Week of February 14, 2020

May each and every one of you find your kissing bandit this weekend.

Astros Sorry If Their Cheating Offended Anyone

The Astros had to face the press on Thursday. For the first time, they were to be asked questions about stealing signs (the garbage bin, the Codebreaker app), and man did the players and the owner Jim Crane come off poorly. 

Here’s a sampling:


Bregman and Altuve’s statements were less than 90 seconds, combined. All three of them had a commonality: we’re sorry (for cheating), but it didn’t impact the outcome of the World Series. Oh, and “we’re looking forward to 2020.”

Ah, no. 

Aside from the institutional cheating going on for years in the Astros organization, the most incredible takeaway from the team facing the press today is how completely and utterly unprepared they are to answer questions that any PR intern could’ve predicted would be asked today. This news didn’t break yesterday. That’s how in the wrong the Astros were. They knew the questions in advance and this is the best they could muster. They knew what they wanted – to admit wrongdoing, to admit what they were doing created an unfair advantage but to somehow have that admission stop short of impacting the World Series. 

Leave it to a 1-2-3 fav Michael Baumann to sum it up just right: 

Minutes before Crane went on stage, I joked that it would have been more fun if the Astros refused to apologize, and told the assembled reporters to count the rings and go to hell. Having seen what passes for sincere contrition on Crane’s part, they would’ve been better off taking that approach. At least then I would’ve respected their honesty.

Watching all these video clips of players stuttering through their responses to really simple questions reminded me of cops busting up a college house party and asking the guys who live at the house questions about how they got the beer, why the music was so loud, etc. Everyone’s eager to admit a little bit of wrongdoing, but no one is actually responsible for taking $5 and giving a teenager a Solo cup at door. 

At this point, the only detail keeping me from believing the 2017 Astros title should be vacated is that I’m all but certain the Astros and Red Sox weren’t the only teams doing this. No way. – PAL 

Source: The Astros’ Apology Tour Is Off to a Comically Disastrous Start”, Michael Baumann, The Ringer (02/13/20)

TOB: Man. Great analogy. As for Crane, I loved this tweet, recalling a classic Chappelle’s Show moment:

As for Bregman, Altuve, Correa, Springer: these dudes better have incredible seasons. They need incredible seasons to save their reputations. If they come out this season and hit 30 points below their career averages, then their 2017-2019 seasons will go from suspect to absolute jokes.

Neymar’s Highlights Are Great, But He’s Never Been

I’ve never read Rory Smith’s NY Times soccer column until this week – and even for a guy that follows soccer from the highlights – I enjoyed his musings on Neymar’s squandering of talent as the next generation of players take his place in line in ascension to the throne Messi or Ronaldo at some point will give up. Neymar, playing on the same team as Messi in Barcelona, moved to Paris St.-Germain in an effort to get out of Messi’s shadow (and become the highest paid player on the planet). 

The move didn’t work. At 28, Neymar has faded from contention for the Ballon d’Or (the annual award handed out to the best player in the world). In his place are younger stars like P.S.G. teammate Kylian Mbappé. 

Talent has never, ever been the issue with Neymar. Smith argues it’s how Neymar values the game, and he uses one small moment in a recent game to serve as Neymar’s signature: 

There is something essential about Neymar contained within this vignette: his imagination, his panache, his confidence and his ability, yes, but also his belief that soccer’s highest form is the expression of individual skill. It is that which makes him so in tune with the sport’s modern era, of course — all gifs and memes and six-second snapshots of brilliance going viral — but it is also his flaw.

The thing about those clips, the ones of brilliant goals and outrageous pieces of skill that go viral, accompanied by nothing more than a screed of emojis, is that they are devoid of context, and greatness in soccer, and in all sports, is determined almost exclusively by context.

Neymar’s trickery is an adornment to a game, not a determining factor in it…

Again, I’m not the most ardent soccer fan, but I really enjoyed Smith’s writing. Always great to come across a talented sportswriter. – PAL 

Source: The Fading of a Star”, Rory Smith, The New York Times (02/08/20)

LeBron: “Cheap as Hell”

I am a LeBron James fan and I always have been. That said, I’m not really sure why The Athletic did an oral history, of sorts, on LeBron this week. Like, I don’t know what the occasion is. But it did provide this incredible tidbit:

Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers, former Cavs teammate: D-Wade has said it before and I hate that I have to quote him. But when we go international, which is obviously always Toronto, he won’t turn on his phone. It’s only WiFi. He’s the cheapest fucking guy. He’s like, “That’s bullshit. I won’t turn on my phone.” He won’t turn on data roaming. He’ll only go when we’re either at the arena or at the Shangri-La, “Hey, what’s the WiFi?” Internationally and in Toronto, he’ll never pay for it.

That is god damn funny as hell. This is a guy who has made over $1 BILLION dollars over the last 15 years, but refuses to pay roaming charges.

There’s more good stuff here, including former teammate Tristan Thompson reporting that LeBron “eats like shit.”

The best story, though, is probably this one:

Romeo Travis, professional basketball player overseas, lifelong friend: I was walking through the mall (around the holidays last year). A guy kept calling my name. I’m with my kids, I don’t want to stop. A guy just kept calling my name. I stopped and he’s like, “You’re Romeo, you’re LeBron’s friend?”’ And I was like, “Yeah.” He’s like, “Can you do me a favor?” I’m like, “What’s up, man?” He said, “LeBron put me through rehab. I just want you to tell him thank you. He really saved my life.” Those are the type of the stories that he doesn’t publicize. He don’t even, I didn’t even know. This is something I found out just walking through the mall, that he does things like that. People never find out about it. He does favors and stuff for people that he don’t talk about. They know the big stuff. They know the iPromise school and the philanthropy and things of that nature, but they don’t know the small stuff. Those small things are impactful as well. I was just like, wow. I sent a message to LeBron and was like, “I ran into a guy and he said you put him through rehab.” He said, “Yeah I do that from time to time just to help addicts.”

What a good dude. -TOB

Source: “A Card Shark Who ‘Eats Like S—t’ and Helps Save Lives: A Collection of Untold LeBron James Stories,” Joe Vardon and Jason Lloyd, The Athletic (02/13/2020)

PAL: LeBron is also on record saying he loves the free version of Pandora. No joke.

Video of the Week: 

Tweet of the Week:

Song of the Week: Richard Swift – “Would You”

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Women are like wolves. If you want a wolf, you have to trap it. Snare it. Then to keep it happy, you have to tame it. Feed it, care for it. Lovingly. The way an animal deserves to be loved. And my animal deserves a lot of loving.

-Dwight K. Schrute


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