1-2-3 Sports! Week of November 8, 2019

Does the used car salesman have a win against Penn State on that chart? Hahahaha!


NHL Dentists

Who’s ready for some stories from NHL dentists? I knew I was going to post this story as soon as I saw the headline: The ugly, gory, bloody, secret life of NHL dentists.

It takes a bit to get me squirming, but this story goes there more than a few times. Hockey pucks are really hard, hockey players are pretty big, hockey sticks are flying everywhere and none of these dudes are wearing a mask that covers their mouths (unless they’re already recovering from a broken jaw). 

Let’s start with Ryan Callahan, shall we?

[T]he Rangers’ Ryan Callahan was bearing down to deliver a check on an L.A. player when the guy turned around at the last second and bayoneted Callahan’s mouth, “Game of Thrones” style, with his stick blade. On his first night on the job, and at his first hockey game, no less, new Kings dentist Kenneth Ochi sat Callahan down in the chair at Staples Center, took a deep breath and aimed his dental lamp at the side of the player’s mouth.

The light shined straight through to the floor.

Callahan’s teeth were intact, but there was a 3-inch hole in his cheek, like he was some kind of gaffed tuna. A closer look revealed that a large portion of Callahan’s exposed jawbone was covered in a strange black substance. Ochi labored over it with his curette for an excruciating 15 minutes while trying to keep his dinner down. Later, a staff member with more hockey experience informed him, with a shrug, that the substance was stick tape.

“There’s no manual for this stuff,” Rivera says. “But for someone who always wanted to be a dentist growing up, being a part of the NHL means we’re doing some crazy stuff — and I love it.”

Setting aside the grimace no doubt on your face right now, these dentists play a pretty key role on their respective teams. They are a part of NHL hockey. Hell, they even get a day with the cup if their team wins it!

Each team keeps a full-time dentist on staff, often seated a few rows behind the bench and armed with a medieval toolkit of needles, forceps, sutures and curettes. Most NHL arenas have dental chairs somewhere near the locker rooms. The work performed there is so vital to teams’ health and success that dentists are often some of the few staff members to survive an ownership or coaching change, and many, including Rivera, get championship rings and their own day with the trophy after a run to the Stanley Cup. “After seeing how many lips had been on the Cup, I gave it the slightest little kiss I could … and then I went and disinfected my mouth,” Rivera says.

If you’ve been to an NHL game, you know how fast that puck comes off a stick when a dude unloads a slapshot. To imagine that hitting me in the mouth unsettling. It’s crazy, and so are are hockey players, and that’s why that toothless smile has been celebrated for decades. 

Another interesting note from this story. The Russian and Eastern European players: traumatized when it comes to dentists in a lot of cases. 

Several team dentists surmised that because of a different standard of dental care in places such as the Czech Republic and Russia — where the use of Novocain and anesthesia is sometimes considered an indulgence, even in pediatric dentistry — players from that part of the world are so terrified of the dentist that Long has seen them visibly shaking from fear in his chair.

So if you find yourself at a party with an NHL dentist, stick by him. He or she no doubt has some gory stories. – PAL

Source: The ugly, gory, bloody secret life of NHL dentists”, David Fleming, ESPN (11/01/19)


What Really Went Down at Deadspin

If you liked our write-up last week about the demise at Deadspin, you’ll enjoy this discussion on Slate with three recent Deadspin staffers (Megan Greenwell, Barry Petchesky, and Tom Ley) about what went on behind the scenes. I especially liked this, from Petchesky and Greenwell

Petchesky: There are 18 billion sites you can go to to find out who won. You can go to ESPN, you can go to new zombie Deadspin to find out about the Pats-Ravens game. It was not the content of the memo itself that so rankled, it was what it represented. It showed very clearly that they did not have any respect and did not hold any value for what Deadspin was and what niche it had carved out, and it showed they were willing to fight about it.

It was a test to see if we would fight it or if we would roll over, and I do think in the end, it’s mostly about power. That they wanted staff to just roll over for them and do bland work that advertisers wouldn’t complain about and just shut up and blog. I’ve been at Deadspin for my entire adult professional life, and that was not the site I’d worked at and that was not a site I wanted to work at.

Greenwell: They were clearly focused on scale above all else. In my very early conversations, I said at one point, you know, the goal of Deadspin is not to be bigger than ESPN, and they were horrified by that. In some ways, I don’t think I ever redeemed myself in their eyes from that comment. They wanted to put AP recaps of every sporting event on the site because they wanted it to be a one stop destination.

I also really liked Fatsis’ summary of what Deadspin was:

As much as any publication, Deadspin defined what sports journalism for smart people in the digital age should look like. For many readers, including me, it replaced legacy sports media as the first place to go for what happened, what mattered, what to think about, and what to talk about.

 -TOB

Source: What Happened to Deadspin, According to the People Who Were There”, Stefan Fatsis and Josh Levin, Slate (11/05/2019)

PAL: I still can’t get my head around how a website posting scores and recaps drives more traffic than something like Deadspin. I can’t comprehend the site in its current state collecting more time per visit or monthly active users than it had in its previous state. Seriously, who is going there? 

As someone that works at a company driven by ad revenue, the advertising dollars completely depend on people regularly using the product for extended periods of time. When the 18-34 demo starts leaving your site is the moment ad revenue slips. Game recaps aren’t going to attract a younger audience…or any audience. The ad revenues slip, and then the sales team push to increase ad features, which will increase revenue short-term but ultimately push more reader away. It’s a death spiral.

TOB: Well, no one is going to Deadspin anymore. Their last remaining employee resigned earlier this week, and they haven’t had a single post for almost 4 days now. I’m wondering how their CEO feels about Sticking to Sports right about now.


“The Memo Method”

02:33:03. That’s Guillermo Piñeda ‘Memo’ Morales’ finishing time at the New York City Marathon last Sunday. Top-100 finisher in a race of over 53K finishers. That’s about a 05:50 per mile pace. For his age, he’s one of the fastest in the world. To borrow a phrase from my father-in-law, Memo is “world-class”. He’s also a porter in an apartment building in Queens. 

I learned about Memo from this excellent NY Times video, ℅ Jamie Morganstern. 

The American fitness industry is worth over $30B a year. That’a a lot of fancy gear and gym memberships, but Memo doesn’t believe in gadgets. This [Memo put his fingers to neck] is Memo’s heart monitor. This [Memo doing push-ups in the park] is Memo’s gym. This [Memo eating rice and beans] is Memo’s nutrition plan. And this [Memo hiding a plastic bag with his clothes in the bushes] is Memo’s locker.

Memo keeps it simple, because running makes him “feel free”. No amount of money, no gadget, no coach can manifest freedom from a workout. That is inside of Memo, and that’s beautiful, reliable simplicity.

Memo reminds us that we’re being sold and packaged something that’s free. Achievement doesn’t come from a sports brand or the latest high-tech gizmo. Just ask Memo. He believes in just three – two things:

    • Work hard
    • Never give up

The theme of ‘free’ comes up in various forms in this video. It’s the part of this video that’s stuck with me throughout the week. Without spoiling it, I encourage you to take 3 minutes and watch. – PAL 

Source: Meet Memo, the Marie Kondo of Fitness”, Lindsay Crouse, Nayeema Raza, Taige Jensen and Max Cantor, The New York Times (11/01/19)


Book of Basketball 2.0 – Prologue – The Secret is Now Rented

We’re going to try something different here. The idea of this site is to share our favorite sports stories from the week. These days, sports stories are coming to us in various forms. Podcasts have obviously exploded over the past five years. Video is also a medium you might have used to get some sports stories.

Listen here

With that in mind, I’m sharing this first episode of Bill Simmons’ new podcast: Book of Basketball 2.0. 10 years ago he wrote a book. It was a best-seller. A lot has changed in the past decade, so instead of writing a follow-up, Simmons is making it a podcast. I haven’t read the book, so maybe some of this is old to those of you that have, but I shared the first episode with my brothers (none of whom are basketball guys) insisting they listen.

The episode is about “The Secret” to winning in basketball is great players putting forth genuine selflessness. Russell knew it in the deepest corner of his soul. Chamberlain never got close to understanding. The Warriors had it for a couple seasons, but lost it. Bill Bradley described it as the “ultimate cooperation”, and the downfall of many a great teams is what Pat Riley describes as the “Disease of More”. A team wins, and everyone starts to want more – more minutes, more money, more shots, more attention.

In the current era of basketball, when new metrics highlight individual value in a multitude of new ways, when star players move teams much more frequently, Simmons’ thinks The Secret “is rented, never bought”. That it’s become damn near impossible to keep it going for more than a few years.

The idea of team success is endlessly fascinating to me. And while Simmons’ predictable pop-culture metaphors come off as forced at moments, the subject matter, interview soundbytes, and anecdotes are a delight. – PAL

Source: Book of Basketball 2.0: The Secret is Now Rented”, Bill Simmons, The Ringer (11/05/19)


Managers Should Never “Go With Their Gut”

Joe Posnanski wrote a bizarre article this week about Mike Matheny, the new Royals manager, and how things are so different today for managers than they used to be. And it’s just such a weird article, but I have two things I wanted to point out. First, in discussing the different landscape for managers in today’s game, Posnanski laments what will happen if a manger goes with a “gut feeling”:

And heaven help you if, because of a gut feeling, you took the 41-minute route thinking you would beat traffic and that didn’t work out. That’s when people will say you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing and need to be canned immediately.

Look, I hope this doesn’t come across as arguing semantics, but I don’t agree with this. If a manager makes a decision on a gut feeling, he’s doing his job poorly. A gut feeling is how I make NFL picks when I know nothing about the teams. But no manager should ever put himself in a position to make a gut feeling. When making a decision, a manager needs to know the pitcher’s tendencies and the hitter’s tendencies and the fielder’s tendencies and the umpire’s tendencies and the ballpark and the weather. It’s not just statistics or advanced statistics or analytics, though. It’s knowing how many innings your pitchers have thrown recently, and how they’ve looked when doing so. It’s knowing how they perform having pitched two days in a row or three or with three days off instead of four. It’s knowing how their curveball breaks in the humidity or how it doesn’t in the altitude. It’s all of that, synthesized quickly into one decision. Some of it may not be conscious, but they are factors good managers think about constantly, before the game and during, so that when the time comes to make a decision, they make the best one available.

A good manager, heck probably most managers, take all of that and more into consideration, and then make the decision they think is best. Maybe Posnanski is using “gut feeling” as shorthand for all of that, but I don’t think so. And any manager ignoring all that information and going with his “gut” is going to be wrong more often than not, and he’s going to be criticized and he’s going to deserve it; and he’s going to be fired and he’s going to deserve it.

One final thing, where Posnasnki discusses, basically, how Matheny was a dick to the media when he was with the Cardinals:

But watching him in that press conference — picking fights, snapping at innocent questions, tilting at windmills and (to paraphrase Bobby Knight) going after rabbits when the elephants were on the march — you could tell that he was not built to last. All the kindness and the even-tempered nature that he had displayed in our conversation were gone. He swatted away even the most innocuous questions and tried, at the same time, to make the reporters look small. He seemed to take offense at anything and everything. His very posture questioned the right of anyone’s right to question him.

And, look, in one way, you can understand it. Matheny was a four-time Gold Glove catcher who played through agonizing pain, who endured agonizing concussions, and there’s a certain logic in thinking, “None of these people played the game. Who are they to question me?” 

I expected the next section to be a discussion with Matheny reflecting on that behavior and how it had to change. But that’s not what happens. Matheny isn’t quoted. I don’t think Posnanski even spoke to him. Instead, Posnanski just says that Matheny has to change because people won’t put up with that when you’re losing and then wraps up the article. That’s some lazy writing, and it’s what happens when an editor is too afraid to stand up to a famous writer. Do better, Joe. -TOB

Source: On Mike Matheny and the Challenges of Being a 21st-Century Baseball Manager,” Joe Posnanski, The Athletic (11/05/2019)


Video of the Week:


Tweet of the Week:


Song of the Week: OutKast – ‘Player’s Ball’


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OK, show of hands. Who wants to live in a world where Stanley has two lovers and you don’t have any?

-Michael Gary Scott

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