Week of March 13, 2020

The Day Sports Stopped

I listened to two podcasts as I ran around Lake Merritt in the early morning fog on Thursday. The Daily detailed the ways in which the U.S. stumbled out of the gate when it came to testing for Coronavirus (and the impacts those missteps will have). Then Dan Patrick ran down a list of all the sporting events that were cancelled between Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning. Sports in America disappeared overnight, and I wondered if I was no longer training for the Vancouver Marathon (May 3) and instead just out for a run.

Andrew Keh summed up the incredible toppling with the following:  

It was almost unreal to see the sports leagues buckle under the pressure of an unseen, outside force. These institutions are more often seen throwing around their considerable financial might and cultural capital, and are frequently viewed as secure in their near-religious place in American society. And for a time, it even seemed they might resist the coronavirus, too: various half-measures — like locker rooms closed to the news media, arenas closed to fans, games transferred to neutral sites in areas less affected by the virus — were pursued in recent days as solutions to keep athletes safe and sports afloat through the pandemic.

But little by little, over the course of the week, the decision to play on seemed to be clawed from their hands. The pressure came from all over.

Keh detailed various strange scenes taking place around the world – college basketball games canceled at halftime, a bus carrying the Baltimore Orioles to a spring training game turned around (Spring Training was cancelled), and then this downright eerie scene of Olympic athletes leaving in the middle of the night: 

In Joensuu, Finland, members of the United States biathlon team preparing for a tournament there this weekend were awakened in their hotel rooms by staff members at 3 a.m. — just after Mr. Trump announced a travel ban from Europe — and told to gather their belongings. Less than three hours later, they were on a series of flights arranged by the team’s leadership — to Helsinki, then Munich, then to the United States — to bring them home.

I feel terrible for what Olympic hopefuls must be wondering right now: are the olympics the next? To train for that long, to be peeking for this specific competition – a lifetime of work brushed aside. I bet those american athletes from the 1980 olympic boycott are sending a little love to today’s athletes. 

Bill Simmons has this concept for when an athlete acts erratically – when you could be told that the athlete did anything – fought a bear, ate vaseline, became buddies with a North Korean dictator – and you’d believe it as true (2 of those are real). He calls it the Tyson Zone, named after Mike Tyson. 

The world just entered the Tyson Zone. Or maybe we’ve been there for some time and I just realized it. – PAL

Source: Twenty-Four Hours When Sports Hit the Halt Button”, Andrew Keh, The New York Times (03/12/20)

TOB: Crazy, man. What a crazy week. On Thursday we were out to dinner with friends, and I commented that for our kids, especially our oldest who is almost 6 years old and just barely aware, this pandemic will be like 9/11 was for kids his age back in 2001. My wife scoffed, but I think it’s true. When we got home, I watched some TV and heard three different commentators make comparisons to 9/11. Both are/were a huge, confusing, unseen force changing how people across the world live. It’s scary and confusing for all of us, but I have to imagine especially so for kids.

As for athletes, I feel most bad for those whose careers will end this way. Vince Carter is likely retiring, and now his career is suddenly over, a month before he expected. Hundreds if not thousands of graduating college athletes were told that the last game they played will be the last they ever play. Every athlete has a last game, of course, but usually you know it’s coming and can emotionally prepare. For the record, those biathlon athletes Phil referenced are likely not in danger of missing their Olympics. The biathlon is a Winter Olympic event, and the next Winter Olympics is not until 2022. Of course, it’s hard to imagine that the Summer Olympics takes place this year.


Our healthcare system is so effed.

My Favorite Anecdotes from Posnanski’s Top 100 This Week

#25 Pop Lloyd:

Lloyd lived long enough to see Robinson break the color line, long enough to see every team in baseball sign at least one black baseball player, and he was asked: Do you ever feel like you were born too soon?

And this is what he said: “I do not consider that I was born at the wrong time. I feel it was the right time. I had a chance to prove the ability of our race in this sport, and because many of us did our best for the game, we’ve given the Negro a greater opportunity now to be accepted into the major leagues with other Americans.”

That’s an incredible amount of humility. Many people in Lloyd’s situation would have been rightfully bitter about the unfair and racist rules that kept him and many others out of major league baseball. It’s nice sometimes to be reminded, though, that while we can’t control everything in our lives, we can control how we choose to deal with the negatives thrown our way. 

#17: Rogers Hornsby:

In 1918, Hornsby repeatedly ticked off manager Jack Hendricks with his attitude; he played exactly the way he wanted to play, no more, no less. Once when he was tagged out standing up at home plate, he told his teammates, “I’m too good a ballplayer to be sliding for a tail-end team.” Hendricks fined him $50, which Hornsby paid with a bagful of silver dollars he’d picked up the night before, special for the occasion.

#15: Josh Gibson

We can look at the incomplete box scores and try to piece him together. That year, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette actually ran some of the Homestead Grays box scores. It was sporadic, but from May 29 to June 29, one month, I was able to find partial box scores for 23 games. These games were against all competitors, including local town teams. But Gibson was 19 years old, and he was playing catcher every day, and he was just beginning to make a name for himself.

In one game, he hit three home runs. In another, he hit two. In yet another, he hit a double and two triples (one of the underrated elements of Gibson, as Hubbell referenced above, was his speed). Totaling it up, Gibson hit about .435 and slugged well over 1.000 for that stretch. He hit 13 home runs in the 23 games, so many that the Post-Gazette’s chronicler clearly got bored and just kept re-writing “Josh Gibson hit another home run.”


Source: The Baseball 100: No. 25, Pop Lloyd,” “No. 17, Rogers Hornsby,” “No. 15, Josh Gibson,” Joe Posnanski, The Athletic (03/02/2020)

In Case You Missed It: STATE-BOUND

Earlier this week, we posted a 1-2-3 Sports! original. A few weeks ago, I traveled back to Minnesota to watch my niece become the first person in my family to play in the State High School Hockey Tournament. Read to find out why this high school tournament such a huge deal?  Below is an excerpt. Read the full story here

Only in the unexpected moments like this one at the bar do I realize how fast time is moving. Like rolling down the window on the highway. I’m going exactly as fast as I was a moment before, but the wind hits me, snatching the breath from my throat.

We shared the onion rings, and (my sister-in-law) told me how well everything had been going for my niece in her first year at Breck. The juniors and seniors on the team had been nothing short of my niece’s keepers, and the gap between 14 and 18 is so wide that it’s hard to even see across to the other side. She was emphatic in appreciation towards older players on the team. My niece was doing well while being challenged in school. She got into some advanced math program. She was playing a lot, pretty much from the beginning of the year. All indications were that the decision to go to school across town was had paid off in every way.

I had known most of this, but the details weren’t the important element; it was my sister-in-law’s excitement and pride and love for he daughter. It was all mixed up and boiling over. I couldn’t remember the last time just the two of us had thirty minutes to talk. Maybe at the cabin down by the beach when everyone’s either walking down to or up from the lake. We sat at a great bar, eating great onion rings, drinking great beer, waiting to watch her daughter and my niece play in the State Tourney.

I remember this is how life felt growing up. Best-case. I know that’s not true, but that’s how I remember it. Pristine. All of us ‘kids’ were around. All carefree and assured. Hearts unbroken. And then we grew up, and like most, we were humbled over and over with blunt reminders that best-case is the exception. A break that goes your way.

So to sit at that bar with my sister-in-law on a day like that, and to appreciate this moment as a best-case – I savored that conversation.

Turns out, we enjoyed the moment thirty seconds too long. We realized the time, paid the check, and dashed across Rice Park to the back entrance of Xcel, with The Ordway on our right and Herbie’s (named after St. Paul hockey deity Herb Brooks) on our left. – PAL

Read the full story here

Video(s) of the Week:

It’s baaaaaaack!

Tweet of the Week:

Song of the Week: Calexico – “Alone Again Or”

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Can I just say, that of all the idiots in all the idiot villages in all the idiot worlds, you stand alone, my friend. 

-Michael Scott

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