Week of October 21, 2022

My god, man.

The Warriors’ Future

Whew, the Warriors. What a ride. A quick recap of where thing stood a couple weeks ago: 

Draymond Green is 32. He has one year left on his contract after this year, but he can opt out and become a free agent at 33, or play that final year for $27.5M and then become a free agent at 34. Almost everyone expects him to opt out to hit free agency a year younger and to get a raise in that first year. He is the heartbeat of the team and the anchor of the defense.

Andrew Wiggins is 27. He is in the last year of his deal and will be paid $33.6M this year. He disappeared for long stretches last year, but came up big during the playoffs. He is an essential two-way player for the Warriors.

Jordan Poole is 22. This is the last year on his rookie deal. He was eligible for an extension of up to 25% of the salary cap, beginning next year. Or, if he didn’t sign an extension, he’d become a restricted free agent next year (the Warriors would have the opportunity to match any deal he signed). He is a young, talented and proven offensive talent.

Steph Curry is Steph Curry. He is 34. He is signed through 2025-26, with his contract reaching just shy of $60M (sixty. million.) in the last year of his deal. He is the face of the franchise and IMO, a top ten all time player. Everything the Warriors do offensively revolves around his skills.

Klay Thompson is 32. He is signed through 23-24. He will be paid $84M over the next two seasons. He does not yet appear to have be 100% back to his pre-achilles/ACL injuries self. 

Two weeks ago, the Warriors had some tough decisions to make – both in the short-term and the medium term. Their cap number and luxury tax bill are both extremely high. Here’s their salary cap situation, as broken down by the Chronicle’s Connor Letournau:

If the team stayed its current course and kept Green on the roster beyond this season, it would stare down a 2023-24 total payroll — salaries and luxury taxes — of around $500 million. That’s simply not feasible. The Warriors might be one of the NBA’s most profitable franchises, but even they aren’t willing to spend a half-billion dollars on a basketball team.

Myers has said that majority owner Joe Lacob would have to fire him if Golden State had a roster costing north of $400 million and didn’t win a championship. Even after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years this past June with a total payroll of around $362 million, Myers showed just how serious he remains about keeping costs manageable when he declined to match Portland’s three-year, $28 million offer sheet for Gary Payton II.

The problem for the Warriors is they don’t have any easy ways to push that projected 2023-24 payroll down around $400 million. Aside from Poole, Wiggins and Stephen Curry, Golden State’s only major contracts next season are Green at $27.6 million — assuming he exercises his player option — and Klay Thompson at $43.2 million.

If Myers keeps both Green and Thompson around, he might have no choice other than to cut costs through the rest of the rotation. That would mean jettisoning Kevon Looney ($8.5 million in 2023-24), Donte DiVincenzo ($4.7 million player option) and perhaps even James Wiseman ($12.1 million team option) or Kuminga ($6 million team option). Doing that would crater the Warriors’ depth, disbanding the young core they’ve worked so hard to develop, and set the team back for years to come.

That’s not really an option.

So, two weeks ago – the question was who would the Warriors hang onto assuming 1 or 2 of these 4 must leave over the next two seasons? 

It would be hard for me to let Draymond go as long as Curry is still an elite player. He brings so much to the table and allows Curry to do what Curry does. At the same time, with his body type and style of play, most expect a quick drop-off once he is past his peak. He’s also going to want a very big raise, and it feels like the Warriors would be paying for past performance. 

Poole was an interesting one to me. The youngest and the highest ceiling at this point. You can squint and see Poole becoming the next Curry (or maybe just the next Nick Young). He disappeared a bit during the playoffs, but also had big moments. 

Klay is old and still recovering from two devastating injuries. His offensive game has never relied on athleticism, although his previously excellent defense did. He could certainly become a spot-up shooter, but what are the Warriors willing to pay for that? 

Wiggins to me was the easiest release. Not a homegrown guy like Poole, and older, too. Not a face of the franchise like Draymond and Klay. A history of being a little soft. But a good defender and talented offensive player. 

And that’s kinda how I thought things might play out. Extend Draymond 3 years, extend Poole, let Klay gracefully retire or take a massive paycut to become a Korver-type player, and let  Wiggins walk (or trade him for picks). But then Draymond went and blew the whole thing up:

Yeeeeesh. That is not a good look, obviously. The team was pissed at Draymond and there was immediate speculation about how this would affect Draymond’s hope for a big extension. Within a week, the news dropped like a 1-2 punch:

And a few hours later:

Had Draymond’s punch changed the landscape that much? Or was this always the plan? It’s hard to know, but the Warriors have made their choice. And now the question is: Draymond or Klay?

The Poole and Wiggins extensions ensured that this choice must be between Green and Thompson. And Green is the far likelier of the two to go.

Even before Green punched Poole in practice two weeks ago, he figured to be the odd man out in any scenario in which Poole and Wiggins had been locked down long-term. In addition to his contract being much more tradeable than Thompson’s, Green only amplified concerns during the Finals that he could be headed for a steep drop-off.

Then there are the temper-control issues that have long gotten Green in trouble. Green’s violent strike of Poole — and the public backlash brought on by a viral video of it — did irreparable harm to his locker-room standing. Though his teammates might move past that incident to contend for another title, they are unlikely to ever forget Green attacked the much-smaller, much-younger Poole.

When making such a seismic decision about the Warriors’ future, Myers must consider Curry’s perspective. It was clear during his news conference the day after Green’s punch that Curry is growing tired of Green’s antics. If Curry were given the option of keeping Thompson — a model teammate fresh off an inspiring comeback — or Green, it doesn’t take a mind-reader to guess who he would choose.

The question is not so much whether a Green divorce looms, but rather how and when it will come.

It’s hard to imagine, honestly. He does so much for that team and if I could have one of them for 2-3 more years, I’d take Draymond. Then again, I don’t have to work with him. -TOB

Source: Fixing the Warriors’ Budget Crunch: Draymond Green Won’t Like This,” Connor Leatourneau, SF Chronicle (10/17/2022)

Headmaster’s Son Gets Hit With Basketball

This is one of the more bizarre sports stories you’ll ever come across, and perhaps one of the more profound ideas that you’ll find in a sports story. At the center of it all: an old clip from America’s Funniest Home Videos.

The clip is from a high school basketball game at Shipley in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. A ¾ court buzzer beater is chucked into the air, and the airball absolutely de-cleats a young child running behind the basket on the other end of the court. 

What makes the story perfect: the kid who gets smacked, Matthew Piltch, is the headmaster’s son.

The clip, which aired on AVF in 1995, was one of the first viral videos on the internet that has been uploaded and re-uploaded so many times that the origins disappeared from its online existence. Back in July, Brian Feldman set out to find its origins.

In July, he wrote, 

By and large, people want the internet to be an inexplicable machine of random stuff, entertaining them with funny videos of basketball games that could have taken place in Anytown, USA.

A seemingly infinite array of no-context funny videos—scraped from archival footage, newscasts, and increasingly, other users—gets recycled online every day for the sake of likes and shares and attention. “Basketball (so funny you’ll pee your pants).avi” could well be the very first one, a watershed moment in the history of the internet.

The lack of additional information elevates the viewing experience. But every so often, if you dig into a piece of internet ephemera, the context—the who, what, when, where, and why—have the potential to dramatically enhance your understanding of the freak accident that you just witnessed.

In the original story, Feldman concluded that the clip must’ve first aired on the show in the spring of 1995, but that’s as close to the origin as he could reliably get. 

After posting the story, people from the Delco community (Delco Christian is the opposing team in the video) reached out to Feldman to give him more info. They told him the video was submitted to AFV by the team’s coach after a kid working with the team recorded the game. 

Then the big break: Feldman found a DVD of an AFV special “Guide To Parenting” DVD. There it was: the original clip, complete with Bob Saget interviewing the kid who got walloped and his mom.  

Turns out, context is pretty important, because the kid getting laughs with Bob Saget is not Matthew Piltch, son of the headmaster. It’s Kris Jackson. Piltch had never seen the full segment – just the clip of a kid getting smacked. He always believed he was that kid. So did his parents, and so did everyone else in town.  

Feldman didn’t even have the right kid in the first story. How?

It’s not that Feldman was outright lazy in the first story. He corroborated the events of the game with several people who told the same story. The bulk of Feldman’s second story has him dissecting how he could’ve possibly had the wrong subject at the center of the original story. The truth is much harder to figure out when everyone remembers the lore. 

Fascinating story. – PAL

Source:The Misremembered History Of The Internet’s Funniest Buzzer-Beater,” Brian Feldman, Defector (10/19/22)

TOB: I loved this story when I read it in July and the update floored me. Memories are such strange things. How is it that dozens of people (hundreds even – an entire community) could collectively misremember something so memorable? How did Pilch’s parents remember that they had to check on their son after he was hit with a basketball, when in fact he didn’t? The last few paragraphs Feldman writes, about memory and about journalism, were really fantastic:

Piltch said that he has no clue how the idea started that it was him in the video, or where it came from. We talked it over together for a long time and came no closer to the truth. “It seems plausible that when the video popped up,” Piltch said, “someone just decided it was me. Like, what other towhead kid was running around Shipley basketball games? It must’ve been Matt.” (Piltch’s hair has darkened, but he did provide an old photo of him from around that age. His hair was indeed very blond, though not quite the level of Kris Jackson’s.) That’s certainly what his father thought.

Over the next hour, as we worked through the possibilities, Piltch came around to the idea that he’d been living with bad info for the majority of his life. “Our memories are not meant to be perfect,” he said. “This is an amazing instance of collective mis-memory.” He later noted that “it makes you wonder how much other stuff is out there like this.”

Later in our conversation, Piltch turned the focus on me. “How does this affect your perception of journalism?” he asked. Largely, I said, it had made me think about precision. I thought that I had done a diligent job buttoning up that first story—at the time, it even felt like I was engaging in a bit of overkill for such a low-stakes story about a funny viral video. Looking back, what I had actually done is uncover evidence of the video’s supposed legacy, rather than evidence of the inciting incident. I assumed that because multiple people independently told me the same thing, that thing was true. Should I have tried harder to find the provenance of the video, which would have alerted me to my glaring error? Possibly, but measuring what I was missing against what I’d already uncovered (along with the resources available to me; I didn’t have the budget to head down to Delco and ask for the yearbooks missing from Classmates.com), I felt there was enough there for a good story.

Kris Jackson might have been knocked into next week by a flying basketball, but I also got to watch Matthew Piltch get knocked senseless by something unexpected. You know, in a figurative sense. In the end, my attitude is fairly similar to his: This giant mistake of mine managed to uncover something even weirder, wilder, funnier, and—to be corny—deeply human. It was worth getting knocked on my ass.

When Does a Team Bat Around/A Round?

Last Saturday night, the Padres scored 5 runs in the bottom of the 7th to take a 5-3 lead against the Dodgers in Game 4 of their division series. The Padres would not give up that lead, and the Dodgers’ 111-win season went up in smoke. It was delightful

During that 7th inning, the Padres sent ten players to the plate. But as usual, a debate raged on twitter: had the Padres batted around when they sent their 9th hitter up, or not until the 10th? I see this debate on Twitter almost every time a team has a big inning in an important game. Here’s one example, of a pretty evenly split poll on the topic:

I googled, and found articles discussing this same debate. The Wall Street Journal tackled this topic in 2015. They asked a handful of players and others around the game where they stand and here’s what they found:

The day that article published, McCarthy expanded on his opinion:

But I am here to finally resolve this debate: it comes down to linguistics. Here’s what I tweeted during the game:

If you say a team “batted around” then they must send at least ten hitters to the plate. That is because the lineup has come back around to the beginning. However, if you say a team has “batted a round” then they need only send nine hitters to the plate. That is because a “round” occurs when each player has a turn (like buying a round of drinks, for example). They are different terms, but I think most people use “around.” Accordingly, it takes ten. 

Let’s all get on the same page here. -TOB

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“So, finally, I wanna thank God, because God gave me this Dundie and I feel God in this Chili’s tonight.” –

-Pam Beesly

October 14, 2022

Twitter Can Be Good, Sometimes

Weighing the impact of a website like Twitter is difficult. It has brought a lot of good to the world, and a lot of bad. But as a sports fan one thing I love is the ability to connect directly with professional athletes. I think players really underutilize it, actually. If players used it to do more than build their brand or shill for Corporate America, they could do a lot of cool things, like Brewers All-Star Christian Yelich did this week. 

In Wednesday night’s Game 2 of the NLDS, the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw got San Diego’s Jurickson Profar to swing at a curveball that bounced about ten feet before the plate.  

I mean, that is honestly one of the worst swings I’ve ever seen. Look at this picture:

I think it might actually be the worst. It’s so terrible it’s hard to believe. I know that a lot of guys go up there guessing, but Kershaw doesn’t throw that hard anymore – barely cracking 90 MPH this season, on average. That’s slow enough, relatively speaking, that a professional hitter should be able to avoid looking as bad as Profar did there. But then I saw this Yelich tweet.

I’ve never seen a curveball like Kershaw’s obviously. I’ve never stood in the box for 90 MPH, either. So that’s pretty interesting – a spiked curveball starts out so much lower than a normal curveball that it starts at the same plane as a fastball. Makes sense, is simple. But without Yelich to explain it, I can’t understand how Profar can swing at that pitch. Thanks, Yelly! -TOB

Does Anything Beat a Proud Grandpa?

I love this video, lol.

Players Love Postseason Swag

This is a short article, and kinda goofy, too. But I still enjoyed it. Here’s the lede:

Francisco Lindor will make $341 million over 10 years with the Mets, but he cannot buy the thing he most covets. A World Series ring, sure. But also a World Series sweatshirt.

That’s pretty funny, but as various Mets players explain it, I get it:

Brandon Nimmo:

“It’s like if you’ve ever had a cup of coffee in a really beautiful place. You’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, this cup of coffee is so amazing!’ If I had it back home it might be the same old coffee, but because of the circumstances that are around it, it’s awesome.”

Pete Alonso:

To be able to earn that patch that says postseason, earning that postseason patch on your hat—that’s sick. It’s awesome getting new stuff, but to be a part of something that you earned even though it’s as simple as having a postseason patch or whatever—we earned that. We earned that privilege to have that on our jersey. We earned [the chance] to be able to have that new stuff that not everyone’s getting. It’s almost like a rite of passage.”

This makes perfect sense. Plus, as Lindor says – they’re human. New stuff is fun. And so was this article. -TOB
Source: Baseball Players LOVE Their Playoff Merch,” Stephanie Apstein, Sports Illustrated (10/06/2022)

2 Percent

Some of you might remember Myron Rolle. He was the Rhodes Scholar and a 3rd team All American safety at Florida State. He was a late-round daft pick, but never got into an NFL game. After being let go by the Steelers, his was having a hard time coming to terms with where he was in his career and pursuit of a dream. That’s when his mom stepped in.

Per Elena Bergeron:

Showing him his grade school notebook, where he had written both goals, “she looked me straight in the eyes and pointed at the first one,” he recalled. “She said, ‘This one’s done.’ And she looked at the second one and said, ‘Now, we need to do this.’”

Today, he is Dr. Rolle, and at 35, he is in the sixth year of his neurosurgery residency at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. “Those words of encouragement, her belief in me, her thoughtfulness, her disposition during that moment was just what I needed, just what I needed to move forward to the next chapter in my life,” he said.

Good work, Mom Rolle.

There’s another bit from Rolle that I found inspiring. It’s nothing earth-shattering, but I like the idea of it. He was taught the 2 percent philosophy from a college coach, which he still applies to his all aspects in his life. As Rolle explains it:

Can you be 2 percent better than you were yesterday? You can if you take small steps every single day toward a larger goal. It helps me make more sense of the challenges, the tasks, responsibilities that I have.

Learning how to open up a craniotomy, learning how to put diapers on your newborn kids and be a better attentive husband, all these were tasks that I wanted to accomplish. Any goal, short or long term, doesn’t feel daunting or debilitating. They feel manageable. I appreciate and I pat myself on the back for the small gains, the small wins that I get every single day. It’s a rush of dopamine in my limbic lobe that says: “You’re doing right. This is a reward for doing well.”

Rolle’s story is another chapter in the “It’s Never Too Late” interview collection from The New York Times. I encourage you to peruse all of the essays.

2 percent? We can all do 2 percent better today, right? Let’s go! – PAL

Source: “It’s Never Too Late to Pivot From N.F.L. Safety to Neurosurgeon,” Elena Bergeron, The New York Times (10/11/22)

TOB: I have often wondered what happened to him. Great read!

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Kramer: Boy, I really miss the Bermuda Triangle.
Newman: I guess there’s not much action down there these days.
Kramer: Oh, there’s action. There’s plenty of action. It’s that damn alien autopsy stealing all the headlines.
Newman: Yeah, tell me about it.
Kramer: See, what they gotta do is lose a plane or a Greenpeace boat. See, that would get the Triangle going again.
Newman: What keeps the water in there? I mean, why doesn’t that disappear?
Kramer: Now, what would be the point of taking the water?
Newman: It’s gorgeous water. Do we own Bermuda?
Kramer: No, it belongs to the British.
Newman: Lucky Krauts.
Kramer: So what do you think of that alien autopsy?
Newman: Oh, that’s real.
Kramer: I think so too.

Week of October 7, 2022

Pujols Hits 700

Two Fridays ago, Phil and I wrote a lot of words about Aaron Judge’s chase for 61 and why that chase still means something to a lot of people, despite the fact that it was passed six times in a four year span (three times by Sammy Sosa). Somehow, in writing all that, we forgot to mention Albert Pujols’ chase for 700. Pujols must have felt our snub, because that very night he went out and hit two dingers – numbers 699 and 700 for his career. It was a cool moment. I think our neglect is partly for the same reason that 61 still means something, but on the other side of the coin: 700 is a round number and a big number, but it’s not a magic number. 714 is that number. 755 is that number, too (And 762? Let’s wait a bit). So while Pujols hit a milestone by reaching 700, he’s still chasing the next magic number: 714. 

But what I want to think about here is how Pujols got to 700 and wonder if he’s coming back next year for 715.

The latter question is easier. If Pujols wants it, he should absolutely come back next season. He has played in ⅔ of his team’s games this year and has hit 21 home runs. If he plays in the remaining 8 games, he can expect to be sitting at 702 (Editor: I wrote this right after he hit 700; he actually hit two in his final three games and ended up with 703) or so when the season ends. If he hits home runs at 80% of the pace he’s done this year (accounting for his ever-advancing age), he would expect to hit 715 somewhere around the team’s 110th game of the season, in early August. 715 would be awesome, while 756 or 763 seem out of reach. 

The more interesting question is how is Pujols doing this? The resurgence is real. You are not imagining it. And it’s not a result of moving back to St. Louis and that being an easier park to hit in. He went from the strongly hitter friendly Angel (4th friendliest to hitters) and Dodger Stadiums (7th friendliest) last year to Busch Stadium (27th friendliest to hitters) this year. And his home rates are way up. So something is going on.

Here are his home run rates since leaving St. Louis after the 2011 season:

After a steady decline since 2015, suddenly last year and this year he has jumped to a huge peak. In fact, his home run rate this year (7.18%) rivals his career peak – it’s his fifth best ever, even surpassing some of his very best seasons. He’s 42! He underwent a natural decline, beginning at age 35, that mostly stayed steady through the end of his 30s, and then suddenly he turned 41 and he found the fountain of youth. 

And it’s even more interesting if you get a little more granular. On July 8, Pujols went homerless in one at bat. It dropped his home run rate to a season low 3.17% (4 home runs in 126 at bats). He hit a home run during the next game he had an at bat (July 10) and his home run rate climbed slowly from there the rest of the month. On August 1, he was sitting at 4.22%. And then he went on an absolute tear. For the month of August, he hit 8 home runs in 61 at bats (a home run rate of 13.11%), raising his season home run rate to 6.61%. He slowed down in September, just a little, hitting 6 home runs in 65 at bats (9.23%) to raise his season rate to a season high 7.32% on September 23. 

So…what the hell is going on here? I have no idea but I do have a theory. No, “theory” is too strong. A “thought” is a better term for it. If Pujols decided he really wanted to get to 700 this year, and if he decided to get some “help” to get there and then retire before he could be tested again, could he get away with it? 

I reviewed the MLB’s Testing Policy and could not find anything suggesting a player has a maximum number of tests per season. So Pujols can’t know he won’t be tested again. The policy simply says, “All Players shall be subject to random, unannounced testing for the use of Prohibited Substances at all times during the season, including, but not limited to, at any point in Spring Training and before and after all games.” 

So, maybe the better question is this: Would Pujols risk his reputation to get to 700? I find it hard to believe. And that’s why I think he absolutely should come back for 715. And if he doesn’t, well, maybe he knows he’d get busted. -TOB

PAL: He was one of the scariest hitters I’d ever watched during his first decade with the Cardinals, and then he disappeared with the Angels. What a terrible, terrible baseball decision for him to go to Anaheim (though not a bad financial one). He was on a legend trajectory, but that is so incredibly hard to do on an irrelevant, west coast team with no meaningful history. 

The notion that makes the most sense to me is this: 700 home runs is not a possibility in his mind when his time with the Angels ends. He goes to the Dodgers to be on a winning team. Guess what? It’s fun to play on a really good team again. It’s fun to hit in a loaded lineup. It’s fun to play in games that matter. He gets the juice for the game back, and then he comes back to the Cardinals to finish an incredible career, but then he gets hot in August – maybe even just a hot week – just enough to put 700 homers back on the table. And now we’re here. That, or he said screw it before August; one more shot for 700. Why not? 

The sample size is just small enough (hey, he felt great in August; a 60 AB hot streak can happen) for us to consider it a fitting hot streak for one of the greats. But the dude is old and wasn’t hitting homers, then he got older and started hitting homers again. 

Federer Retires

I’m not a tennis fan, really. I like tennis a lot. I enjoy it. I follow it via ESPN and news articles. But I rarely ever sit down and watch a tennis match. But when I do, it sure is a great sport. Relatedly, Roger Federer is the only tennis player I ever really loved. He’s the only guy that I ever set an early morning alarm for (it happened three times, but still). There was something about the way he played – cool and graceful, skilled and calm. There are few athletes in any sport that spoke to me like Federer did – first in his prime, and then in his twilight. 

So I was pretty sad that Federer retired this week. Over the last five or so years, there were a number of times when it seemed like the end for Fed; but he always came back, and with a vengeance. But this time, at age 41, he’s really done. If you like Federer like I do, or just great writing, I must insist you read this great tribute to Federer, by Defector’s Giri Nathan. Here’s my favorite passage:

My favorite memory of Federer will be before all the tears, when both he and Nadal were staging dramatic returns of competition. In the fifth set of their 2017 Australian Open final, Roger’s friend had gone up a break to lead 3-1. I’d stayed up all night watching with some sleepy neutrals and a Nadal-acolyte friend. Over the 3:38 epic, the room grew quieter, the sofa distance between us longer. Somehow Federer began to bend the match in his favor. Winning this 26-shot rally detonated any foregone conclusions.

So much conventional wisdom dissolved here: that major titles couldn’t be won at age 36 coming off a surgery layoff, that Federer couldn’t still eke one out over his rival, that his one-handed backhand couldn’t bear the brutal weight of Nadal’s topspin. He took five straight games and the trophy. I have never been more awake at such an hour, and as I stepped onto the sidewalk, replete with dog crap and rats in retreat, I found myself in a serene mist, sound but sore, as if my own muscles had done something tougher than adjust the volume during commercial breaks or fish ice cubes out of the freezer, as if I’d had to focus on anything more than the careful calibration of caffeine and BAC. Through Federer it was possible to close the gap between sweat-free, daydreamed fantasy and hard-won, racquet-swung reality. A lifetime of playful tinkering in the lab can earn a man a career of pure liberated tennis. It was as true that night as it has been for these 24 years. “I told myself to play free,” Federer said after that victory. “Be free in your head, be free in your shots, go for it. The brave will be rewarded here.” And he was.

Great stuff for a legend who deserves it. -TOB

Source: Roger Federer Knew The Play Was The Thing,” Giri Nathan, Defector (09/28/2022)

PAL: I didn’t watch enough of his career to know anything more than he’s very great and the smooth one (compared to Nadal being the hustler). Most impressive part of his game that I learned from this story: the SABR technique. 

I mean, these opponents are hitting serves pretty hard, and he’s charging the net on them. What an assertion of dominance. As Nathan points out in an earlier portion of the article, the hand-eye coordination is completely off the charts. 

The other detail that stood out – his feet didn’t make a sound on the court. The amount of grace that fact requires on a tennis court – pretty incredible.

The Z Man

I’ve heard Michael Zagaris interviewed on the local sports radio station every now and again, and I knew he was a San Francisco photographer that made a name in both sports and music, but I didn’t know to what degree until reading this piece about Zagaris from David Davis.

Zagaris is a pretty good representation of everything that’s cool and fun about the Bay Area, and a nice reminder when things all feel a little too techie and priced out. 

His life story started out pretty regular – a sports nut kid from central California who also liked photography. He also had a knack for sneaking/fibbing his way into sporting events and concerts. He lied about working on a coffee table book to get press credentials to shoot on the sidelines for the Colts and Redskins while in college at George Washington. When the Beatles were in New York in ‘64, he called the front desk at the Taft Hotel claiming to be on Senator Kennedy’s staff and that he’d like to go to the show. Second row. 

After undergrad, he attended law school at Santa Clara (just like our TOB). He actually worked on Bobby Kennedy’s campaign. He was there at The Ambassador Hotel, and his life changed the night of Kennedy’s assasination. 

The suit and tie were gone. So, too was law school. I took acid for the first time, moved to the Haight, and started documenting what would become a historical moment in music. 

The story gets back to sports, and he’s shot a lot of great stuff, but I love stories about people who just always seem to be in the right place at the right time. 

I constantly asked questions and I kind of evolved. I didn’t much have a plan, and I know that seems crazy. My whole life has kind of been like that, where I walk through life with my eyes open, letting everything just come through me, and the things that really resonate I’ll explore more.”

I’m beginning to understand the bravery it takes to live that kind of mantra. I don’t have it in me, but I really admire it in others. Seems to be a great philosophy for a photographer. Excellent read. – PAL 
Source:Michael Zagaris Had The Backstage Pass Of A Lifetime,” David Davis, Defector (10/05/22)

TOB: There may be no story Phil likes more in this world than a story about a sports photographer.

Pro Sports is Losing the Middle Class

The Chronicle’s Peter Hartlaub is one of my favorite local writers. He’s Hella Bay (with a capital H and B). His roots are deep here, he loves San Francisco and the surrounding areas, and he is loyal as hell to our local teams. Hartlaub’s family has had 49ers season tickets for decades – for 75 years in fact, all the way back to 1947, when the Niners played at Kezar. Every time I am near Kezar I look around and marvel at the fact that pro football was once played there, and this passage by Hartlaub as relayed by his grandmother is awesome:

Kezar was an accurate cross-section of the city, which you could see on game day. There were fans walking from the Sunset, Richmond, Haight and Mission districts, like ants converging on a half-eaten bar of Pink Popcorn. The very poorest residents might have balked at a $1.50 ticket, and the wealthiest San Franciscans might have thought it beneath them. But at least every kid could go. Any child who clipped a coupon from a carton of Christopher Milk in the 1950s could get into 49ers games for free.

But Hartlaub wrote this week about his family’s difficult decision to give up their season tickets. Ultimately, between the ever-rising prices (far outpacing inflation) and the move to Santa Clara, Hartlaub and his family could no longer justify the expense:

But as the ticket prices push higher, it gnaws at me. Including parking or train tickets, a game for two of us costs $400 at the bare minimum. I stopped telling my wife how much they cost, then was stunned when we got single-game upper deck Warriors tickets for the family as a Christmas present; they cost about 60% of one football game.

I bike everywhere now, and appreciate the Chase Center and Oracle Park free bike valet through the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, which saves at least $50 parking. A few Giants, Warriors and 49ers games a year are in my budget. With two sons going to college soon, 10 football games a year is not. We could move to even cheaper upper-deck seats in the sun with worse views than we’ve had the past 50 years, but after investing in the seat licenses fewer than 10 years ago, we choose not to.

I’ve noticed in my pickup basketball games more of my friends talking about Oakland Roots soccer tickets. I’ve been to a few San Francisco City FC soccer games at old Kezar Stadium where the 49ers started, and realized it’s less expensive to become a part owner of that team than just a fan of the 49ers.

So when my mother suggested this year might be the last, the biggest feeling was relief. My love of the team had been eclipsed by guilt over the cost of being a fan.

He’s absolutely right, of course. Every year I think, “I want to take the boys to a 49ers game.” And then I check the ticket prices online and I almost choke. For the Niners next home game, they are selling nosebleeds for $139. Two tickets in the endzone? $350. Two tickets around the 10-yard line? $800 each. Those prices are insane. Warriors tickets are not much better – for most games, you can’t get in the building for under $150 per ticket.

I’m sure there are a lot of families like Hartlaubs who have recently been forced to abandon their season tickets. It’s sad, and with so much money coming to pro sports teams from TV these days, I wish they’d consider lowering ticket prices a bit. They won’t, of course. But I wish they would. -TOB
Source: Our Family’s had 49ers Tickets Since 1947. Here’s Why This Will be our Final Year,” Peter Hartlaub, San Francisco Chronicle (10/02/2022)

Chess, Cheating, and Anal Beads

You’re still here? Good. Now we can get to the good stuff: chess and anal beads.

The guy on the left above is Magnus Carlsen. On the right is Hans Niemann. 

We’ve written about Carlsen before. He’s the world’s best chess player. At a recent tournament, he lost to Niemann, am American. And Niemann was playing with black, which is extraordinarily hard to do. Niemann has a history of cheating – he admitted to cheating twice in online chess tournaments as a child at ages 12 and 16, but some feel he is still cheating in over-the-board chess. 

After he lost, Carlsen dropped out of the tournament and then seemed to endorse the theories that Niemann had cheated via cryptic Twitter activity. Hilariously, there were theories that Niemann was cheating via vibrating anal beads. Yes, you read that correctly.

More recently, Carlsen and Niemann faced off again. But Carlsen resigned after just one move. Here’s the video.

Carlsen later confirmed what people believed – he resigned in dramatic fashion because he believes Niemann was cheating at their previous match.

Following this episode, Chess.com released a report finding that Niemann had cheated on its platform more recently and much more often than he had previously confessed to.

Chess.com can track whether a player toggles to another browser window during a match and can track how well you do when doing so, including whether your selected move would be recommended by an online chess engine – all of which suggests a player is cheating. Niemann, apparently, had been caught by Chess.com back in 2020:

The report says Chess.com’s chief chess officer Danny Rensch confronted Niemann with proof that he’d cheated in 2020, and that Niemann confessed, in an attempt to get his account back online. When Niemann made a stink about being barred from a $1 million tournament on Chess.com this summer, Rensch sent him a letter explaining that he wasn’t going to allow Niemann to play for such a big pile of money when “there always remained serious concerns about how rampant your cheating was in prize events.” Rensch also laid out a very ominous piece of evidence: “We are prepared to present strong statistical evidence that confirm each of those cases above, as well as clear ‘toggling’ vs ‘non-toggling’ evidence, where you perform much better while toggling to a different screen during your moves.”

Chess.com’s method for catching cheaters involves engine analysis, consulting the expertise of grandmaster “fair-play analysts,” and monitoring whether players opened up other windows on their computer while playing. That last bit is the “toggling” mentioned by Rensch. A player doing significantly better when opening up another window on their computer—even if Chess.com’s software can’t distinguish what is in the window—is extremely suspicious. Doing other stuff on your computer should be a hindrance to a player’s performance in a mentally intensive game like chess, especially in smaller time-control formats like rapid and blitz. If you only have 180 seconds to make an entire chess game’s worth of moves, you should absolutely not perform better in games where you spend 20 seconds doing anything in another window. We should note here that Chess.com is not a neutral body, as they are in the process of buying Magnus Carlsen’s app for $83 million.

And just when you think this story might be over, I have this for you. At a tournament this week, players were screened with a special wand that can detect metal…and silicon. Niemann showed up and yes…they screened his butt.

Source: Report: Hans Niemann Cheated More Often, More Recently Than He Admitted,” Patrick Redford, Defector (10/04/2022)

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