We told him that, and we asked when he was working next. The date was set. 

Natalie called DJ’s cell, the number he gave us, on our way over. DJ told us he was sick, and his manager told us he was was supposed to be at a training, and now that I think about it, did we out DJ for skipping work on Tuesday?  

Instead, we got Artie. Artie was a handsome, older gentleman from Vallejo (that’s a 40-mile commute through some of the shittiest Bay Area traffic). He was somehow dapper in a car dealership golf shirt. He was soft spoken, kind, and sweet, and also a car salesman, I reminded myself! I wasn’t falling for his act. No way. I leaned back in my chair, slouched and sweaty.  

We told him we had been there the previous Saturday and filled out all the bank-related stuff and we wanted to know how much it was to buy the car. He asked if we were interested in rolling our lease over to 2019. No, thank you. He asked if we wanted to take a look around at other makes and models. No, thank you. Artie got his manager, and they “crunched the numbers” in some back office, which makes no sense. How much is the used car worth, do we want to pay it all now, or space it out, here’s the interest rate. 

We waited as said numbers were crunched (read: where the hosing takes place). Artie sat with us, and Artied started telling stories. I was in no mood for stories of his trip to Morocco and Spain from our used car salesman. We can just wait quietly until they tell us the price, thank you very much. Please point me in the direction of a vending machine.

I was half-listening when he mentioned “Ali”. I think Artie was talking about his hometown (San Diego) and mentioned such and such hotel is where they set up Ali’s training camp for his first fight with Ken Norton. 

I sat up, and Artie kept on going. He had a wonderful way of connecting anecdotes. He’d say, “I shouldn’t be telling you this, but…” that was at once a little corny but also endearing. 

Artie goes on to tell us how Budini Brown (Ali’s cutman) was selling off memorabilia like mouthguards and pins on the side to make some extra money. Or the time Artie grabbed the rhinestone robe Elvis gave Ali when we saw two fellas looking to swipe it. 

He told us about visiting Ali in the hospital after Norton broke his jaw in the second round (Ali finished all 12 in what was his second loss), and how Ali consoled Artie, telling him they’d get Norton next time (he did). Or driving Ali around La Jolla on a book tour later on in life and restaurant owners begging Artie to bring the champ by for dinner. 

He’s telling all of these stories, and I’m reminding myself, he’s a car salesman, dumbo. 

And then Artie pulled out his phone to show pictures from Ali’s funeral. Artie has pictures with everyone. Artie and Don King, Artie and Reggie Jackson. Artie and Holyfield. Artie and Chubby Checker. Mike Tyson. Artie and Laila Ali (Ali’s daughter) with Laila’s daughter. Artie was not just at the funeral. I’m guessing he was in the first 30 rows on the main floor of what was one of the greatest collection of dignitaries, celebrities, athletes, and politicians in the last 100 years. 

There were other pictures in his phone, too. Pictures of pictures, like any grandpa has in his phone, but his are of a younger, strong Ali holding Artie’s baby back in the 70s in Artie’s living room. Old Ali and Artie together. They look like friends, not like someone asking a celebrity for a photo in a public space. 

Natalie and I were stunned by the time we left in our “new car”. We ate C+ bar food at Lazy Dog in Dublin at 9:45PM on a Tuesday and talked about our Civic, the most recognizable athlete of the 20th Century, Artie the Honda salesman, and the Trump impeachment inquiry. It’s a night I’ll never forget. – PAL 

Source: “Muhammad Ali Sells Us A Honda Civic”, Phil Lang, 1-2-3 SPORTS! (09/27/19)

Why Baseball is the Best Sport

Felix Hernandez and Mariner fans said goodbye to each other Thursday night, as his career comes to a close. Felix was great. But more importantly, Mariner fans loved him, and he loved them.

Felix came up as a 19-year old, and he set the league on fire immediately. He won just one Cy Young award, in large part because the team never – not a single time in 15 seasons – built a squad around him that managed to play in even a single playoff game. Fifteen seasons, no playoff games.

But that didn’t matter to Mariner fans. Baseball is the best spectator sport because the season is so long, fans can develop real emotional connection with the players. And more than any other player, a great starting pitcher is a gift – he makes every fifth day an event. King Felix certainly did that. Thursday night was the last such event, and it reaffirmed for me why I love baseball.

To start the game, Felix’s teammates stayed in the dugout as he ran out to the mound. This was the scene.

Then, when he was removed from the game in the sixth, this:

If those two videos don’t give you goosebumps, I wonder if you have a pulse. -TOB

Source: “Why Baseball is the Best Sport”, Thomas O’Brien, 1-2-3 Sports! (09/27/2019)

The Wildest Game I’ve Ever Seen

There are many football fans who only like the NFL. They have no time for college – the players are not as good; it’d be like investing time in AAA baseball. Then there are football fans who only like college football – they prefer players playing for their pride and not a paycheck, which IMO is gross, but they also love the atmosphere – the band, the student sections, the connection to the team (after all, I graduated from Cal, but I’ve never been a part of the 49ers). 

Then there are of course football fans who like both. That is where I reside, but I want to point out one other thing I really love about college football: because many college players are so good they could star in the NFL if they were the league, their individual talent pops. I mean, POPS. Like DeSean Jackson making college defenses look like Pop Warner teams.

Or Devin Hester doing the same.


The end result of that talent disparity results in some incredible things you would never see in the NFL. Last weekend we saw such an event in the UCLA/Washington State game. Allow me to set the scene.

Wazzu is ranked 19th , continuing their third year or so of being a pretty darn good football team under Mike Leach. They host UCLA, in its second season under former offensive genius Chip Kelly, and things look bad. Last year they went 3-9, and they started this year 0-3. The rumor mill was already churning. And at halftime, I am sure there were many UCLA fans ready to pull the plug on the Chipper Experience.

Wazzu took a commanding 35-17 lead into the break, and that is when I turned the game off. The Colorado/Arizona State game was getting tight, and this game looked over, so I flipped to CU/ASU and did not plan on flipping back. But then that game ended, and I checked in on the score. I think I did a triple take:

Wazzu 49, UCLA 46, with the 4th quarter just starting.

What. The. Hell? A 29-14 run in one quarter? But then I pulled up the box score on my phone and it was so much more than that. Wazzu opened the third with back to back touchdowns to make it 49-17 with 6:52 to go in the 3rd quarter! Read that again. So how did UCLA cut a 49-17 deficit to 49-46 in less than seven minutes?

That’s how. In 6 minutes and 52 seconds, UCLA scored 29 points on 257 yards of offense over 4 possessions totaling 4:32 of game time. Wazzu, meanwhile, went Fumble/Punt/Fumble, totaling 64 yards over 3 possessions totaling 2:52 of gametime. It doesn’t even make sense. 

Of course, moments after I tuned in, Wazzu scored to make it 56-46 with just ten minutes to go in the game. Surely, Wazzu would right the ship.

Quick sidebar: if you are not a longtime Pac-12 football fan, allow me to introduce you to the term “Coog’d It”. Washington State is so notorious for blowing games in the most unbelievable ways that opposing fans, and even Wazzu fans, use that term for any team, but especially the Cougars, that manages to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. 

I am sure it will not surprise you now to learn that Wazzu absolutely Coog’d this one. Here’s how the rest of the game went, after they went up 56-46.


All told, UCLA scored FIFTY FREAKING POINTS in less than NINETEEN game minutes. They went on a FIFTY TO FOURTEEN run. The teams combined for ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY POINTS and 1,377 yards for the game. If you’re wondering, which I very much was when the teams hit 123 combined points, the all time NCAA record for combined points is 137, set just 3 years ago, when Pitt beat Syracuse 76-61. Mind you, when Wazzu scored the 123rd point, there was still 6:11 to go in the game and I would have lost any amount of money you named if you had bet me that they would not end up at least tying the record at 137.

The entire game was outrageous. Wazzu’s QB threw for nine touchdown passes. There was absolutely no defense, sure, but as an outsider with no emotional attachment to either team, it was incredible to watch. I was texting a couple buddies throughout, but it was dangerous to take your eyes off the screen, lest you miss another big play. 

Best of all, as a fan of a team who actually plays defense, and a fan of that same team that played less than zero defense under its previous coach, I couldn’t help but be relieved that my favorite team was not involved in the game.

It was the wildest game I’ve ever seen, and I will never forget the experience of watching it. It could never happen in the NFL, and that is why I love college football. -TOB

Source: “The Wildest Game I’ve Ever Seen”, Thomas O’Brien, 1-2-3 Sports! (09/27/2019)

PAL: Man, “Coog’d it” is excellent. It just feels good to say, and I have nothing against Washington State. I like that a lot, and Devin Hester’s return looks exactly like backyard football.

Next Up for The Twins: End 15 Year Losing Streak

My number one concern as Natalie and I move this weekend is to make sure we have the TV/Cable situation figured out in time for the first round of the ALDS playoffs. My second concern: my Twins have lost 13 consecutive playoff games over the past 15 years. My third concerns: 10 of those losses were against the team’s likely opponent in this year’s ALDS, the Yankees.

This year will be different (keep your snickering to yourself).

In previous matchups, the Yankees outclassed the Twins, especially with the bats and in the bullpen. That 2004 Yankees team had Jeter, ARod, Bernie Williams, Gary Sheffield, and Posada. The Twins featured a rookie version of Joe Mauer*, 74 games of Justin Morneau, and a whopping three players hit over 20 home runs. Aside from Cy Young winner Johan Santana, the Yankees outclassed the Twins on the mound, too, especially when it came to the bullpen.

But, as the Star Tribune columnist Sid Hartman (99 years old, and still writing columns) writes this week, “The good news for most of these Twins players is that most of the history that the club has against the Yankees has little to do with them.”

That’s right. Just as I did in the opening of this Twins post, we can focus on records, good or bad, that extend far before the guys currently wearing the Twins jersey were on the team.

This year is different. This year it was the Twins who slugged into the record books (301 and counting as of Friday AM, but the Yankees have 299). This year, the Yankees have been hit by the injury bug (a record 30 players put on the injured list). This year the Yankees starting pitching is good not great. And while over the season the Yankees bullpen has better numbers, the Twins have pieced together a bullpen recently that could have just the kind of flexibility needed for playoff baseball. I like the mixture of “guys who’ve been there”, stud prospects (TOB turned me onto Brusdar Graterol), and traditional starters who could nail down several innings in a marathon game (Kyle Gibson). As another MN columnist, Jim Souhan, optimistically puts it in his column today:

The bullpen improved because of the most boring and underappreciated aspect of baseball management: Patience with young talent. The Twins became more cautious about using Taylor Rogers on short rest. They waited for May and Duffey to master their increasingly dynamic stuff. They reaped the benefits of two previously unexciting trades — landing Zack Littell for Jaime Garcia and Devin Smeltzer for Brian Dozier.

Suddenly, the Twins have a dozen useful arms and no traditional-thinking guardrails. They could throw nine pitchers in a nine-inning game, or ride a hot starter.

This year’s different, and I can’t wait for the beautiful stress of watching my hometown team in a playoff series. – PAL

Source: “Twins-Yankees playoffs history has been decidedly one-sided“, Sid Hartman, Star Tribune (09/27/19)

*Just saying, Mauer might turn out to be the best test of the Ewing Theory in MN Sports history if this team goes on a run. For those who don’t know, the Ewing Theory was penned by Bill Simmons and Dave Cirilli. Per Urban Dictionary, the Ewing Theory “explains the reason why teams inexplicably become better after their star player leaves the team for any reason (trade, injury, etc.). Two elements must be present for a situation to be explained by the Ewing Theory: 1) The team has a star player who receives a lot of attention but never wins anything, and 2) The star player leaves the team and everybody writes the team off.”

The Twins failed to win a single playoff game in Baby Jesus’ career. He retires, and the team just might win 100 games in the next season. Just sayin…

TOB: Three things: (1)Go Twins. (2) I don’t need think it’s Ewing Theory because no one had thought Mauer was good for the last decade or so. It was not like anyone was asking, “How come the Twins never win when they have a great player like Mauer?” For a long time. (3) Don’t think I didn’t notice the shade thrown the Giants’ way – this year we had a whopping three players hit 20 dingers for the first time since 2006, I believe.

Ok, four things: (4) I am so god damn pumped for the baseball playoffs. Let’s go!!!

When a Hero Becomes a Legend

Late last Sunday night in Philadelphia, a residential fire broke out. Everyone survived, in part due to the help of a passerby, Hakim Laws. He saw a man in the window of the building, screaming that his children were in the building. Laws offered his help – the man in the window threw the children down to them, and Laws and his friend caught them. They likely saved lives. Laws was interviewed by the local news, as you’d expect.

Here’s the thing. Before I continue, you should know that during Sunday’s game against the Lions, Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor dropped two crucial passes. Ok, now we can continue.

So Laws is interviewed, and here it is.

Incredible. To have the presence of mind to burn Agholor is some galaxy brain shit.

To his credit, after this thing went viral, Agholor reached out to offer Laws tickets to the Eagles’ next home game.

What a cool and funny story. -TOB

Source: Hero At Scene Of Philadelphia Fire Drops Burn On Nelson Agholor“, Dom Cosentino, Deadspin (09/23/2019)

Answering a Dumb Question That Popped In My Head

I worked from home Thursday, so I had the Giants day game on in the background. In the 4th, 28-year old rookie Mike Yastremzki hit a dinger, his 21st of the year. I said to myself, “Wow, if he had come up at the start of the year, maybe he would have hit his age.” And then I thought, “Huh, I wonder who is the oldest player to ever hit their age in dingers.” So then I set out to find the answer, using Baseball Reference’s terrific Play Index, and just started plugging in numbers.

Fittingly, the oldest players to hit at least their age in homers are Barry Bonds and Hank Aaron. But I was not satisfied there, and needed to know: who is the oldest player to hit exactly their age?

Consider that itch scratched. -TOB

Source: “Answering a Dumb Question That Popped in My Head”, Thomas O’Brien, 1-2-3 Sports! (09/27/2019)

Video of the Week

Tweet of the Week

PAL Song of the Week: Barefoot Jerry – “Smokies”

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I think Comic Sans always screams fun. 

-Gary ‘Jerry’ Gergich

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