Week of February 25, 2022


A Lesson in Not Being a Dumbass Coach

Twitter is full of wannabe coaches. Some of them coach at small schools or semi-pro teams and believe that they know more than major league coaches, and are SURE that if they just knew the right person they’d be coaching in the big leagues, too. This week there was a perfect example of such a coach. Here’s the story.

Someone posted a video of Mike Trout’s dad tossing some BP to his son.The caption was a joke: “My friends’ son needs help. Any tips/suggestions?”

The joke, of course, is that the hitter in the video is Mike Trout, one of the most talented baseball players of all-time. But the coach running the Evansville Devils Baseball twitter account did not get the joke and did not know the hitter is Mike Trout.

Ay yi yi. The Evansville Devils are a 17U baseball team. The team’s Twitter account is run by its head coach, Ryan Wargel, who is 47 years old and clearly thinks way too highly of his coaching abilities. -TOB

PAL: So funny. Also, Trout has one of the most distinct swings in the league.  The high hands, the super short but upper-cut – it no doubt helps that I knew it was Trout before I clicked the link, but I have to believe the swing would’ve looked familiar enough to take a closer look. 


That Was Not Covered On The Race Website

Imagine you’re a weekend warrior who likes some off-road bike races. You sign up for the Rock Cobbler in Bakersfield, CA. Some beers, some riding, some good times…until you come across a giant pissed-off bull on the course. You try to bike past. Just a dumb cow, you think. Nope. 

I shouldn’t laugh. I shouldn’t. I know; I really shouldn’t laugh, but there’s just something so damn funny about an animal letting the bikers know what he thinks about our little make believe race. – PAL

Source:Big Bull Wreaks Havoc On Bike Race,” Patrick Redford, Defector (02/14/22)


I Love a Good Rabbit Hole

See above. Sometimes, you get a curious itch that you have to scratch. They’re fun, and you often learn something. This week, SI’s Emma Baccellieri had one: while watching the new Sex and the City series, one of the characters was listening to a baseball game. Baccellieri was determined to find out what game it was, or if it was even real. Here’s what she heard:

Announcer 1: With two on and two outs, runners at the corners, Gentry looks in for the sign, and the pitch—and that one is low. Ball two. He missed that one, and Baker had to pull it out of the dirt. 

Announcer 2: He did a great job of blocking the plate so that pitch didn’t get away from him,” replies the color analyst.

Baccellieri began her search, but couldn’t find much. Only four players in MLB history have had the last name “Gentry” and none ever pitched to a catcher named “Baker.” A pitcher named Gentry once played with Dusty Baker, but Dusty never caught. 

Flummoxed, Baccellieri reached out to a production sound mixer from the episode’s credits. The mixer confirmed the game was not real and was added into the background via postproduction. But Baccellieri wanted to know who the actors were who played the announcers. Her search seemed dead, with the audio mixer unable to point her in the right direction. But she noticed a line in the credits for “additional vocal casting” – Dann Fink and Bruce Winant. Baccellieri did some digging, and got her answer – and it’s a fun lesson in how a show or movie gets put together:

Fink and Winant were indeed the voices behind the baseball game. (Fink was the color man, Winant, the play-by-play.) But they weren’t brought in specifically for that: It was just one part of the work involved with doing all of the background sound for the series.

Take, for instance, something like a restaurant scene that occurred earlier in this episode of And Just Like That…. When the cameras are rolling, everyone is quiet except for the principal actors, so their dialogue can be easily heard. There might be other people visible as waiters and hostesses and fellow diners—but they’re silent while shooting is happening. All the background sounds you’ll hear from them when you actually watch the show? The chattering and laughing and silverware clattering? That comes in courtesy of the loopers.

Winant and Fink will receive a cut of the episode and be told how many voice actors their loop group can bring on for the project. (In this case: six.) And they jump into creating the sonic context of the show—recording all the material that will later get layered in to make the background come alive.

“We’ll then put voice to everyone else in the room,” Winant explains, using the restaurant scene as an example. “So we’ll be the waiters. We’ll be that table directly behind the principals ordering dinner. We’ll be the hostess helping them in.”

Multiply that by every scene where there might be some background noise. (Which is to say: Multiply it by almost every scene.) The work has to fit its context; if a show features a scene in a hedge fund, for example, the loop group will make sure the background dialogue it records uses some financial lingo, and the same for a hospital scene and medical jargon. But where it really gets fun is putting together something like a fake sports broadcast.

I particularly liked this detail:

He starts by making note of whatever details the producers want him to include—this ballgame, for instance, had to feature a team from New York. And then he pulls up a game, any one that fits, and uses it as inspiration to think about how he would call it himself.

Nice rabbit hole, Emma! -TOB
Source: How ‘Sex and the City’ Sent Me Down a Fake Baseball Rabbit Hole,” Emma Baccellieri (02/21/2022)


Do We Dare Gu?

Olympic Skier Eileen Gu was born and raised in San Francisco. Her mom is from China. Gu is competing for China in the olympics. She made this decision when she was 15. She told a friend she wants to be an inspiration to girls in China and that there are many female athletes in the U.S. to inspire girls here. 

Gu is wildly famous in China. She is also a model and has secured millions in endorsement deals with brands like Cadillac, Louis Vuitton, and Victoria’s Secret. 

Unlike most countries, China does not recognize dual-citizenship. When asked if she’s given up her American citizenship, Gu and her camp won’t answer, leading many to question, including SI.com, whether she took the money from China in order to be used as a geopolitical pawn. 

Per Ann Killion

Her camp tries to control her message — Yan Gu would not speak to the New York Times unless she could review the article before publication, which was declined — and Gu avoids tough topics in interviews.

That includes answering questions about her citizenship. The IOC requires athletes to hold the passport of their home country, but China does not allow dual citizenship. Whether Gu has given up her American citizenship is unclear.

Gu is straddling a slippery geopolitical slope at high altitude with little room for error. She is golden now in China, but if the San Francisco-born woman runs afoul of Chinese authorities, her world could quickly change. Look no further than the case of tennis star Peng Shuai, who made accusations against a high-ranking party official, then disappeared for a few weeks and is now seen at the Olympics in tightly controlled conditions.

Gu is not the first American to compete for another country. It happens routinely, but usually with athletes who would struggle to make a U.S. team and find a path to the Olympics through their parents’ country. Not with an athlete considered the best in the world at what she does.

Defector’s Laura Wagner had an angle to add to the debate: Regardless of what country she competes for, Eileen Gu is representing a certain kind of American spirit:

Here’s another narrative: Eileen Gu is above all else a rugged individualist who enjoys massive privilege but chafes at any mention of it, while nonetheless championing the belief that all it takes to achieve one’s dream is hard work. Sound familiar? It’s a funny thing: The athlete at the Winter Olympics doing the most to spread the true message of America is the supposed traitor competing for China.

It would be surprising if Gu did in fact give up her United States citizenship, but that would be her right. However, one would think it would be embarrassing if China broke its own rule to attract an American athlete to win medals in Beijing…until you look at the host country’s men’s hockey team. 

Per The New York TImes, several players have descendents from China, but four players had no Chinese ancestry at all: Ryan Sproul, Denis Osipov and Jake Chelios. Chelios is the son of the Hockey Hall of Famer Chris Chelios.

It’s a bit more difficult for the “olympic spirit” to smooth over the problems with the most revered sporting events in history.  – PAL 

Sources: “‘I loved her motivation’: What Eileen Gu told her S.F. circle about picking China,” Ann Killion, San Francisco Chronicle (02/12/22); “Eileen Gu Is An American,” Laura Wagner, Defector (02/15/22)


Death to “Name a Athlete Who___________. I’ll Start.”

A while back, someone tweeted this:

And that is very true, as evidenced by the 308k likes the post has garnered. Dudes really can just sit around naming sports guys from their youths, and have a great time. We do it often! 

But there’s a growing phenomenon on Twitter that is super annoying. I call it the I’ll Start Guys. A person (or publication) will tweet some variation of the following: “Name an athlete who __________. I’ll start.” Here’s an example:

Playing off the fact dudes like to name former sports dudes, it’s a pure and shameless attempt to go viral. If Klout was still a thing, it would be a cheap Klout booster. The worst offender is Fox Sports’ Ben Verlander.

Here is a sampling of Ben’s I’ll Starts:

And that’s just in the last two weeks. None of these conversations are particularly interesting, especially when just thrown out for the general public. What’s particularly annoying about Ben Verlander’s use of the I’ll Start is that he does it so often – it’s clearly a ploy to get interactions – and that I don’t follow the guy but he always gets put into my timeline with these. And why is Ben a Fox Sports baseball analyst? His qualifications to be a baseball analyst seem to begin and end with the fact that he is the brother of Justin Verlander. The dude never made it out of A-ball. 

But Ben is not the only one. I’ve seen copycats – usually even smaller-time wannabe baseball or basketball guys with, somehow, even worse topics. So, if you see an I’ll Start – I beg of you, do not interact. Do not feed the troll. -TOB

PAL: I have a Verlander-inspired Tweet, thanks to his ’87 Twins take. It goes something like this:

Name one MLB prospect who washed out and rides the coattails of his more successful brother in order to have a job kinda in baseball.

I’ll start: Ben Verlander


Video of the Week

TOB pitching to PAL this weekend

Tweet of the Week

Song of the Week


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“I used to eat pizzas for every meal… sometimes even for my desserts”

-Keefe Chambers

Week of February 6, 2022

BFD, Jordan. I’m playing from the wrong side of the red spray paint all the time.

Fear

Sometimes I come across a story and marvel at how they made it happen. For this one, someone had to pitch the concept: The New York Times should dig into and try to understand the role fear plays in the minds of the winter olympic athletes. The response: take a video crew, writers, audio engineers, and a designer. Go interview a bunch of athletes about their relationship with fear, show what it looks and feels like, and make this come to life in a way that ignites the senses. God bless whoever pitched this idea, and kudos to the team that brought it to life. 

More so than the Summer games, the winter olympics has a high concentration of very dangerous sports. Sports that go high, go very fast, and can lead to violent impact. Halfpipe snowboard and skiing (23 feet), aerial skiing, luge, bombled, downhill skiing, speedskating, and many more. When things go wrong in these sports, it can be deadly. 

What I love is this mixture of video, audio, and writing to try to capture fear. You read the story, you then hear from athletes, you then see the kind of injuries they are talking about and just what recovery looks like after one of these major injuries. 

Fear, I learned, is a very basic survival instinct. It fires in the most primal portion of the brain – the amygdala, which is why it’s so hard to control. In other words, for thousands of years, fear kept our ancestors alive, and that’s exactly what it’s trying to tel these athletes when the are about to do something really dangerous. 

Of all the quotes from this story, I can’t forget this description of fear from a pair of world-class skiers: 

“There have been times that races have been canceled, and I’ve been relieved, 100 percent,” American ski racer Erik Arvidsson said. “Because I was scared as hell, and I needed another day to gather myself.”

Even the world’s top male skier this season is not immune.

“You get kind of an ache in your legs, your knees, and you feel like you lose control over your body,” Aleksander Aamodt Kilde of Norway said. “You can feel it right away when you’re pushing out at the start. You want to push 100 percent, but then your mind kicks in and holds you back, and you can only push out, like, 85 percent, 90 percent. And then you know something is wrong.”

Every one of these athletes are scared, and everyone one of them can’t deny how great it feels when everything is hitting in there respective sports. 

And then they get to profiles like Millie Knight, a Paralympic skier, on what it’s like to ski with 5% of her vision. She and the New York Times worked together to create a replica of what it looks like to ski with her vision, and it’s pretty incredible.

What a brilliant idea: let’s show people what it’s like to ski with 5% of normal vision. Such a great project. I highly recommend everyone checking it out. – PAL

Source:What Scares the World’s Most Daring Olympians”, The New York Times (02/02/22)


Homage to Outdoor Rinks

The Star Tribune ran a particularly Minnesota story this morning: it’s a collection of some of the coolest homemade outdoor rinks around the state. Of my five siblings, four of their yards feature a rink. Some folks have really taken the rinks to another level. From this largely dad obsession has come a growing cottage industry of home rink supplies like plastic boards, custom size tarps to put under the ice, netting, and so on. It’s easy for me to smile when I look at these rinks, watch the videos, and most of all hear the sounds of outdoor hockey.

What’s missing from this story is the understated, quirky, work-with-what-you-got backyard rinks with a fire pit I remember spending so many hours playing on. Sertich’s rink with the big tree that you could use as a bit of a pick on a defender. Elm’s mini rink in Falcon Heights just big enough for 2-2 – these rinks are just as much a part of the spirit of MN’s outdoor rinks as these crazy setups featured in this story. – PAL

Source: At home on the ice,” Rachel Hutton, photos by Richard Tsong-Taatarii, Star Tribune (02/05/22)

Video of the Week

Just a reminder of how cool this dunk contest was…

Song of the Week

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