Week of March 23, 2018

That’s pretty good. 

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad March

Last Friday after work, I was sitting in a bar before going to the Warriors/Kings game, watching the NCAA Tournament. And for no apparent reason I said to my buddy Rowe, “When I was a kid I figured a 16-seed would beat a 1-seed at some point. It had to happen. But now, I’m beginning to think it won’t happen in my lifetime.” Just two hours later, the big screen at Oracle Arena flashed: Final – #1 Virginia 54, #16 UMBC 74. I almost fell out of my chair.

The NCAA Tournament always has upsets. It’s the beauty of it all. Hell, the upsets are why we call it “March Madness”. But we had NEVER seen a 16-seed win a game. Hell, I didn’t even know who UMBC was, and here they had beaten the #1 seed Virginia. My wife asked, “Is that Maryland-Baltimore County, where my parents went?” I had no idea. Maybe!? UMBC was the #64 overall seed. Meaning, when they made the brackets, the selection committee felt Virginia was the best team in the country and UMBC was the worst team in the tournament. And I picked Virginia to win it all! UMBC didn’t just win. They won by TWENTY. It’s shocking, even a week later. As Rodger Sheman said:

Of all the no. 1 seeds to potentially lose, I never would’ve expected Virginia to be the Goliath to fall. Most programs don’t notch nine wins against NCAA tournament teams in a regular season; the Cavaliers had eight double-digit wins against NCAA tournament teams. Virginia went 17–1 in the ACC, losing that one game by one point in overtime. Its largest deficit of the season was 13 points; 1-seeds Kansas and Xavier lost multiple games by more than 13 points. UVA suffocated opponents on defense, and scored better than opponents could score on them.

Virginia did not just win games; it made the best teams in the country look helpless. Being on a court with Virginia was not a situation for hope. The Cavaliers were efficient doom.

And UMBC was, to be honest, very much a 16-seed. They lost by 44 to Albany; they lost twice in the regular season to the best team in the America East, Vermont, by a combined 43 points; their only game against an NCAA tournament team was a 25-point loss to Arizona.

So how did it happen? I read a lot this week about how Virginia’s style – shut down defense and deliberate offense without a go-to guy was responsible, but I don’t buy it. The game was tied at the half, and UMBC got out to a hot start in the second. But with 14 minutes left, Virginia was down only 12, 41-29. They were still down 12 with 7:30 to go. If Virginia locked down on defense, they could have easily made up that deficit. But, they panicked. They didn’t trust their defense and started taking too many 3s – they went 1 for 11 in the second half from deep, and 4 for 22 overall. This allowed UMBC to get out in transition and get baskets. Their second half shot chart is a modern basketball coach’s dream: every shot attempt was in the paint or beyond the arc.

They scored 53 points in the second half. This season, Virginia held sixteen teams to 53 or less for the entire game.

In hindsight, my statement earlier that night was silly. It’s basketball, which is a funny game. And these are kids, who can easily panic, as Virginia did. Still. This Virginia team? UMBC!? SMH. -TOB

Source: UMBC’s Historic Win Over Virginia Didn’t Look Lucky”, Rodger Sherman, The Ringer (03/17/2018)

PAL: I’ll never forget switching this game on, seeing the score and the amount of time remaining – up by 20 with something like 4 minutes to play, and still having to convince myself it was already over.

When stuff like this happens, I wonder about people who claim that momentum isn’t real in sports. Upsets are an obvious case for momentum – a far more talented team unable to be itself or reset. Momentum helped cause Virginia to freak out, to abandon its game plan that had been rock solid all year. Momentum allowed the 16-seed to stay loose and just keep jacking up 3s. Momentum is what made this a 20-point blowout.

In Other NCAA News: Dress For The Job You Want?

We’re talking NCAA Tournament coaching attire, folks. We’re talking about coaching attire because basketball is unlike football or baseball, in that coaches like normal adults (the same is true for hockey coaches). David Roth puts it this way:

Baseball forces older men—men shaped like heirloom eggplants, men in their 70s wearing those progressive lenses, men who are quite literally Charlie Manuel—to don the same baseball uniforms as their youthful charges. Football, branded to the gills as it is, takes those men and drags them through the Lawn Dad section of the team’s Official NFL Gear Store, and the results are Crossfit Aficionado Golf Pro at best and Grown Man In Pajamas at worst.

But basketball lets the men who are not in uniform dress more or less as they like. In college, that generally isn’t good news—it’s mostly legacy slicksters in goofy Dick Tracy suits, aspiring legacy slicksters in somewhat less-shiny suits, some young comers dressing like Steve Kerr, and then a windswept plain of Jos. A. Bank stretching to either horizon.

But, as is the case in normal life, some dads take it upon themselves carve out their own ‘look’. For some dads it’s 24/7 golf clothes, for others it’s Lululemon. There is a smaller group of dads that defines their look with facial hair. It rarely goes well.

West Virginia’s Bob Huggins and Marshall’s Dan D’Antoni were proof of that failure when the in-state rivals faced-off in the NCAA tournament (West Virginia won):

Huggins’ has more or less given up with this attire (2017-18 salary:  $3.75MM). The not-really-short short-sleeve warm up can more accurately be described as a coverall. I’d say there’s a 50/50 chance of a t-shirt under that warm-up (and if there is, then there’s 100% chance said t-shirt has a BBQ sauce stain on it).

It wasn’t that long ago he wore this out of the house:

But D’Antoni (2017-18 salary: $400K) is feeling his look. He’s confident. He’s thinking My God, I found the perfect outfit loophole. I’ll rock a practice t-shirt under the blazer. It’ll be fun, but not disrespectful, and I’ll never wear a tie or struggle with the top button of a dress shirt again. Wife can’t say anything – I have the blazer! Honestly, I’m in my 70s. Who’s got the stones to complain about t-shirt/blazer combo? Comformal is what I’ll call it. Hey, that’s pretty good! Comformal. Yes, yes. This is it.

I mean, it’s not like anything momentous has happened in the tournament this year. – PAL

Source: Bob Huggins Met Dan D’Antoni In A Battle For The Future Of Men’s Fashion”, David Roth, Deadspin (3/19/18)

LeBron: Still the Best

Harden may be more efficient. Curry a better shooter. Giannis younger and more explosive. But no one is better, even after fifteen years, then LeBron James. This week he went into a big showdown with the #1 seed Toronto Raptors. The Raptors jumped out to a big halftime lead, scoring more points (78) than any team had ever scored in a half against a LeBron team. But The King was not deterred. He played a near perfect game: 35 points on 11/19 shooting, 17 assists, 7 rebounds, zero turnovers. He made the biggest play of the game late:

Deadspin’s Tom Ley makes a simple plea:

On any given night you can decide that you want to watch one of the best basketball players ever play some of the best basketball ever, and LeBron is there to scratch that itch. Last week, you could have watched him unleash one of the most beautiful and violent dunks you’ll ever see. A few days later, you could have watched him go for 40-12-10 against the Bucks. He’s just there, on TV, doing that, all the time. It’s neat.

When I think about LeBron in this way I start to wonder why any of us do anything during the NBA season besides watch him play basketball. And then I start to think about how terrible it’s going to be once he finally starts to deteriorate and eventually retires. What am I supposed to do then? Watch Ben Simmons? An impostor. Watch James Harden? Like eating vegetables that taste kind of good. Watch Anthony Davis? He’s not my real dad.

LeBron’s eventually going to leave and nobody will be able to replace him and it’s going to suck. This is my simple plea to you: take in as much of him as possible, while you still can.

Amen. -TOB

Source: What The Hell Are We Going To Do When LeBron James Retires?”, Tom Ley, Deadspin (03/22/2018)

PAL: MLB Opening Day is less than a week away. NCAA Tournament in full swing. NBA’s off my radar until the second round of the playoffs.

Moret Froze

This is the kind of story you’d hear if you ran into an old baseball player at a hotel bar and you both had a few. It’s not about the best, the worst, or the most in [insert sport] – no. This is just a story so goddamn strange that it couldn’t be made up. That’s why I like it.

Roger Moret was a serviceable big league pitcher in the 70s. In ‘75 he went 14-3 for the Red Sox. He was bounced around a bit until he ended up in the bullpen for the Rangers. Everyone knew Roger did not have a sense of humor. In fact, the dude was pretty angry most of the time. Being from Puerto Rico, he not only didn’t speak much English, but he didn’t understand the financial system here, causing his Porsche to be repossessed. He was teased quite a bit, he dabbled in some drugs (that would hardly make him unique for an baseball player in the 70s), and then the shower show incident happened.

The Rangers were getting ready for its game against the Tigers that night. Players were taking grounders and B.P. After a couple odd incidents on the field, Moret retreated to the clubhouse where he…well, read for yourself:  

As word spread from Ranger to Ranger, the entire roster seemed to make an ant line from the field to the clubhouse. And there, in the middle of the room stood Moret. His left leg was off the ground, bent at the knee. His left arm was extended into the air and his right hand held a white plastic shower shoe. His eyes were glassed over. His mouth was closed. He wore white underwear, but no shirt.

…A psychiatrist entered the clubhouse but offered nary a solution. The administrator of Arlington Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital followed. He, too, knew not what to do. Finally, an exasperated Mycoskie administered five back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back sedative injections into Moret’s arm.

Gradually, as his teammates returned to the field, the pitcher snapped from his state. He slowly, steadily slumped onto a chair, then laid flat on a table. By now 1 1/2 hours had passed.

This being the 70s, baseball teams didn’t have a very good handle on mental health (did anyone?), and it was the beginning of an odyssey for Moret. He actually appeared in 5 more games for the Rangers that year, which is incredible. He was also invited to camp for the Indians, but it didn’t stick. By 1987, Moret was living in San Juan making wallets, apparently diagnosed with chronic undifferentiated schizophrenia.

The last anyone heard from him was in 2016, when he returned to Boston to sign autographs at a Holiday Inn.

Is there anything more petrifying to baseball players – a group of individuals so dependent upon the control of a routine to mentally counter the absolute lack of control they have in a game – than to witness a fellow player lose it right before their eyes? Yes, there is – being the guy that loses it in front of a group of baseball players. – PAL

Source: The catatonic pitcher and a shower shoe: Recalling the strange demise of Rangers pitcher Roger Moret”, Jeff Pearlman, The Athletic (3/21/18)

49er Fans Can Thank Marshawn For Breaking Up the Seahawks

It is no secret that Marshawn Lynch is one of my favorite athletes of all time. We’ve written about him here at least a half dozen times over the nearly four years we’ve been writing this weekly digest. He arrived at Cal just as I graduated, and he was amazing. It wasn’t just that he was a great player at Cal, which he was. He was also funny, and fun. There’s the now-legendary time he drove the injury cart around the field after he put the team on his back to beat Washington in OT.

There was the time, after a touchdown, that he looked into the camera and said, “We shining! 24/7, 365 days a week!”

He projected a rough exterior, but he was a 3.0 student and his otherwise stoic head coach, Jeff Tedford, would light up like a Christmas tree every time he was asked about Marshawn.  All his teammates loved him. Hell, everyone loved him. Once, some Oakland gang members shot up his mom’s house by mistake, and when they realized what they had done, they went back and apologized to her in person. When he got to the NFL, though he struggled a bit. There were times his personality shown through, like his legendary appearance with ESPN’s Kenny Mayne about the Buffalo nightlife.

But then he had a couple small run-ins with the law and he became known as a bit of a malcontent. By the time he left Buffalo for Seattle, he was largely seen as a bust. But for Cal fans, he was like that indie band you saw in a small club one time, and you knew they just needed the right hit song to make it big. And then it happened, in one play:

It might be the greatest run of in NFL history, and I knew the secret of Marshawn, finally, was out. He finally had his hit record, and he was no longer our secret. I tell this story because I like any excuse to gush over Marshawn, and this week newly signed Philadelphia Eagle, Michael Bennett and his brother, Martellus, appeared on Bill Simmons’ podcast this week. Michael was Marshawn’s teammate in Seattle for a number of years. When asked about Marshawn, Bennett said that Marshawn’s (temporary) retirement a couple years back basically was the end of the Seahawks’ run:

“Marshawn’s personality is so big and he’s such a… he’s one of those dudes, he’s really like Nina Simone; he’s just misunderstood. People misunderstand him all the time. He’s such a great guy when it comes to doing community. He’s such a great teammate. He’s shows up to everybody’s thing. He plays hard. When he practices, he practices hard. So when he left, you could feel it. He was just that guy that had swag that made the Seahawks feel like a different type of team.”

These are the same types of things that Jeff Tedford used to say about Marshawn. So many of his teammates say similar things. It’s fascinating to me, really – how a guy’s public persona (“I’m just here so I won’t get fined”) could be so very different from what he is in private. I’m just happy that Marshawn is finally getting his due. As Marshawn came into the NFL the same year as Adrian Peterson, it’s also fascinating how their reputations have reversed over the last few years. Now, Marshawn is the great teammate, the great supporter of kids and his community, while Peterson is the malcontent in the locker room and, worse, the child abuser. As for Marshawn, I can say I knew it all along. -TOB

Source: Michael Bennett: Seahawks Never the Same after Marshawn Lynch Left at End of 2015 Season”, Gregg Bell, The News Tribune (03/21/2018)

PAL: Where’d you go to school, TOB?

TOB: Augustana State. I played baseball there. You can probably find my stats online if you search hard enough. Also, one question: How dare you?

Video(s) of the Week: 

PAL Song of the Week: Dwight Yoakam – “Streets of Bakersfield” (Buck Owens)

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We’re all waiting in the dugout
Thinking we should pitch
How you gonna throw a shutout
If all you do is bitch

-T. Snider


Week of March 16, 2018

Ten Years Later: Steph’s Magical Tourney Run

The NCAA Tournament started last week. As an event, it’s probably the best three weeks in sports. With the one-and-done rule, the Dukes and Kentuckys are comprised of uber talented but young and inexperienced future stars, while the also-rans are comprised of less talented but seasoned players who have played together for two to three years. It makes for great matchups.  And with so many games and so many players, you are guaranteed to see something spectacular. Some years, though, are better than others. Some years produce something truly remarkable. Like in 2010, when #8 seed Butler and #11 seed VCU both made the Final Four. Or in 2008, when #12 seed George Mason made the Final Four.

But what I really remember about that 2008 tournament, ten years ago, was the emergence of Davidson’s Stephen Curry. He was skinny, so skinny. He wasn’t not very tall, by basketball standards (he’s 6’3). He was the son of a fairly famous former NBA player, Dell Curry, who made a name as a spot-up sharpshooter in the early 90s. And he, Steph, had an absolute baby face that made him look approximately thirteen years old.

But MAN. Could that kid shoot. He’d come off a screen, catch, shoot, splash. He’d crossover, step back, shoot, splash. He’d head fake, lean left, go right, rise, shoot, splash.

Coming into the tournament a 10-seed, Davidson had a hell of a run. They beat Gonzaga. Georgetown. Wisconsin. They finally lost to #1 seed and eventual National Champion Kansas in the Elite 8, by just two points. Curry was incredible throughout, though he did not shoot well against Kansas. He averaged 33 points and nearly 6 made threes per game.

Players have had better tournament runs, perhaps. But something about Curry, with that baby face and that quick 3-point trigger, captured our imagination in a way I don’t think anyone has. He made us rethink the game. As Weinreb says, “[Curry] has completely altered the way basketball is both played and consumed. Because of Curry, the parameters of the court have been stretched farther and farther outward, and the game has become more fluid and less plodding.” Weinreb presents a fascinating oral history of the making of Steph Curry, from his first days on campus through his emergence as a star, as remembered by those that were there. -TOB

Source: The Birth of Steph”, Michael Weinreb, The Ringer (03/14/2018)

PAL: That’s the stuff! Love this story. I wouldn’t call in an underdog story. It’s just that people couldn’t see what a special talent Curry would become because they hadn’t exactly seen anything like him. He had 13 turnovers in his first collegiate game. He wasn’t even the point guard his first two years in college! It came in pieces. In fact, could he have become the player he is if he had gone to a blueblood program? Weireb writes:

If Curry had gone to North Carolina, or if he’d gone to Duke, would he have been afforded the same freedoms that McKillop [Davidson coach] gave him? And if he hadn’t had those same freedoms, would he possess the same levels of self-confidence and imagination that allowed him to develop into a singular talent?

TOB does a great job in his write up about the ‘08 run, but I also really enjoyed this nugget from the following season:

That junior season was another crucial cog in Curry’s ongoing development, even if it was devoid of the same fresh thrill: He switched over to point guard, and improved his ballhandling, and led the country in scoring. Davidson went 27–8, but lost in the Southern Conference tournament and didn’t make the NCAA tournament. But there is one game from that season worth a brief mention, if only because it foreshadowed the inevitable pall of cynicism that attends anyone who becomes a national commodity, even (or perhaps especially) someone whose game — and whose current team — often hovers on that razor’s edge between joy and egotism. It came in November during a game against Loyola (Md.), when coach Jimmy Patsos decided to shadow Curry everywhere he went with two defenders and take his chances three-on-four against the remainder of Davidson’s team.

How did Curry respond? “Coach,” he told McKillop, “I’m just going to stand in the corner.”

He went scoreless that night. Davidson won by 30.

What a great read, with some vintage Curry highlights to boot!  And when our grandkids come with some b.s. about a so-and-so from 2040 being the best shooter ever, we won’t even dignify it with a verbal response. We’ll just shake our heads.

TOB: His junior year, I tried to watch Curry as much as I could, and I actually watched that game. It was absurd. The other team used a triangle and two. Generally, in a triangle and two, two defenders guard the offense’s two best players, and the other three defenders play a 2-1 or 1-2 zone on three remaining offensive players. It’s rarely used because the talent gap between the two offensive guys you defend man-to-man must be so much better than their three teammates, and you must trust your two man-to-man defenders to actually guard those two with little to no perimeter help. But Loyola used a triangle and two with both of the man defenders on Curry. As Weinreb notes, the defense elected to play 3 defenders against 4 offensive players for the entire game. It was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen. The worst part was, after the game, the Loyola coach said, “Has anyone else ever held him scoreless? I’m a history major. Are people going to remember that we held him scoreless, or that we lost by 30?” If I was his boss, I’d have fired him on the spot. Anyways, Davidson showed that night that they weren’t just Steph and the Stephettes. I still don’t understand how they didn’t make the tournament that year.  Interestingly, they lost in the NIT to St. Mary’s and their future NBA point guard Patty Mills.

My Favorite Sports Story Of The Year, Every Year: The Minnesota State High School All Hockey Hair Team 2018

We’ve posted it every year, and every year I watch it over ten times. I love them so much. And while we’re well past the point in which players know about the video, and therefore are trying to get on the video, this still comes from a place of truth. That truth is the following: ever since I can remember, we all watched each player announced before state tournament game. That skate up to the blue line and the camera – those 3 seconds are as purely Minnesotan as anything I can imagine.

Yes, the video is hilarios. The hair is spectacular. Just thinking about these kids growing it out since summer makes me happy. They bank on the fact that they are making it to State, and when they do their hair will be ready. I love it.

The writing on these videos is on the same level as Jack Handy. Creator John King, once told the Star Tribune he was inspired by the show Newhart. King really should write a comedy movie or HBO series about high school hockey in Minnesota. Here are some of my favorite lines from this year’s video and added a screen grab for context. Enjoy!

This state’s so manly if you type ‘mn’ into your phone it autocorrects to ‘man’.

And the number one N.H.L. flow in all the world is Burnsville’s own Brock Besser. Even Sid knows he’s second fiddle. There’s not a barber in the state of Minnesota that doesn’t know Brock beats scissors.

– “Boys, that’s some greasy letty, right Jacob?”

– “That’s some deadly flop. Keep it up.”

Hey, kid. If you’re ever in Madison Square Garden wear a hat, or you’ll win Best In Show at Westminster.

Our coach comes from Mankato East. Look at this guy. He makes me wanna run a 5K.

We had a lot of peaky boys at this year’s tournament. A lot of peaky boys. (PAL – I think he’s referencing Peaky Blinders…)

These next two kids are in here just cause they’re so dang happy.

And leave it to King to get philosophical in a perfectly Minnesota way: “Some say there was less flow this year. I say you have to know where to look. Hockey will always have ‘shorthairs’ and ‘longhairs’, but unless you don’t have a head, I think it’s better to be a ‘longhair’. Why? Cause the ‘longhairs’ are living free.”

Instead of a story link, I encourage you to go over to the Hendrickson Foundation and make a donation – the video raises a bunch of money for the foundation, which has set out to grow the game of hockey in Minnesota by being inclusive to individuals with mental and physical disabilities.


Just do it. Not hard at all! – PAL

TOB: Cracks me up every year.

The Best and Worst of Ballpark Cuisine

In April, MLB will be hosting the first ever MLB Food Fest, in NYC. Each MLB team will be represented by one menu item available at its ballpark. The list:


I looked it over, and I’m here to present some gd awards.

Best in Show: Jerk Chicken Nachos (Blue Jays); Runner-up: Cheeto-Lote (Dodgers)

Jerk chicken nachos sound amazing, and I think it’s the item I’d be most happy with. It’s also juuuuuuuust abnormal enough to be considered real ballpark food, but not so gluttonous as to be too much. The Dodgers’ Cheeto-Lote (an ear of corn covered in chipotle mayo, parmesan, tajin, and flaming hot Cheetos) is very enticing, but is more of a side item, and loses points for that. Still, I might need to make another trip to Dodger Stadium to try it. Honorable mention to the Pirates’ Pulled Pork Pierogie Hoagie (pulled pork, pierogis, and crispy fried onions on a bun).

Best Item If I Wasn’t So Picky (Tie): New England Lobster Rolls (Red Sox); Reuben Cuban Sandwich (Rays)

I think seafood is fine, but I rarely choose it when I have other options. The lobster rolls does sound delicious, though. As for the Reuben Cuban, I don’t eat beef (a deal killer for quite a few items on this list). But, if I did, the Rays sandwich with pulled pork, sausage, corned beef, sauerkraut, pickles, swiss cheese, and russian dressing on Cuban bread would be a serious contender for Best in Show. I also appreciate that the Rays tried to marry south Florida cuisine with New York cuisine, to make the local retirees feel right at home.

Item That Had Me Say “WTF” Out Loud: Churro Dog (Diamondbacks)

“Churro topped with frozen yogurt, chocolate sauce, caramel, and whipped cream inside of a chocolate iced donut.” As if a churro sundae was not enough, they stuff it all inside a chocolate donut???? I’m sure it’s delicious, but I’m also sure it will end you.

Worst Item:

Divorcing the fact I don’t eat beef and am lukewarm on seafood, the item that sounds the worst is the Astros’ “Chicken Waffle Cone” monstrosity. “Popcorn chicken with mashed potatoes and honey mustard inside of a waffle cone.”

I’m sorry, I cannot abide this! This looks and sounds truly disgusting.

Best Item If Shame Is Not a Concern
So, so many options. I considered the Twins (see below) and Rangers (chicken and donut slider) here. But, ultimately, I had to go with the Diamondbacks’ Churro Dog, our only multiple award winner. Look at this thing.  

I would feel so, so so ashamed ordering that thing. People would stare at me as I walked by, judging my gluttony. And rightfully so. I just can’t do it.

Item That Sounds Good But I Know an MLB Stadium Can’t Pull Off: Chicken Shawarma Nachos (Tigers)

This could be fantastic, but I do not trust a ballpark to make chicken shawarma, or hummus, correctly.

Best Normal Item: Gioia’s Hot Salami Sandwich (Cardinals)

Super simple, obviously delicious.

Best Item Related to the Region/Local Cuisine: Breaded Cheese Curds and Bratwurst Topped with Brown Gravy (Twins)

There were a lot of options, as many teams seemed to be gunning for this category. Items considered for this award include the Red Sox, Giants, Pirates, Mets, and Yankees. But, ultimately, the Twins win out – because fried cheese curd, bratwurst, and gravy are all exactly what I think of when I think Minnesota.

Dang. Now I’m hungry.

Source: Food Fest”, MLB.com (03/13/2018)

PAL: No. No. No. Go to a game, get a brat, a beer, some peanuts and enjoy the company and competition. I know I sound like a grump, but I am OUT on these newfangled ballpark items. As TOB mentions, you’ll get the best version of nothing at a ballpark. I can enjoy an average brat; I cannot enjoy an average cheese curd and brat topped with gravy (I just threw up a little in my mouth).

This entire food craze at ballparks is for the pretend fans anyway.

Hell, look at the first image from the very first post from 1-2-3 Sports! from May 4, 2014:

Once A Cheater Always A Cheater?

How would you describe number 21 for Lake Superior State in this, the 1988 National Championship game?

Now, take your words and apply them to a political candidate, because that’s exactly what’s happened. Pete Stauber (no. 21) is a republican congressional candidate from MN. He’s looking to unseat Rick Nolan (D) who retained his seat by less than 2000 votes in 2016. Nolan retained his seat in 2014 by less than 4000 votes. In other words, a seemingly small detail, like a candidate’s lack of sportsmanship 30 years ago, could determine the winner.

Here’s the thing: Stauber has yet to address questions about his willingness to, as City Pages (Minneapolis) puts it, “risk everything and cheat to win” from that game a lifetime ago.

And here’s what I know of Stauber: when the moment gets tight he looks for a way out. I’m not saying this is the truth – I am not familiar with the guy, and I’m sure he’s a good and decent person – but the politics of this doesn’t look good. Absurd? Sure, but isn’t that politics?

I tried to give him a break and went to his website to learn about his political stances but they aren’t laid out. The website tells me he’s a republican, he captained a national champion hockey team, had a career in law enforcement, and his wife is a vet. With a lack of political info, I have to admit that this clip of him pushing the net off – coupled with the fact that he hasn’t addressed it – makes me pause on this guy. – PAL

Source: Congressional Candidate Doesn’t Want To Talk About The Time He Cheated To Win The NCAA Hockey Title”, Patrick Redford, Deadspin (3/13/18)

TOB: I’m not sure where I fall here, because I don’t know hockey well enough to know how egregious this is. It certainly looks bad, and obvious. But is knocking the net off its moorings an accepted though annoying aspect of gamesmanship in the sport? Or is it straight cheating? For example, in basketball, flopping sucks and it annoys everyone. But it’s also an accepted part of the game at this point, and I don’t think anyone would use flopping to attack your character. On the other hand, if you’re in a pick-up game and someone on the other team calls for the ball from an opponent, that is bush league, and you have every right to call them a piece of crap.

Video of the Week: 


PAL Song of the Week: Anderson .Paak – “Celebrate”

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-Michael Scott

Week of March 2, 2018

Sports Wife for the Win

You may have never heard of Zack Cozart, but he’s a very good Major League shortstop. He’s a decent hitter for a shortstop, too. As a Red, he started as a bad hitter but a good shortstop, but in recent years he changed his approach – “try to hit the ball hard instead of trying to hit the ball” is how Pedro Moura puts it, which I like.  

Before this offseason got all wonky for free agents (market correction or collusion?), Cozart was about to sign a 3-year, $38MM deal with the Angels (again, you may very well have never heard of this dude! That’s a lot of guacamole, as Michael Gary Scott would say. The one challenge would be that Cozart’s position would change to second base, as the Angels already have one of the best defensive shortstops I’ve ever seen in Andrelton Simmons:

While he’d never played the position before, Cozart was still a middle infielder, and his bat still had some value at a defensive position.

Just before he was about to take his physical and finalize the deal, the GM called. Angels signed 2B Ian Kinsler. Would Cozart consider playing 3B? Now that is a different prospect all together. Not only are the defensive angles and the approach to third base different than that of middle infield, but third base is traditionally a power position, meaning teams look to fill it with better offensive players than Cozart.

Luckily, his wife stepped in. “Quit being a baby. Do you want to go play for the Reds, or do you want to play for the Angels? One team’s trying to win.”

What’s more, teams are shifting defensively more than ever. With lefties up, he’d essentially be playing shortstop 30% of the time anyway.

And it’s very likely that Cozart’s flexibility on his position earned him millions.  He signed his 3-year deal in December. Since then, the market has been very slow to get going. Players of comparable skill, e.g. Todd Frazier, are signing shorter deals for less money (In February Frazier signed a 2-year, $17MM contract with the Mets) .

Short version of the story, Zack Cozart’s wife deserves an expensive present. – PAL  

Source: “Zack Cozart wasn’t going to miss his chance to win again, even if it meant playing third base”, Pedro Moura, The Athletic (2/25/18)

TOB: This is a nice story about an athlete who treats his wife with respect and values her opinion, and comes in stark contrast to the news this week about fired University of Arizona football coach Rich Rodriguez. RichRod was fired recently after his former assistant alleged he repeatedly sexually harassed her. In the litigation, Rodriguez’s 2015 “Hideaway Book” that he gave to staff was released. Here’s how RichRod sees the role of his and his coaching staff’s wives:

I’m sure his wife was tickled to hear she was one of his most important assets, and especially enjoyed how he “controlled her talk”. What a romantic, that RichRod. You will be unsurprised to learn RichRod cheated on his wife. As Giants pitcher Jeff Samardzjia pointed out this week, what is it about football that attracts such neanderthals in the coaching and front office ranks?

The Best Plays of Jordan and LeBron’s Careers

Last week, The Ringer had “Jordan vs. LeBron Week”, for no apparent reason, because that’s just the sorta weird thing Bill Simmons thinks is a great idea. There were a couple interesting articles, but nothing worth mentioning – except for these two companion pieces. Writers listed and discussed their favorite plays from Jordan’s and LeBron’s careers. It was a fun walk down memory lane, and I highly recommend you read both. There are a lot of great moments, including LeBron’s block on Igoudala in the 2016 Finals:

Or Jordan’s midair switch in the 1991 Finals:

I have two other nominations, though. For LeBron, it was this ill-fated pass to Donyell Marshall in the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals.

What I’ve always loved about LeBron is that he almost always makes the right play, even if it’s not the play other people expect a superstar to make. That is, LeBron is willing to give up the ball to an open teammate, even when the game is on the line. LeBron was roasted for passing that ball, which was stupid then and is stupid now. It’s not his fault Donyell Marshall missed the shot.

For Jordan, there are so many moments, but of those not on the Ringer’s list, for me it has to be The Shrug.

It was 1992, and Jordan had long been the best basketball player on the planet, but the only knock against him was that he couldn’t shoot threes. And then, in the first half of Game 1, Jordan hit six three-pointers. On the sixth, Jordan looked over at Magic Johnson, calling the game for NBC, and shrugged as if to say, “Yeah, I don’t know what’s happening either.” The series ended up going six games, but it sure seemed over right then and there. -TOB

Source: Our Favorite Plays of Jordan’s Career”, “Our Favorite Plays of LeBron’s Career”, Ringer Staff (02/23/2018)

PAL: Are we really doing this. Jordan vs. LeBron? Please. The Ringer must be thirsty for clicks. 

How about a little love for his dunk over Ewing? That and the layup over the Lakers stand out to me.

LeBron: The Block. End of conversation.

Boeheim’s Issue: Coaches Getting Hands Dirty

While I don’t think it’s that controversial, I’ll come right out and say it: most big-time college basketball programs are dirty. In a high revenue game where only 10 players are on the court, 1 bluechip can make a huge difference. 2 just might win you a title. They’re all dirty – from Calipari at Kentucky to the unassailable Coach K at Duke. And I don’t think it’s limited to the historic programs either. As TOB pointed out, both Minnesota and Cal -two below average programs have had issues in our lifetimes. The Gophers vacated a Final Four appearance, and Cal was put on probation for paying a player in the 90s.

Let’s set aside the bigger debate – should payment to players be pulled out of the black market and into the free market – and cherish Jim Boeheim’s nuanced response when asked about it:

The thing that ruins everything for me is when coaches get involved in this. There’s just no understanding of that. I think it goes back to the old thing ‘Well, somebody’s going to do it, so I’ll do it.’ I hope that isn’t the case. I don’t think it is. The problem with this case and when that happens, then everybody’s doing it. ….The thing that’s been surprising this year is, obviously, the assistant coaches being involved.

To Boeheim, the problem isn’t that players are getting paid, it’s that coaches are getting involved. My god, man.

Of all the individuals that benefit most from the current “system” of NCAA basketball and football, the coaches are on top of the heap. Nick Saban makes $11MM a year as Alabama’s football coach (and worth every penny). Coach K makes $7MM at Duke! If anything, the coaches should be involved in paying these kids. Hell, the players’ payroll should come out of the coaches’ salaries. -PAL

Source: “Jim Boeheim addresses FBI’s college basketball probe by blasting coaches involved with agents”, Scott Gleeson, USA Today (2/27/18)

TOB: Though I think college basketball and football players should be paid, I get Boeheim’s point. Agents have no reason not to pay players in hopes of getting them as clients later. The NCAA has no jurisdiction over them. As coaches, it can be tough to police that. But this week, ESPN reported that the FBI recorded a phone call between Arizona basketball head coach Sean Miller and an agent’s runner, wherein Miller discussed a $100,000 payment for current Arizona star DeAndre Ayton. Miller vehemently denies the report, and ESPN’s story has juuuuuust enough issues to raise questions about its validity. But if the report is true, and the head coach is arranging for payment to a player, then that is much more direct cheating than a player taking some cash from an agent.

Warriors Pricing Out Their Loyal Fans

Eighteen months from now, the Warriors begin play in San Francisco, at their brand new, privately financed Chase Center.

It’s about a ten minute drive from my house, without traffic, and I’m pretty excited about that. Right now, I only go to 1-2 games per year, and a big reason for that is how hard it is to get to Oakland right after work, and how late I get back. But another reason is the fact that Warriors ticket prices, both on the primary and secondary markets, have skyrocketed over the last few years as the team has become a juggernaut.

Unsurprisingly, the move to San Francisco is not expected to slow the rise in prices. This week, word began to leak about what this will mean for Warriors season ticket holders, even ones who have stuck it out for decades of bad basketball. And it is not good for all but a small fraction of the fanbase.

One of those fans is David Smith. Smith is not poor. He’s the CEO and founder of Mediasmith, a media buying agency. Smith has been a season ticket holder for 45 years. Forty five. He has two very good seats, presently paying $370 per seat, per game – for about $32,000 total. For his decades of loyalty, he is getting a discount there. If he bought those new this year, it’d cost him $515 per seat, per game, for a total of $45,000.

But this week, Smith went to a sales pitch for current season ticket holders to buy season tickets at the Chase Center. Smith came away with sticker shock. Not only was he losing his loyalty discount, but he would now be a few rows farther back, and his tickets would now cost $600 per seat, per game, or about $53,000 for the season. FIFTY THREE THOUSAND. As Smith said, he’ll be paying $1,200 to see the Warriors play the lowly Suns, and that’s insane.

But $1,200 is not all he’ll pay, folks. The Warriors are also requiring him and others to pay a per seat license fee. Smith’s is $35,000. Per seat. What makes this fee slightly more digestible than most seat licensing fees is that the Warriors promise to pay it back in thirty years, with no interest. So generous of them. Oh, and he loses his VIP parking pass.

Smith decided enough was enough, and he left deciding to give up his tickets. Although the Warriors claim most are electing to sign up, Smith can’t be the only one walking out that door. And that begs a few questions:

  • Are the Warriors hurting themselves by charging as much as they are just because they can because there really are that many people with that much disposable income in the Bay Area right now?
    • I say perhaps a little, though the fanbase has already changed considerably over the last five or so years as the team has gotten good, and most of the diehard fans have already been priced out. So this will probably not make much of a difference compared to what we’re already seeing.
  • Should I care?
    • I’m not a Warriors fan, though I enjoy watching them play, so I don’t really care. I do feel bad for the people who have put the time and money in for years, though, only to be priced out when the team gets good.
    • Moreover, the Warriors are privately financing this, just like the Giants did, and so frankly I think they can charge whatever the hell they want. The fans who utilize stadiums and arenas should pay for them through ticket revenue, instead of being financed by general taxpayers.
  • Wouldn’t Smith be wise to just get the tickets and sell off half or more at a profit to recoup a lot of this cost? And can’t he expect to make even more back if he sells off half or so of the playoff games?
    • Probably. But it’s always a gamble, especially at these prices, and that $35,000 license fee per seat is a tough pill to swallow.
  • What the hell happens when the team gets bad??
    • And they will get bad. I know Lacob thinks they have solved the game, but they haven’t. They got lucky with Curry – lucky that he fell to them, lucky that he blossomed, lucky that he got over early injury troubles. But this team will not last as a championship contender for too much longer. The window almost always closes sooner than you think it will (exception: the Tim Duncan Spurs). And they have now put tickets so high that they are going to have a very hard time selling tickets when this team ages out or breaks up. No one is paying that kind of cash to see a rebuilding team, and teams are loathe to reduce ticket prices by any significant margin. Should be interesting to see what happens.
  • Finally, is there any way I’ll ever get to take my kids to a game at the Chase Center and sit in the lower bowl?

Fair, fair.

Source: Warriors’ New Arena Gives Some Season-Ticket Holders Sticker Shock“, Scott Ostler, SF Chronicle (03/01/2018)

Video(s) of the Week: 

-I know the between Thompon’s legs part was not intentional, but still. My god.

PAL Song of the Week: Steely Dan – “Dirty Work”

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I did not go to business school. You know who else didn’t go to business school? LeBron James, Tracy McGrady, Kobe Bryant. They went right from high school to the NBA so…So, it’s not the same thing at all.

-M. Scott

Week of February 23, 2018

That’s the good stuff. 

US Women’s Hockey: Clutch

I really wish I watched this one live. What I gather from the highlights and from Hannah Keyser’s reporting, this gold medal matchup between Canada and USA was authentic in every way.

First off, the rivalry is real. Canada had won gold in the last four olympics, while the US team has won the last 4 World Championships (thing World Cup).

Also, there was a real interest from other athletes competing in the Olympics. For athletes and true fans, it was the spot to be. Look at Ice Dancing gold medalist Scott Moir getting into it after a beer or four:

And there were regular buzzed folks, too, which is always needed for a great hockey game. Per Hannah Keyser, the “overwhelming majority of the seats were filled with mostly drunk fans hanging on every play. They shouted chants of U-S-A and CAN-A-DA back and forth through overtime, coming together only to boo when the shootout was announced.”

Overtime wasn’t enough, so it went to a shoot-out. I’m not a fan of the shoot-out deciding a championship, but I heard Dan Patrick make a solid point on Thursday when he noted that the game is put in the hands of some of the best players, and a mistake doesn’t decide it. Either way, a shootout for a gold medal is pretty much the recipe for a heart attack.

Then this happened:

The goal is beautiful. To be loose enough to be so fluid in a fake under those circumstances is just awesome. And don’t sleep on the save – to shut the door on the 5-hole is hard stuff. A lot of players in a shoot-out try to get the goalie moving laterally, wait for the 5-hole to open, and punch it through.

Keyser does a really great job articulating why this Olympic success is particularly meaningful. A lot changes in four years, and I can’t help but think about my 10 nieces when I read the following:

All Olympic events are a culmination, a public actualization of years, if not decades, of dedication to an often obscure sport. But this kind of intensity came at a very specific cost. That is: relegating the relevancy of these athletes—who will continue to play at a high level, many for teams that can barely afford to pay them, in the interim—to a game that only happens once every four years. The U.S. women had to threaten to boycott their own World Championship last year just to get a living wage. They were right to bet on themselves, regardless of whether they left Korea with silver or with gold, but this was their chance to prove it when everyone back home was paying attention.

So proud of these ladies for coming through in the most clutch of situations and setting a great example to girls – hockey players or otherwise – everywhere. – PAL

Source: Team USA’s Women’s Hockey Gold Was The Most Electrifying Moment Of The Olympics”, Hannah Keyser, Deadspin (2/21/18)

TOB: I was lucky enough to catch the third period, overtime, and the shootout live. The third period was a frenzy, with the U.S. controlling the game, trying to get the equalizer. It was intense. I just can’t believe I watched this live, and Phil didn’t. What is this world coming to?

NFL Scouting: Institutional Racism at Work

For decades, NFL scouts, coaches, and analysts openly stated that blacks were not smart enough to play quarterback. Many were forced into other positions, or were treated poorly, even as their intelligence, athleticism, toughness, and aptitude for the position shone through. There is a tendency, now, to think those days are over. There are a handful of black starting quarterbacks in the NFL now, and many think of the league as a strict meritocracy. But sometimes, the racism smacks you in the face, and I think it’s helpful to confront it.

The NFL season is over, and so the NFL media turns its eyes to the draft. One of the top prospects is Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson. In 2016, Jackson won the Heisman. In 2017, he finished third. He’s a heck of a player. As with all prospects, the lead up to the draft is a bit of a wringer – flaws are exposed and picked apart. But some of the arguments against Jackson, and for other quarterback prospects, simply don’t make sense.

ESPN’s Bill Polian, the longtime Colts general manager, argued this week that Jackson should convert to wide receiver. Polian cited Jackson’s athleticism (he rushed for over 3,100 yards the last two seasons), and supposed lack of accuracy as reasons for the switch. Comparing Jackson to other top QB prospects, Polian said, “Clearly, clearly not the thrower that the other guys are. The accuracy isn’t there.” This, despite having thrown for a combined 7,203 yards the last two seasons. Added Polian, “Don’t be like the kid from Ohio State (Terrell Pryor) and be 29 when you make the change.”

But The Ringer’s Danny Heifetz does an excellent job countering Polian’s argument:

Jackson has a strong arm, can fit the ball into tight windows, and has the touch to throw receivers open either 4 or 40 yards down the field. When he sets his feet, Jackson can have lethal accuracy, and he has an impressive ability to stay in the pocket and keep his eyes downfield while under pressure. The offense he ran at Louisville under head coach Bobby Petrino required NFL-level recognition and progressions with different personnel packages. When Jackson puts that entire skill set together, it’s often jaw-dropping.

On that play, Jackson (1) sidesteps an unblocked blitzer, (2) steps up in the pocket and resets his feet while keeping his eyes downfield, (3) effortlessly launches a ball 40 yards in the air, and (4) throws it so perfectly that his receiver doesn’t break stride, helping the wideout avoid a would-be tackler en route to the end zone. In scouting circles that’s called “Aaron Rodgers shit.”

As Polian notes, many scouts are down on Jackson’s accuracy, pointing to his 59.1% completion percentage in 2017. This analysis is lazy, ignoring that Jackson often throws the ball deep, which inherently will have a lower percentage. But as Heifetz also points out, it’s not even the best stat to measure accuracy.

Using Pro Football Focus’s adjusted completion percentage, which removes throwaways, spikes, and batted passes from attempts and gives quarterbacks credit for dropped balls, Jackson’s adjusted completion percentage is 73.1 percent, tied for 29th in the country, in part because his receivers dropped more than 12 percent of his catchable balls—almost twice the figure for Darnold.

At twentieth on that list of quarterbacks ranked by the percentage of their passes that were dropped, you’ll see a quarterback by the name of Josh Allen. As you can see, his receivers dropped 7.84% of his passes, a much lower number than Jackson, whose receivers dropped 12.04%. You may not have heard of Allen, but you will. He’s a much-hyped quarterback from the University of Wyoming. He is big, has a strong arm, and seems relatively athletic. He’s also white. Scouts love Josh Allen, despite the fact he only completed 56.3% of his passes last year, three points lower than Jackson. You will not be surprised to learn that Polian is not calling for Allen to move to tight end, or some other position. In fact, Polian said Jackson is not in the same class as Allen.

One of the scouts that loves Allen is ESPN’s Mel Kiper, the longtime draft pundit. In his latest mock draft, Kiper has Allen as the first overall pick. Here’s what Kiper said about Allen, and those who point out his low (remember, 56.3%) completion percentage, back on January 18th: “Stats are for losers in my opinion. The guy won.” But just three days later, Kiper had this to say about Jackson, and why he isn’t even a first rounder: “It’s the accuracy throwing the football. Finished career around 57 percent.” So, for one guy, stats are for losers. For the guy who was more accurate and had way more dropped balls, suddenly the argument begins and ends with stats. To make this even more galling, Kiper said this in that mock draft about Allen: “The NFL statistical comp I make to Allen: Matthew Stafford, who completed 57.1 percent of his passes in 39 games at Georgia and still went No. 1 overall.”

If you asked Polian and Kiper if they are racist, I’m sure they’d say no. And I don’t doubt that they are not knowingly racist. But their careers and lives exist within a system with such deep-seated racism that they make racist arguments and statements without even realizing it. It’s ok to like some prospects and not like others; but when you make an argument for one guy and then use the exact opposite argument against another guy, it’s going to raise eyebrows. And when the first guy is white and the second guy is black, those eyebrows will raise even higher. Kiper and Polian should be forced to explain themselves. -TOB

Source: Lamar Jackson is a Quarterback”, Danny Heifetz, The Ringer (02/20/2018)

PAL: Ugh. We’re talking about pre-draft stories. I’m not frustrated by TOB’s write up; rather, I’m sick of the overanalysis of players that haven’t yet played a professional game. It means so little and yet it takes up so much time during this particular gap in sporting calendar (between the Super Bowl and March Madness).  

I don’t care where a guy is drafted (I know I’m in the minority here), and what impact does Bill Polian (former GM, now commentator) have on whether or not Jackson plays QB in the NFL? I would suggest very little to zero impact. A team will draft him, and he will very likely get an opportunity to prove his skills as a QB since he succeeded to the highest degree in college at the position.

Do I think there’s some underlying, perhaps unintentional racism in Polian Kiper’s analysis? Yeah, I think Heifeltz puts together a pretty compelling case, and TOB’s commentary is rational.

I also think Polian and Kiper’s employer expects one thing from these guys: say something that gets people talking, i.e., Heisman-winning QB shouldn’t play QB in NFL.

So, if Polian and Kiper are hearing that Jackson isn’t a first round pick, and they are strongly encouraged to have a hot take, the take of Jackson not playing QB is a safer hot take than saying a guy that’s projected to be a high first round pick is overrated or fundamentally flawed in some way.

All of this pre-draft, mock draft crap is a complete waste of time.

Spoiled Brat Competes in Olympics

Have you seen freestyle half-pipe skiing in the Olympics? It’s pretty nuts. Here’s what the women’s gold medal winner run looked like at a competition earlier this year (NBC’s a bit protective of the videos, so had to pull a run from an earlier competition).

Pretty incredible! Most of the women engaged in similarly daring and talented performances. And then there was Elizabeth Swaney. Here’s her run.

Umm, what? You’re thinking there must be a story here, and there is. Swaney, from Oakland, California, decided she wanted to be an Olympian, so she gamed the system. To qualify, Swaney needed to finish within the top 30 at a few World Cup skiing events. Swaney thus entered contests with fewer than 30 competitors, and often when the top competitors in the event were competing across the globe at more prestigious events, thus ensuring she finished the in the Top 30. She also country-shopped. Swaney is American, but having previously tried to compete for Venezuela, she ended up competing for Hungary, where her grandparents are from.

I don’t have a problem with country-shopping. If you’re a competitor and you’re one of the best in the world, but your country is especially deep in your sport and there aren’t enough spots for you to qualify, then I have no issue with finding another country to compete for. But what Swaney is doing is not competing. There’s no effort. There’s no work. There’s no skill. There’s no blood, sweat, or tears. There’s nothing. Anyone who has skied a few times in their life could go up and down the half pipe like she did. It’s so far beyond the Olympic spirit. She found a loophole and…congrats? She used her money and privilege to travel around the world and qualify for the Olympics. She’s an Olympian. I’m sure she’ll be proud to someday tell her grandkids about the time she skied slowly up and down a slope. -TOB

Source: The Winter Olympics Feature 2,951 Of The World’s Greatest Athletes, And Also This Woman”, Patrick Redford, Deadspin (02/19/2018)

PAL: TOB nails it – she has no interest in Olympic competition; she wants to tell people she was in the Olympics, and that sucks. She’s externally motivated, and that dilutes the awesome achievements of the athletes pushed by an internal desire to be great.

Anyway, here’s her dad’s response to it. This one really bugs the hell out of me. If you want to read her dad’s response to all of this, here is the most absurd response from a Laura Wagner story:

Some people do things that are lower probability and are not guaranteed success. I worked in the business world with start up companies and venture capital and so forth. There are ultimately billion-dollar venture capital firms that are going to be wrong 80 or 90 percent of the time; those investments that they made are the entrepreneurs who tried and failed. For every Microsoft or Apple, there are 99 other companies that didn’t make it. So you have to have that mindset that you can succeed.

Sorry to break your little girl’s heart, dad, but she isn’t the Steve Jobs of half pipe skiing.

How to Set a World Record, and Only Win Bronze

This week, the Dutch women’s short-track speed skating relay team did something that seems rather impossible: They set a world record, only won the bronze, and didn’t even compete in the Finals. Huh? None of those things seems to make any sense, but it happened.

Four teams compete in each heat. The Dutch team made the semifinals, where they didn’t qualify for the finals. They instead competed in a consolation race, to determine final standings. There, they set the world record. Kinda cool, but one race too late, because it wouldn’t garner them a medal, or any higher than fifth place. And then the final race took place:

South Korea won the gold. China was disqualified. Canada was disqualified. Italy bumped up to silver. And that left the Netherlands to get the bronze. Kinda wild, but that’s short-track speed skating: where you can miss the finals, set the world record, and still get a (bronze) medal. -TOB

Source: Netherlands Short-Track Team Wins Bronze Medal For World-Record Race, Didn’t Even Compete In Final”, Dan McQuade, Deadspin (02/21/2018)

PAL: THIS. IS. AWESOME. By the way, I fully got into the Olympics this week. Speed skating, skiing, hockey, figure skating – ask Natalie – I’m an expert commentator on all of them at this point. 

I’m Still Out on Hunter Strickland

It’s Spring Training, and so the season of stories of renewal and redemption are upon us. Take, for example, Hunter Strickland. Giants beat writer Alex Pavlovic wrote a mostly apologetic story on Strickland this week, about how Strickland feels bad for his Memorial Day intentional beaning of Bryce Harper, and the brawl that caused (a brawl, by the way, that essentially ended Michael Morse’s career a few months early). Well, I’M NOT BUYING IT, HUNTER. I’m not buying it, because it’s crap.

First, Hunter says, “It’s tough to go out there and have people not like you and to have this perception about you that you’re this hothead, because honestly I don’t feel like that,” he said. “I don’t think of myself as a hothead.”

Well, then you lack any semblance of self-awareness.

Second, Hunter says, “Obviously between the lines we’re competitors, we’re going out there competing, and that’s our livelihood out there — that’s how we’re putting food on the table for our family, so we do take it personally,” Strickland said. “Granted I do make mistakes. You know, I’m human — I understand that, so I do regret putting my team in situations like last year.”

Let me get this straight: You understand that players are out there competing for their livelihood, to put food on the table for their families, and this justifies you being angry because Bryce Harper destroyed a couple meatballs you threw THREE years prior, and this also justifies you putting Harper’s livelihood at stake when you throw a ball 100-mph at him? Oh, and by the way, put YOUR teammates’ livelihoods at stake in both the ensuing brawl, and by subjecting them to potential retaliation?

GTFO here, dude. -TOB

Source: Strickland Looks Back on Year that Was Overshadowed by One Pitch”, Alex Pavlovic, NBC Sports (02/20/2018)

PAL: Guys get too cute with these personal growth stories. Strickland makes the mistake of trying convolute what should be a real simple response on his part, which would have been something along the lines of: I blew a personal gripe way out of proportion. I need to work on letting shit go while remaining ultra competitive on the mound.

Instead, he went with the “gotta make a living / misunderstood” response, which is so dumb, by the way. Who on this planet doesn’t have to make a living, Hunter? That isn’t an excuse, because it literally applies to every adult.

XC Skiing Just Sounds Terrible

Other sports are grueling, but no other sport has world class athletes doing this feet after they cross the finish line:

Why is this? Bill Bradley (the dude looking like he’s about to blow chunks in the top photo) spoke to some experts to get the lowdown beyond they fall because they are tired.

Cross-country ski racing—not to be confused with the enjoyable act of leisurely touring through the woods with a flask full of rye—is, to put it lightly, insanely difficult. It is the definition of a total body sport. It makes your legs and lungs and arms burn, all at once. Rowing and swimming are also total body sports. But rowers and swimmers don’t have to contend with climbing formidable hills over the course of, say, 50 kilometers. There is no terrain in the pool.

…“Elite XC ski racing is essentially non-stop intervals which, of course, is highly reliant on both anaerobic energy (dominant during the intervals) and aerobic energy (dominant during the recoveries) to be successful,” Dr. Dan Heil, an exercise physiologist at Montana State University, explained via email. “There is certainly no other endurance sport that equals elite XC ski racing’s high reliance on both of these systems. When played out perfectly, both of these systems will have been exhausted for both the upper and lower body. Thus, it’s much easier to just collapse in the snow rather than stand or rely on your ski poles to hold you up.”

So how did Billy do in that race above? He edged out his buddy Andy (pictured) to finish just ahead of last. – PAL

Source: This Is Why Cross-Country Skiers Collapse And Barf After Races”, Bill Bradley, Deadspin (2/21/18)

TOB: We first moved to Tahoe when I was in second grade, and that winter my mom insisted we needed to cross-country ski as a family. We’d go rent the skis and boots and find some trail she read about somewhere (pre-internet, kiddos!) and then she’d proceed to torture us for two or three hours. It was the absolute worst. Why would anyone subject themselves to that? It’s hard, it’s exhausting, it’s SLOW, it’s COLD, and there’s NO WAY OUT. You can’t get back to the car without continuing to cross-country ski! I will never watch one minute of cross-country skiing at the Olympics because I know it is simply the fruit of the athletes’ mothers torturing them just like mine did.

Video of the Week: 

PAL Song of the Week: Sean Rowe – “Madman”

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I’m Benjamin Button in reverse. 

-M. Scott



Week of February 9, 2018

Thank you for the laugh, Garth Brooks. 

Dodge: Irony Comes Standard

Let’s talk Super Bowl commercials, shall we? I mean, the game was a total snoozefest, so let’s get into ads, which reportedly cost $5M for every 30 seconds of airtime.

There were some good ones (big winner: Tide), and there was one very terrible one. I’m talking about the Dodge “Built to Serve” ad:

Even in the moment, without knowing the broader context of M.L.K’s speech, using his voice in a car commercial was a bad idea. Then again, we shouldn’t be surprised. Dodge is a division of Chrysler Fiat. Chrysler was behind another eye-roller of a Super Bowl ad back in 2007. Come on, America – you remember:

But back to the Dodge spot from this year. As Deadspin’s Michael Ballaban point’s out, Dodge pulled a portion of M.L.K.’s sermon titled “The Drum Major Instinct”. Here are the parts Dodge features:

If you want to be important — wonderful. If you want to be recognized — wonderful. If you want to be great — wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s a new definition of greatness. … By giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great … by giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great. … You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know [Einstein’s] theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. And you can be that servant.

Melodious, powerful, and inspiring. I don’t love that they pull bits and pieces from the sermon and splice them together, but I’ll let it slide. However, “The Drum Major Sermon” touches on a lot more than the greatness in service, including the danger of joining groups, the danger of mass consumption, and the danger of living beyond our means in order to satisfy the desire in us to be noticed, to be the drum major:

Now the presence of this instinct explains why we are so often taken by advertisers. You know, those gentlemen of massive verbal persuasion. And they have a way of saying things to you that kind of gets you into buying. In order to be a man of distinction, you must drink this whiskey. In order to make your neighbors envious, you must drive this type of car. (Make it plain) In order to be lovely to love you must wear this kind of lipstick or this kind of perfume. And you know, before you know it, you’re just buying that stuff. (Yes) That’s the way the advertisers do it.

But very seriously, it goes through life; the drum major instinct is real. (Yes) And you know what else it causes to happen? It often causes us to live above our means. (Make it plain) It’s nothing but the drum major instinct. Do you ever see people buy cars that they can’t even begin to buy in terms of their income? (Amen) [laughter] You’ve seen people riding around in Cadillacs and Chryslers who don’t earn enough to have a good T-Model Ford. (Make it plain) But it feeds a repressed ego.

So here’s what the commercial feels like when you take the portion of the sermon that actually calls out advertisers set to the images of the Ram commercial (posted by Nathan Robinson):

So, yeah, of all the speeches they chose to feature in this Ram ad, of course a car company picks and chooses lines from this sermon to sell us trucks. Dodge is getting a lot of negative press about this spot, but I wonder if they see it as a bad thing. Some VP at their creative agency –  probably named Chad –  is trying to convince a conference room of suits that this blowback is actually a good thing, using phrases like ‘zeitgeist’ and “earned media,” when we know damn well this ad was a disgrace and it all made us feel a little embarrassed just to be sitting there, bloated on wings and seven-layer dip and beer, watching a truck ad set to the soundtrack of one of the greatest minds and orators in American history.

If you really want to be moved, read the entire sermon here.- PAL  

Source: Here’s Where That Ram Ad Really Got Martin Luther King Jr. Wrong”, Michael Ballaban, Jalopnik (2/5/18)

TOB: How many ad executives saw (or heard the idea) before it was pitched to Dodge? How many people at Dodge saw it before it was made? How many people saw the finished product before it aired? It has to be in the hundreds. Hundreds of (I’m guessing mostly white) adult humans saw that ad and said, “Yeah. Hell yeah. Let’s run it! Let’s pay millions to run it!” It’s amazing that no one piped up and said, “Ya know…are we missing the point here?” As Phil said, even without knowing the context of the speech the ad is SO off-putting. There’s just something so bizarre about it. I don’t even get the point they’re trying to make, frankly. You can be great if you buy a Dodge? Get outta here! And then you read the context and it’s like the KKK using Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address:

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.

Out of context, I can definitely see the KKK using that. The Dodge truck is on the same level of stupid.

Jeff Fisher Might Be the Worst NFL Coach, Per Dollar Paid, Ever

Jeff Fisher is one of those names that people for years heard and thought, “Oh, that’s a good coach.” Fisher had some early success – riding a near-Super Bowl win on the backs of Steve McNair (RIP) and Eddie George, to an apparently undeserved reputation as a good football coach. But that Super Bowl appearance was in 1999, and it is quickly becoming clear, in just one season since his firing by the L.A. Rams, that Jeff Fisher is a truly awful coach, and has been for some time. In his final 12 seasons he went just 85-103, and won zero playoff games. Worse, look at how his most recent QBs, who all stunk under his tutelage, have suddenly come alive in just one season out from under his shadow.

Nick Foles was pretty good for a year or two in Philadelphia, before being traded to the Rams for Sam Bradford. Fisher was his new coach, and he suddenly sucked. Heading into 2016, Foles was the Rams’ starting QB. He had gone 7-9 the previous season (a very Fisherian record), but the team drafted Jared Goff, cut Foles, and Foles almost retired over it all. He was signed by the Eagles before this season, and last week Foles was named Super Bowl MVP as he led his team to the title, after everyone wrote them off following Carson Wentz’s injury.

After Foles was cut in 2016, Fisher named previous backup Case Keenum as the Rams’ starter to begin the 2016 season. Keenum was ok, and the team was 4-5 (again, so Fisherian) before being benched for Goff. Before this season, Keenum was signed by the Vikings and lead them to the #2 seed in the NFC and the NFC title game. He played incredibly well in doing so, being named to the Pro Bowl and genuinely looking like a good quarterback.

Goff, meanwhile, sat on the bench for nine games in 2016, then was thrown into the fire, sucked, and was widely considered a bust (except in this corner of the internet, ahem). This year? Fisher was fired and a 30-something wunderkind named Sean McVey was hired. McVey and Goff lead the Rams to the division title, and even running back Todd Gurley, who was horrible in 2016, was revitalized. Gurley lead the NFL in rushing and was named Offensive Player of the Year. Goff was named to the Pro Bowl.

The thread should be obvious: Jeff Fisher is such a horrible coach that with just ONE season of his absence one QB went from crappy and nearly out of the league to Super Bowl MVP, and two others went from seeming busts to Pro Bowlers. Remarkable, really.

At this point my only hope is Fisher goes to coach his dear alma mater, USC. Otherwise, please just stay retired. -TOB

Source: Jeff Fisher Must Be Arrested And Tried For His Crimes Against Football”, Samer Kalaf, Deadspin (02/05/2018)

PAL: Foles, Keenum, Goff. One QB turning it around the year after Fisher left would be an exception. Two could be a coincidence. But three? There’s really not a rebuttal to be made.

STOP IT: Moonlighting As Ballplayers

Russell Wilson was a very good baseball player. He was drafted in the 41st round out of high school (in 2007, there were 50 rounds, now there are 40 rounds). In 2010, after 3 years of college, he was drafted in the fourth round. That means he was a very legit MLB prospect. All you have to do is see this pic to know the guy could play a bit. 

As we all know, Russell Wilson is also very good at football. He’s a Super Bowl winning quarterback for the Seahawks. One of the 10 best people at playing quarterback in the world. He’s a professional football player now making about $22M a year.

But for him, it’s just not enough. He can’t just live out one childhood dream, he has to realize all of them. NFL quarterback: check. Married to a pop star: check. Play for the Yankees: kinda.

Per Peter King of SI:

Wilson, the Seattle Seahawks Pro Bowl quarterback, played parts of two seasons of minor-league baseball late in his college career and never got baseball out of his system. He’s made a couple of cameos in Rangers spring-training camp. But his heart has always been with the Yankees, and so the Rangers sent Wilson’s right to the Yankees Wednesday afternoon. He’ll likely spend a few days this spring in Yankees camp in Tampa.

“He’ll likely spend a few days this spring in Yankees camp in Tampa.” That’s the part that gets me. He’s not really pursuing a two-sport career; he just wants to be able to say he signed with the Yankees. Well of course Russell Wilson is a Yankees fan. He’s also a guy that googles “describing a beautiful woman,” then plagiarized the first result on Twitter.

Let’s just pause on the above for a second. I’ve seen this probably 20 times and it still is hilariously lazy on Wilson’s part.

Back to the story: these b.s. “signings” are so dumb. Billy Crystal, Garth Brooks, Russell Wilson all wanted to live out their childhood dreams, and because they are rich and famous some team gave them a jersey and let them out on the field. Not to get too in the weeds, but they are actually taking a small amount of time away from guys that are actually trying to get a roster spot.

I can’t believe I’m taking the side of Tim Tebow on anything, but at least he’s actually playing on the team full-time.

In short, Russell Wilson is multidimensionally lame. Not that anyone needed any more proof of this, but add this Yankees trade to the growing heap of evidence: he asked the Rangers to trade his fake contract to the Yankees when he has no intention of doing anything with that except posting a picture of himself on Instagram in a Yankees hat he could’ve bought at Sports Authority and adding some tired catchphrase like “Dare 2 Dream”. This is the work of a cake-eater, my friends. -PAL

Source: Russell Wilson On Being Traded to the Yankees”, Peter King, MMQB (2/7/18)

TOB: Apparently, when you’re a dad of two you have nothing better to do on the night before the Super Bowl than watch the NFL awards show. God, it’s the worst. I sat there watching it and thinking, “What am I doing? This is horrendous. It’s not even bad enough to hate-watch, or bad enough to laugh at, it’s just boringly bad and here I am on a Saturday night watching it.” And then Russell Wilson came on stage.

Look at him! No, ignore Ciara for two seconds. Look at Russell Wilson. He’s the tooliest tool of all time. Phil stole the words out of my mouth: of COURSE he’s a Yankees fan. Look at his friends, man!

Did you know his twitter handle is DangeRussWilson. DANGER-RUSS. C’mon, dude. You’re not dangerous. You’re so safe.

PAL: HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! This dude is almost 30 and he’s calling himself Danger-russ. Priceless.

Video of the Week (explicit, but so worth it): Please note that Kelce is considered one of the best centers in the game. He’s not a WWF wrestler. No joke, this got me jacked up for work today.

PAL Song of the Week: Johnny Cash – “Tennessee Stud”

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If you had any friends, you would understand. Friends joke with one another. “Hey, um, you’re poor.” “Well hey, your mom is dead.” That’s what friends do.

-M. Scott

Week of February 2, 2018

Phil Kessel is the greatest.

Keep Your Strava To Yourself

I’m a sucker for Strava. I like tracking my runs, staying on top of weekly goals, seeing progress over longer periods of time, and – I’ll admit it – when I really kick-ass, I like to put that ish out in public. Most of the people I know use some sort of fitness tracker with some regularity. Since no one particularly cares where you or I live, the map of my our bikes/runs is of no interest to most.

There are people, or groups of people, whose patterns are definitely of interest.

Recently, Strava posted a global heat map to show two years worth of accumulated activity patterns of its users (they report 27MM users). To no surprise, major cities are a burst of light, but it gets interesting when you zoom into dark patches, especially in war zones.

In war zones and deserts in countries such as Iraq and Syria, the heat map becomes almost entirely dark — except for scattered pinpricks of activity. Zooming in on those areas brings into focus the locations and outlines of known U.S. military bases, as well as of other unknown and potentially sensitive sites — presumably because American soldiers and other personnel are using fitness trackers as they move around.

I’m sure you see why this is unsettling, and it should come as no surprise that the branches of the military are immediately reviewing their policies around fitness tracking.  

Who was the first person to make the connection between military positions and Strava’s Global Heat Map? A student, of course.

Nathan Ruser, who is studying international security and the Middle East, found out about the map from a mapping blog and was inspired to look more closely, he said, after a throwaway comment by his father, who observed that the map offered a snapshot of “where rich white people are” in the world.

“I wondered, does it show U.S. soldiers?” Ruser said, and he immediately zoomed in on Syria. “It sort of lit up like a Christmas tree.”

He started tweeting about his discovery, and the Internet also lit up as data analysts, military experts and former soldiers began scouring the map for evidence of activity in their areas of interest.

It just goes to show you – everyone loves a good humblebrag after working out. Until now, I’d say no one wants to hear about your run. Turns out, there might be an exception to that rule. – PAL

Source: U.S. Soldiers are Revealing Sensitive and Dangerous Information by Jogging”, Liz Sly, The Washington Post (01/29/2018)

TOB: As a non-runner, this story really amused me.

Mark Appel Is More Than A Bust

The Houston Astros, 2017 World Series Champions, drafted Stanford’s Mark Appel as the number one pick in the 2013 amatuer draft. He signed a $6.35MM bonus. He was taken ahead of Kris Bryant (2016 N.L. MVP) and Aaron Judge (2017 A.L. Rookie of the Year, MLB Record for HRs by a rookie with 52).

He was to be the centerpiece of the Astros resurgence. General Manager Jeff Lunhow described him as “the most significant investment the Astros have made in their history in an amateur player”. Hell, he is a prominent figure in the now famous 2014 SI article predicting the Astros 2017 championship.

Appel remains in exclusive company. He is one of three number one overall picks to have never played in a MLB game. At 26, after years of struggles in the minors, Appel is stepping away from baseball. Yep, he’s a huge baseball bust.

But what’s so interesting about Joon Lee’s article catching up with Appel is that Appel seems pretty OK with how things have turned out, and not in a I’m telling you, really, I’m fine with it, but deep down it’s eating me alive way. He really seems to have some perspective on it all…I guess $6.35MM doesn’t hurt, but still.

I’m a guy who loves a game, who had expectations, goals and dreams and then has had everything tumbling, and then everything was unmet. Would I have loved to be pitching in the World Series? Absolutely. Some people have real struggles. I played baseball. I thought I was going to be great, and I wasn’t.

To be honest, if I had that much potential heaped on me and didn’t at least get to the bigs, I really think it would tear me up inside. And maybe he’s just saying the right things to cope, but there is frankness to Appel in this article that has me rooting for him, regardless of the next steps entail.

About the picture above: after yet another disappointing appearance in the minors, Appel returned to the locker room unable to ignore the fact that it was falling apart. He was crying. Frustrated and infuriated. He picked up a ball and hurled it across the clubhouse. Then he did it again and again and again.

For 30 minutes, Appel threw 80 baseballs at the wall, cracking through the board and hitting the wall with a thud. When he was finished, he sat down, breathing heavily, grunting. Ten minutes after the noise ended, Appel’s teammate, Josh Hader, walked out of the bathroom. He had heard the entire ordeal and was too scared to leave the stall. The pair laughed before Hader returned to the field and silence filled the room. Appel heard the crowd cheering outside, the air conditioner purring in the background.

Rather than pay the $600 to have someone repair it, Appel went to Home Depot to buy some wood and stain that matched the clubhouse. He repaired it himself. Maybe I’m being too simplistic or only seeing one piece of the puzzle, but that says a lot to me about the guy. – PAL

Source: Why Mark Appel, Perhaps the Biggest Bust in MLB History, Is Stepping Away at 26”, Joon Lee, Bleacher Report (02/01/2018)

TOB: Classic Stanford Man: a highly rated guy, who gets so angry when things don’t go well that he throws baseballs at a wall for 30 minutes, and then claims he’s ok with his failure because other people have bigger problems. WELL, I’M NOT BUYING IT, MARK. Classic Stanford Man. Classic. Try really hard at something, fail, claim you’re fine without it because my life is still effing great. These are the lessons learned at Stanford (looking at you, Al). Enjoy your job in finance, Mark. 

Q: How Low Can You Go? A: Stealing 5K Race Medals

In the words of Mr. 5K, Ryan Mark Rowe, the best approach to a road race is to think of it like the first day in prison. “Be invisible, no eye contact, look out for #1…and stretch.”

Put another way (although Mr. 5K really came through on that quote), there is some basic decorum to running in a race, be it a marathon, half, 10k, or 5k.

  1. Unless you have a legit shot to win the damn thing, don’t sprint out to the lead off the starting line
  2. Don’t sprint through the finish line unless you have miraculously found yourself in contention to win the damn thing.
  3. Don’t shove your way through the crowd right at the start – you should’ve been there earlier if you’re looking to P.R.
  4. Don’t collect a medal if you hopped into the race without registering.

That last one seems pretty obvious. While I’ve hopped into plenty of road races, you don’t collect a medal at the end. One time, my sister was running the Napa Marathon. The plan was I join her somewhere between mile 16 and 19, depending on how she was feeling, to give her a little company during the dark miles. My brother-in-law and I stayed out pretty late at the bar the night before, but I wasn’t sweating it – I had plenty of time to get my wits about me in the morning.

We saw Missy at mile 11. It was a hot day, and she clearly wasn’t feeling it on that morning. She asked me to hop in at mile 11! That was a long 15 miles.

And when we approached the finish line, I did what any non-registered runner would do – I peeled off, knowing my job was complete. I sure as shit didn’t collect a medal from a race for which I neither registered nor completed.

This was not the case at the Miami Marathon this past weekend, and the race director didn’t let it slide. Not only did he take medals from people without bibs, the dude filmed it!

There’s cheap, then there’s taking a medal when you didn’t pay the $35 for a 5K registration. There’s also a name for these losers: ‘banditing’. Get a life. – PAL

Source: Race Bandits Attempt to Steal Medals at Miami Marathon”, Tim Hubsch, Canadian Running (01/30/2018)

TOB: It’s just so weird. Why steal these? You didn’t earn it, so it has no sentimental value to you. You can’t sell them, because no one would buy them – no one cares about your marathon medal when you earned it (the ultimate participation award), why would they care about one you didn’t earn?

Hot Sauce Still Has It

You remember Hot Sauce, the breakout star of ESPN’s mid-00s street ball show, And1 – a modernized Harlem Globetrotters. Hot Sauce had the craziest handles, and he would clown on everyone who tried to guard him.

Damn, that show was the best. Well, Hot Sauce is still around, and the Atlanta Hawks have been inviting him to games to do his thing with random people from the crowd. if they prevent him from scoring, they get a little cash, and if they steal the ball from him, they get more. It goes about how you’d expect, usually like this:

Aw, bro. And that’s when Hot Sauce likes you. Word to the wise, do not piss off Hot Sauce, or he’ll do you like this guy:

Ohhhh nooooooooooooooooo! -TOB

Source: Forcing Hawks Fans To Try And Guard Hot Sauce Is Very Cruel And Very Funny“, Tom Ley, Deadspin (01/30/2018)

Video of the Week:

PAL Song of the Week: Etta James – “I’d Rather Go Blind”

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Michael, the last time I was exposed to a peanut, I was itchy for three days, ok? I had to take baths constantly. I missed the O.J. verdict. I had to read about it in the paper like an idiot.

-D. Vickers

Week of January 19, 2018

My 2018 mantra. 

The Case for Organizational Stability

This is a really good article, exploring how two different NBA teams dealt differently with trade demands, and where they stand now. Last summer, two of the best NBA teams had their second best player come to the team and demand a trade. One of those teams gave in, making almost no effort to repair the issues leading to the demand. The other team refused and addressed the player’s concerns. A look at where those teams and players are now is a fascinating look at how to handle an unhappy player.

The latter, the San Antonio Spurs, told LaMarcus Aldridge, “Nah.” Well, they told him they’d trade him if they could get a player like Kevin Durant in return. Which…lolololol. Instead, Aldridge and coach Greg Popovich met over dinner and wine a number of times. They discussed the issues. Popovich realized he was a big part of the problem – Aldridge has been in the league for a long time, playing at a high level, and Pop was trying to force his square peg into a round hole. Aldridge’s play is much improved this year, putting up the best numbers since his apex in Portland.

The former, the Cleveland Cavaliers, traded Kyrie Irving. Owner Dan Gilbert made no effort to change Irving’s mind, and traded him a short time later without ever talking to Irving again. Irving, finally out of LeBron’s shadow, is excelling in Boston. The Cavs are stuck in a roller coaster season. They just got Isaiah Thomas, the centerpiece of the return they received from the Celtics, back from a pre-existing injury. The team is having trouble integrating their new, ball-dominant point guard. It’s hard to imagine the team is not wishing they had a do-over.

This isn’t really surprising. The Spurs have been fantastic for decades, and continue to be very good even after Tim Duncan’s retirement. The Cavaliers, meanwhile, for years have been buoyed only by the greatest talent in NBA history, in spite of the terrible ownership and management around him. It’s good to be the King, but I have to imagine LeBron looks at what Irving is doing in Boston and is really frustrated. -TOB

Source: How Cavs, Spurs Handled Trade Demands by Stars is Worlds Apart”, Brian Windhorst, ESPN (01/16/2018)

PAL: Agreed – solid story. Having said that, Pop is respected and in charge. As the owner, Gilbert is in charge, but all decisions are made with only one consideration: LeBron James. It’s the only logical approach for the Cavs. He is truly a force unto himself, but here’s an instance where that might not be a good thing.

Protecting Larry Nassar

By now you’ve likely heard of Larry Nassar. He was the doctor who sexually abused hundreds young female gymnasts while serving as a physician at gymnastics clubs, Michigan State, and the Olympic team. He did all of this under the guise of medical treatment. It’s a disgusting, twisted, tragic story. A hard read, to be sure, but you really should read the link below.

As we learned with the Jerry Sandusky/Penn State and the Catholic church scandals, for atrocities like decades of sexual assault to take place there must also exist a culture of enablement. A different culture where the athletes/children’s wellbeing is first doesn’t change monsters like Sandusky or Nassar, but they certainly aren’t allowed to continue irrevocably damaging lives for decades.

Understanding how Nassar gained unfettered access to young girls and young women over the course of a quarter-century — despite repeated warning signs — means confronting an uncomfortable truth: He didn’t gain that access alone. Nassar was surrounded by a collection of adults who enabled his predatory behavior — a group that included coaches of club, collegiate and elite-level gymnasts, the USA Gymnastics organization, medical professionals, administrators and coaches at Michigan State University, and gymnasts’ parents, whom he groomed just as effectively as those he violated. Now that so much of the Nassar tragedy has been exposed, a lingering question remains: Were each of those enablers complicit or simply conned by a man described as a master manipulator?

As you will read in this story, the amount of times that girls and women had the courage to speak up about Nassar – truly believing doing so would put their gymnastic dreams at risk – only to be ignored or accused of outright lying is staggering. And then there are the women who were victim to his abuse at such a young age that they didn’t even know enough to know what he was doing was wrong.

Michigan State University allowed him to continue to treat athletes, and allow intravaginal treatments while under criminal investigation for sexual assault. “At least” 12 women have accused him of sexual assault during that time period.

USA Gymnastics also didn’t want to address the accusations around Nassar. The timing wasn’t good for them, as the Summer Games in Rio were fast-approaching. According to a mother of a gymnast who accused Nasser of abuse, the president of USAG, Steve Penny, called her and told her, “We need to keep this quiet.”

Gina Nichols says Penny repeated his initial request for discretion in several conversations over the ensuing months, requests that struck her, an operating room nurse, and her husband John, a physician, as odd. Penny, Gina Nichols says, put them in an impossible situation and “was in a position of authority over me and my husband. Our whole family gave up everything so we could put [Maggie] on this road.”

As medical professionals, the Nichols are both required by law to immediately report suspected child sex abuse to authorities, but, out of concern they would hurt their daughter’s future in the sport — and because they had been told Nassar had already been reported and any action on their part might jeopardize the investigation — they remained silent.

Sadly, parents like the Nichols played a role in enabling the abuse to continue. Many of them were friends with Nassar, and would drop their children off for treatments. It was a point of pride – their daughters were being treated by the physician treating Olympians. For some, they never knew what was going on, but others simply wouldn’t believe their daughters when they told their parents what was taking place.

Of all the terrible stories, this was the hardest one for me to read:

Stephens, whose father did not believe that she had been abused, says the fact she refused to apologize to Nassar was a constant subject in what had become a contentious relationship with her father. She says he branded her as a liar. Her father suffered from chronic debilitating physical pain throughout much of her life, and she says the cocktail of drugs he was prescribed to manage that affected his mental well-being.

A month before she left for college in 2010, she decided it was time to try again to tell her father that Nassar had assaulted her.

“I wasn’t lying,” she remembers telling him, before his hand shot out and pinned her neck to the chair where she was sitting. “Then he said — well, he growled, ‘What did you say?’ I gasped, ‘I wasn’t lying.’ He said it again. I was basically choking, and I said, ‘I. Was. Not. Lying.’ He just crumpled. You could see his face just completely shatter, like, ‘Holy shit, this 18-year-old doesn’t have any reason to stick to that story at this point.’ He just sat on the couch and just stared into space for a while.”

On March 30, 2016, he died by suicide.

Again, this is a hard read, but it’s important for obvious reasons. It’s also a reminder of the kind of quality reporting can be done when enough attention is given to a story. – PAL

Source: Nassar surrounded by adults who enabled his predatory behavior”, John Barr & Dan Murphy, ESPN (1/16/18)

How Big of an Asterisk Do You Got?

This is one of those instances when I’m not sure what’s better: the story or the subtext. Fresh off the Minneapolis Miracle (see video below), the Minnesota Vikings are one single win against a backup QB away from being the first team to host the Super Bowl.

The usual rule with regards to ticket allocation is the following:

  • 17.5% to NFC team season ticket holders
  • 17.5% to AFC team season ticket holders
  • 5% to host team ticket holders (in this instance, that would also be the Vikings)
  • The rest is divvied up amongst NFL sponsors, “auxiliary press”, and – you know – rich people with connections.

If the Vikings win against Philly, they would split that 5% with the AFC team, meaning both teams would have ~20% of the capacity seating. At US Bank Stadium, that breaks down to a little over 13K seats that season ticket holders, picked by random drawing (please), can have the opportunity to purchase for $950.

Nearly 40K of the 66,655 of the seats will be held for the sponsors and whatever the hell “auxiliary press” means. I knew sponsors get a good chunk of the tickets, but I didn’t know it was that high.

OK, so this story amounts to an interesting factoid, but the subtext here is fantastic. While the comments are pretty mellow, I can just feel Vikings fans gripping while reading this story. Do I mention the story to a friend? Does the mention of it jinx the entire thing? If I win the drawing do I go, or do I sell the tickets, and what does that say about my fandom? Life is about the experiences!…but 8K sure would help out right about now.  

I promise you all of these scenarios are racing through every Minnesota fan’s mind. 

By the way, the photo up top has nothing to do with this story. I had to share what appears to be the dumbest collection of tattoos this side of Arnoldisdead- (yes, that’s real). An NFL shield, the classic barbed wire, the Vikings head, “Freak” in with an old English font, and what appears to be a Cowboys star.  – PAL

Source: If The Vikings reach Super Bowl season ticket-holders find out Monday if they can buy tickets”, Ben Goessling, Star Tribune (1/17/18)

This Is Not a Political Story

But it sure is funny. As you might know, Donald Trump’s doctor released a few details from his annual check-up. Among them, Trump is listed at 6’3, 237 pounds. As the article points out, Trump claims to be a great athlete: “I was always the best athlete, people don’t know that.” Totally, Don. Dan Gartland helpfully puts Trump’s stats into context, comparing him to professional athletes of similar proportion. A sampling:

That Trump, what a great athlete. h/t Michael Kapp -TOB

Source: “Athletes Who Are the Same Size as Donald Trump”, Dan Gartland, Sports Illustrated (01/16/2018)

PAL: Love this. Humor me: what would your reaction be if a friend told you, “I was always the best athlete, people don’t know that.” I’ll answer on your behalf: You would scoff, then tell him to shut the hell up, and then never completely trust his opinion from that moment until the day you die.

Also, there is no friggin’ way he’s 237. Not a chance in hell. 267 maybe, but not 237.

Videos of the Week: 

PAL’s Song of the Week: Sean Rowe – “Newton’s Cradle” (c/o Jamie Morganstern)

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I thought about getting a tattoo on my back as well at one point. I was thinking about getting ‘Back to the Future’. ‘Back’ because it’s on my back. And ‘Future’ because I’m the kinda guy who likes to look ahead, into the future. I just think a tattoo should mean something, you know? And it’s my second favorite movie.