Week of July 5, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 9.54.26 PM

How about our team?


More Than A Game: USA Women’s World Cup Victory

I was back home in Minnesota over the Fourth of July. Coming from large family (5 siblings, 17 nieces and nephew at last count), trips home are delightfully filled to the brim with dinners, youth games, late night beers, errands, and – on this occasion – work. It’s rare for me to find myself in the house alone, but that was the case during the USA’s semifinal match against Germany. I’d yet to watch this USA team play, but the collective talent on the field was clear in an instant. I was into it, man! Without knowing Germany was actually the favorite, I just assumed the USA team would prevail, which they did thanks in large part to two penalty kicks (a miss by Germany and a gift call that led to a USA goal). I expected a US Soccer team to win a Wold Cup match. Have we ever assumed the US men’s team would win a World Cup match?

Many celebratory articles and posts have been made about the USA victory, but Maggie Mertens puts the triumph into a global, social context. Take, for instance this stat:  “A recent analysis by Public Radio International showed that the greatest predictor of a nation’s women’s soccer team’s success was gender equality—more than even the country’s GDP or overall interest in soccer.” The US women certainly made us proud of their victory, but the fact the team’s dominance is a long-earned result of a much larger movement is reason for even more celebration. -PAL

Source: A Different Kind Of Party At The Women’s World Cup, Maggie Mertens, Screamer (7/9/15)


Who Let The Dogs Out: A Retrospective on the biggest stadium anthem of all-time

The first “Sports Anthem” I can recall brings me back to a better time. A time when the NHL team in Minnesota was called the North Stars, the jersey was a classic, and they were a team of destiny before running into a young Mario Lemieux and an even younger Jaromir Jagr in the Stanley Cup Finals. The year was 1991. A good year in Minnesota sports to say the least. The song name might not mean a thing – “Rock And Roll Part 2” – but it’s that “Hey Song”. The next song that comes to mind is the terrible, no good, awful “Who Let The Dogs Out”. While the song is brutal, the marketing behind it was trailblazing.

Mercury record executive Steve Greenberg pins down the genius: “Most songs peak on radio. ‘Who Let the Dogs Out’ peaked at the World Series. It was the biggest sports anthem ever, in the sense that it got all its strength from being a sports anthem, and the radio was secondary. It was the only hit record that was ever like that.”

But why this song, of all songs? “Herschel Small, one of the band’s longtime guitarists, suggests that the song managed to tick all the boxes that 15 years later are common to many viral Internet memes: dogs and sports and kids.” I hate this song, but I love the story behind it. – PAL

Source: How ‘Who Let The Dogs Out’ forever changed music’s place in sports, Ben Reiter, Sports Illustrated (7/8/15)

TOB: This article is hilarious, especially with the producer of “WLTDO” (yes, they use that initialism), Steve Greenberg, trying to defend the quality of that god awful song. “Dogs’ is a really good record. That’s why it won a Grammy. It’s tight, it’s colorful, it’s infectious. There was magic in that record.” I literally LOL’d when I read that. I also dispute his assertion, as quoted by Phil, that it was the biggest sports anthem ever. What about The Macarena? WHAT ABOUT THE MACARENA? I remember being at an Oakland A’s game in the height of Macarena Fever, and even the construction guys hard at working building “Mt. Davis” in the Coliseum’s outfield stopped to dance to the Macarena. I don’t know which song was worse, but I do know which was more of a cultural phenomenon: The Macarena hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 (and stayed there for FOURTEEN weeks!) and went 4x Platinum. Who Let the Dogs Out only got to #40 (40!) on the Hot 100 and the album went 3x Platinum. Case closed. Verdict entered for the Macarena.


Bartolo Colon is one Fat, Old, Impressive Baseball Player

He was a Major League pitcher before Monica Lewinsky was an intern at the White House. Bartolo Colon’s longevity is, as writer Dan Barry puts it, “confounding,” even without the fact that he’s not exactly a fitness freak (read: fat), but it goes beyond durability with him. “Consider the Mets rookie Noah Syndergaard, 22 years old and able to throw at 99 miles an hour. In the Colon paradigm, Darling said [former pitcher and Mets broadcaster Ron Darling], Syndergaard “would have to have the ability, in 2035, to throw the ball 92 miles an hour. In a big league game.” Even with the PED suspension a few years back, Colon’s career and journey from the Dominican Republic reads more like folklore than biography. – PAL

Source: Defying Time and Space”, Dan Barry, New York Times (7/9/15)


Video of the Week 


PAL Song of the week: The Dramatics – “Gimme Some” (Good Soul Music)

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“Pontoon boat? What the hell are you gonna do with a pontoon boat? Retake Omaha Beach?”

– Roman Craig

 

 

Week of June 22, 2015

What’s missing?


Blowback on a Whistleblower

This article made me sad, but it’s a good read. We have covered the Jackie Robinson West (JRW) Little League team a couple times now – first during their run to the U.S. title last summer, and subsequently when that title was stripped after an investigation revealed the team had used players outside their league’s boundaries. JRW’s run had inspired many, as a team comprised entirely of black kids from Chicago proved that baseball is not dead in the inner-cities, so people were understandably upset when their title was stripped. Much of that ire was directed at Chris Janes, a coach from a rival Little League from suburban Chicago, who was the person that alerted Little League officials to JRW’s use of ineligible players. The fallout was not pretty. Janes was accused of racism and received death threats, and at the height of his stress became involved in an unrelated but bizarre, drunken incident. Janes seems like a good guy, and he says after all he’s been through, he’d be the whistleblower again. I find it sad that he had to go through all that. It’s shameful that adults would have broken the rules, which only hurt these kids (and the teams they beat along the way) to begin with. And it’s even more shameful that the whistleblower is blamed by adults who should know better. -TOB

Source: Little League, Big Trouble: Jackie Robinson West Whistleblower Chris Janes Pays the Price”, David Mendell, SB Nation (06/24/2015)

PAL: A must read. “A handful of JRW players had received public congratulations from a congresswoman, a suburban mayor and others who hailed from outside JRW’s boundaries, with each specifically noting that players lived or went to school in their locales, outside the area served by JRW.” Through the first quarter of this story, I thought it was pretty clear. The Jackie Robinson West team broke the rules by bringing in ringers to excel in competition at a 12 year-old level. Pathetic. Although nothing changes that fact, the story does a great job presenting the other factors at play. This is a strange mix of politics, race, alcohol, whistleblowers, and Little League; Dave Mendell does a great job telling this story, but what would I give to read Hunter S. Thompson take a swing at this one in his prime.

Consider this: At a time when roughly 8% of Major League Baseball players are black (down from 19% in 1986), we had an all-black Little League team from the inner city winning the most feel-good, apple pie, American sporting event – the U.S. championship of Little League World Series. Remember, JRW’s run in Williamsport coincided with Mo’ne Davis taking the public by storm in becoming the first girl to pitch a shutout in the LLWS. We had feel good stories at the feel good event of the summer.

There’s no getting around it – the Jackie Robinson West team shamelessly broke a clear rule. They brought ringers in from outside of the boundaries. That’s weak. But the youth team’s rise and downfall unleashed emotions about issues far more complex than Little League.


Don’t Give In To Pete Rose

Most hits in MLB history. Fantastic player by all accounts. A competitive, team player. World Series titles. His play merits an induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, which is littered with racists, drug abusers, misogynists, and all around despicable people. After all, it’s a museum, not a hall of community leaders. So he bet on baseball. Who cares? Put him in with an asterisk and tell the old man to shut up already.

I care. I’m surprised by how much I care, actually. He broke a rule fundamental to the legitimacy of the sport I love the most. When players determining the outcome of the game gamble on the game, then how far away are we from wrestling? Fittingly, Rose appeared on WrestleMania between 1998-2000. More than the rule he broke, his brazen style of lying for decades really sticks in my craw. He infamously set up shop during induction weekend across the street from the Hall of Fame and sign copies of the Dowd Report (the investigation finding Rose to have bet on baseball as a manager for the Reds).

He continued to gamble. Then he cashed in on his lies and came clean in an autobiography… only he didn’t come clean! He lied in his admission. Oh, and by the way, Pete Rose voluntarily accepted his place on the permanently ineligible list. The Hall of Fame and managing are the two things in his baseball life that he’s wanted and has been told “no.” He’s not in prison (although he did do a stint for tax evasion). By multiple accounts he makes millions in appearance fees and memorabilia signings. So that’s the punishment. Rose doesn’t get what he wants just because he really wants it. -PAL

Source: “Pete Rose still belongs in the Hall of Fame”, Jayson Stark, ESPN (6/23/15)

TOB: Please read Jayson Stark’s article to get my position on this subject. But it basically boils down to: How can you have a Baseball Hall of Fame without some of the greatest players who played? This goes for Bonds and Clemens, too. I understand Phil’s anger, I guess. But I feel bad for Pete Rose. I do. Yes, he’s made millions signing autographs (though that would not have changed had he been reinstated). And yes, he’s not a likeable guy (though that would not make him unique in the baseball Hall of Fame). And yes, he accepted his punishment (though he was always eligible to be reinstated). But come on, how can you not feel for a guy who lost everything he cared about because he couldn’t stop gambling? Presumably, he has a disease, a gambling addiction for which he has paid a terrible price. He’s old. I doubt he has 10 years left. It’s time to let the guy into the Hall of Fame. It’s BASEBALL. It’s a SPORT. It’s a HALL OF FAME. It should be fun, and it should not be taken this seriously. The guy never hurt anyone. He bet on baseball games (there is zero evidence or even accusations that he ever bet against his team or that he threw a game). I understand the need to punish him, so that his crimes are not committed by others. But it’s been 25 years! It’s time. Put Pete Rose in the Hall, write on his plaque that he gambled on baseball and was banned for 25 years, and end this guy’s pain.


When Two Douchebags Fight, We All Win

On Monday afternoon, Sean Combs aka P.Diddy aka Puff Daddy went to the UCLA football offices to talk to strength coach Sal Alosi. An argument ensued, and during the argument Diddy picked up a kettlebell and allegedly swung it at somebody (Diddy claims he merely picked up the kettlebell and held it up in self-defense). Diddy’s son Justin is on the UCLA football team, though he does not get much playing time. Diddy’s camp is now claiming that Alosi had picked on and bullied Justin for years, culminating in Alosi sending Justin home on Monday, and telling him not to return until the end of the summer. This prompted Diddy to go to UCLA to talk to Alosi, and ended in Diddy’s arrest.

Undoubtedly, Diddy is an entitled jackass, but I don’t doubt for one second that Sal Alosi is a jerk and a bully. He’s a strength coach, which is a job notorious for employing meatheads of the highest order. On top of that, Alosi gained national notoriety a few years ago, when as a coach for the Jets, he intentionally tripped a Dolphins player during a punt return. When I realized who this coach was, and then heard the Diddy-camp’s claims that Alosi had bullied Justin, it did not surprise me in the least.

Amidst all the coverage of this story, I found this great tidbit from former UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel, who recruited Justin Comb to UCLA:

“I took them on their campus tour. A half-hour into it, (Diddy) asked me who I was. He said, ‘Tell me what you do, Rick.’ I said, ‘I’m the head football coach here.’ He said, ‘You’re giving us the tour?’ I said, ‘Absolutely, this is my school. This is where I went. I want to give you a feel of what it’s like to be a student.’ …”When you’re weighing the assets of what a youngster can do for your program, there’s no question (being Diddy’s son) had something to do with it for me. Justin is a great kid. His problem was his size. He’s not big enough to be a dominant player. Could he be productive? Yes. The fact his father was an influential guy played into my decision to go ahead and offer him.”

The decision to use a scholarship on Diddy for his dad’s fame is such an L.A. thing to do. And Diddy being on a tour with Rick Neuheisel, a fairly famous college coach, for a half hour and not knowing who he is, is also an incredibly L.A. thing. Everyone looks bad in this story – UCLA, Neuheisel, Diddy, Alosi, and current UCLA coach Jim Mora, Jr. Accordingly, I enjoyed it thoroughly. -TOB

Source: Rick Neuheisel: Diddy Combs’ Celebrity Led to Son’s UCLA Offer”, Mike Huguenin, NFL.com (06/24/2015)

PAL: I heard this all stems from Ma$e’s son jumping Diddy’s son on the depth chart.


Brotherly Brawls

The Buffalo News ran a long feature on Rex Ryan this week. It’s a great read. During the 49ers coaching “search” this offseason (I say “search” because they clearly had no intention of ever hiring anyone but in-house guy Jim Tomsula), I campaigned openly for them to go after Rex. Mostly because he is a very good coach. But also because he is fun. This is a perfect example, a story of the time Rex and his twin brother Rob got into a fist fight because Rex wouldn’t join Rob on a double date:

They were students at Southwestern Oklahoma State. Rob wanted to take a lady on a date and needed Rex to be his wingman. Rex wasn’t down for the mission because he’d already met Micki, the woman he would marry.

Rob: “I was a solo rider and had a babe on the line. But she had a friend. I said, ‘You know, come on. Be a team player.’ ”

Rex: “I said, ‘Dude, I’m staying at home today.’ ”

Rob: “So after a few hundred beers I said, ‘You need to help out.’ He didn’t, so I was pissed and got in a wrestling match with him. I think he was a lot more sober than I was.”

Rex: “I was bigger and was just going to throw his ass down. But he reversed me and got on top. So we went at it. We ended up outside, and here he comes.”

Rob: “I ran after him, and he had a right hand waiting for me. I never saw it coming. Still haven’t seen it.”

Rex: “I got him good, and it was over. I felt terrible. I couldn’t believe I hit my brother like that.”

Rex was furious and, as keeper of the car key, drove off to clear his head. Tatters of a bloody shirt hung off him.

“I get pulled over by a cop. He sees me and doesn’t know what he’s got,” Rex said with a gleaming-white smile. “I said, ‘I just got in a fight with my brother. You can take me back there, and he’ll explain it.’

“They take me to jail and then called my brother. He said, ‘Nah, leave him in there.’ ”

Rob’s ankle was broken during the wrestling portion of the match, and his nose broken during the boxing portion. When they arrived in New Orleans for Super Bowl week, Rob’s ankle was in a cast. “We both had black eyes,” Rob said. Buddy wasn’t amused.

Is it too late to hire Rex? Damn. -TOB

Source: The Wild Early Years and the Football Family That Shaped Bills Coach Rex Ryan”, Tim Graham, Buffalo News (06/22/2015)


Video of the Week

Might be my favorite video we’ve ever featured. -TOB


PAL Song of the week: Roger Miller – “Oo-De-Lally” . Check out all of our weekly picks here (they’re super good).


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“Just remember. It’s not a lie if you believe it.”

– G. Costanza

 

 

Week of June 1, 2015

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie bats during the first inning of the “True Blue” benefit celebrity softball game at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, June 3, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

No comment.


Steve Kerr: Good Dude

Steve Kerr is a five-time NBA champion as a player, and his Golden State Warriors are presently up 1-0 in the NBA Finals in his first year as an NBA coach. He is quite possibly my favorite person in sports – earnest, honest, unflappable, a great father, and above all else he seems kind, which is a rarity in his world. But there was a time when Steve Kerr was just a scared, lonely, 18-year old kid, just weeks into college, when he received news that his father, a university president in Beirut, had been assassinated by a terrorist organization. Kerr’s family was scattered throughout the world at that point. He could have packed it in and left college. I don’t think too many people would have faulted him. Instead, he marched on. As his college teammate Bruce Fraser says, “It feels strange to say this, but…I think the death of his father helped Steve as a basketball player, because he realized it was just basketball.” I am sure that if given the choice, Kerr would take his dad over his basketball career, but it does give some insight into how he has become such a truly decent person, when so many people in sports are not. Kerr understands – this is a game, it is not life, and he is lucky to have created such a great life by playing a game. -TOB

Source: The Assassination of Steve Kerr’s Father and the Unlikely Story of a Champion”, Chris Korman, USA Today (06/03/2015)

PAL: I wish this focused less on Kerr’s biography following his dad’s death and more about how he struggled and/or dealt with the tragedy. That wish isn’t likely to come true. By all accounts, Kerr doesn’t talk about it much, and his friends follow his lead. I understand. I’ve heard Kerr on a couple podcasts and on his weekly interviews with Tom Tolbert, and this guy comes off like the real deal. Sincere, funny, and – judging by this story – a hard-ass competitor. There’s not a lot of bluster to him, and I like that. I was just talking to TOB, and we agreed – we’d like to be more like Kerr than, say, a Tom Thibodeau if we were coaches (we’re talking about coaching a Little League team to greatness next year). Kerr seems like a good dude who’s succeeded following a horrible tragedy, and though that storyline might seem cliché on the surface, his version of it is unique in sports. With that said, I don’t understand how he remained at school instead of going to Beirut for the services after his dad’s death.


Glory Days: The One Dude Who Struck Out Joe Mauer In High School

I grew up playing against Joe Mauer in Minnesota. Before he was “Baby Jesus” (as he’s sometimes referred to in Minnesota), he was right there with the rest of us in the Catholic School league games, the youth summer camps at Hill-Murray, and the 6:00 PM games at Concordia (no fence). He was “one of us”, or at least it felt like it for about 5 minutes when he was about 10, and then it became clear his talent was from a stratosphere the rest of us could never even see with a telescope. He struck out one time in high school. Once. Here’s a story about the regular dude who did it. – PAL

Source: 15 years later, Paul Feiner’s high school strikeout of Mauer still resonates”, Tyler Mason, Fox Sports North (6/1/15)

TOB: So much to like about this story. How does Joe Mauer strike out only once his entire high school career? How does the guy who strikes him out look like…that? How is it that the guy who struck him out now runs a sports website and has a media credential for Twins games, and Phil and I don’t have squat? Wait, that’s the one part I don’t like.


No Back Talk, Please

This is one of the funniest things I’ve read in a long time. This week, the New York Times re-ran an article introducing then-Boston Red Sox pitcher Babe Ruth to its readers after he dominated the New York Yankees, 100 years after its first publication, on June 3, 1915. The article is short, but I highly recommend that you read it. It reads as almost a parody of old-timey sportswriting. Examples: “As the sky promised to weep and Old Boy Fahrenheit was flirting with the freezing point…a crowd of about 500 were exposed to the pneumonia germs… a teeth-chattering, shivery afternoon was had by all.” And, “…but Umpire Dineen calculated that the run counted. No back talk, please.” And, “Ruth was then at bat. The big pitcher’s architectural make-up is of such a nature that it doesn’t lend itself to speed. He rather rolls along.” It goes on, and you will laugh. -TOB

Source: Left-Hander Ruth Puzzles YankeesNew York Times (06/03/1915)

PAL: Sportswriting is worse today than it was in 1915. To wit: “Between his (Ruth) pitching and batting yesterday the Yankees were as comfortable as a lamplighter in a gunpowder factory.” Call me crazy, but it reads like the writer actually had a good time with this game recap. Reporting? Sure. Entertainment? Absolutely. It’s always best when we don’t have to take sports seriously.


So Fresh, So Clean

I’ve been romanced. I didn’t see it coming. Hell, I don’t even love basketball. Still don’t, but I’m smitten with Steph Curry’s shot. So are you. Recently, Ryen Russillo said that he’s never expected a shot to go in from any other player ever as much as he does when Curry pulls the trigger. I agree. The article dissects the emotions of love into equally impressive analytics that back it up. When a shot’s this pretty, I forgive hyperbole like the following:

“It’s hard to imagine someone so relatively slight having such a huge impact on the game. But that’s what Curry is doing — in the same way a great artist changes the way we see the world, he’s changing the way we see basketball. Suddenly, our ideas of risky shot selection, of off-balance attempts, of what is and isn’t “long distance” have changed. About 20 years ago, in the time of Jordan, sharpshooters like Dell Curry (Steph’s dad) and Steve Kerr (Steph’s coach) were niche contributors, mostly relegated to role-player status…Oh, how things have changed.” -PAL

Source: Outsider Artist: Understanding the Beauty of Steph Curry’s Jumper”, Kirk Goldsberry, Grantland (06/04/2015)

TOB: Steph Curry won the NBA MVP this year. That is pretty amazing. He’s the best “little guy” since Allen Iverson, and that is saying something. Steph can do a lot of things on the court, but for him it comes down to his shooting. He is just so much better at it than everyone else, it is hard get a frame of reference. But this article gives one stat that I think might do it – the average NBA player shoots 24% when his shot is contested and 44% when he is wide open. Steph Curry shoots 44% when his shot is contested! I’ll go a step further than Russillo – it is to the point that I am a little shocked when Curry does miss. That is remarkable. And to top it all off, he’s a great dad.


MORE CURRY!

On the eve of the NBA Finals, the New York Times revisited a really funny rap video featuring college-aged Steph Curry and his fellow students rapping about Davidson College’s dining commons, to the tune of Asher Roth’s “I Love College.” Come for the horrible rapping by Steph and his buds, stay for the the mid-aughts college throwback. -TOB

Source: Stephen Curry Gave Davidson Good Publicity, and a Bad Rap“, Benjamin Hoffman, New York Times (06/03/2015)

PAL: This is terrible. We were all terrible in college, and yet somehow still endearing.


Video of the Week

Fifteen years after his peak, Stone Cold Steve Austin is still culturally significant.


Tweet of the Week

Yes, that is Steph Curry, on a pony, set to Ginuwine. 


PAL’s song of the week: The Band’s cover of Springsteen’s “Atlantic City“. Check out all of our weekly picks here (they’re super good).


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“Dane Cook, pay–per–view, 20 minutes, let’s go!”

– Derek Doback

 

Week of May 25, 2015

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We’ve all been there, bud.


The Military and The NFL: Guess Who’s Buying

The Department of Defense funneled $6 million to NFL teams, some of which went towards Support The Troops initiatives. Why is there any exchange of money between these two organizations for initiatives like this? Never mind that $6 million is chump change for both the NFL and the DoD, the insincerity is in such poor taste. Charles Pierce articulates what I’m sure we all have felt as we watch the massive flag and fighter jets routine one too many times:

“Most veterans you will see on the field in an NFL stadium, or standing on top of a dugout between innings, are genuinely worthy of the country’s admiration. They’ve earned every cheer they get. They also have earned decent health care and a chance at an education and whatever counseling they need to get beyond what they’ve experienced. What they don’t deserve to be are front people through whom the rich get richer, to be walking advertisements for the services that they already have paid back in full. This is a transaction grotesquely inappropriate for their sacrifices.” – PAL

Source: Veteran Affairs: The Uneasy Marriage Military Money and The NFL”, Charles P. Pierce, Grantland (5/27/15)

TOB: Pierce is a very good writer, but he sometimes takes a while to get to his point, as is the case here. But do read this, and stick with it, because as Phil noted, Pierce has a very important point: Why, for example, did the DoD give the New York Jets $600,000 for “a segment at Jets home games in which soldiers were featured on the big screen, thanked for their service and given tickets to the game”? That is not a ton of money in the scheme of the Department of Defense, but it sure could have been better spent elsewhere. And if the NFL wasn’t such a horrible institution, maybe the Jets (and other teams) could have such a segment at their games, you know, for free? Because the NFL is evil. They will do anything to make a buck. See, also: this twitter rant by Adrian Peterson, complaining (correctly) about getting crap for not wanting to honor his contract, when NFL teams never have to honor their contracts with players and can cut them at any time.


Uncharted: David Blatt

Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt was the Greg Popovich of Israeli basketball. His record for Maccabi Tel Aviv was 225-55 over the last four years, he coached the Russian team to its first Olympic medal since the Soviet Union era, and here nobody cared, especially when the Cavs started the season 19-20. Well, nobody cared except for maybe Steve Kerr, another rookie head coach who finds himself in the NBA Finals. He tried to hire Blatt as his assistant when he took the Warriors job. While everything in Cleveland is understandably about the return of the prodigal son, LeBron James, Blatt is on an uncharted journey. No coach has make the jump from international basketball to the NBA without any NBA experience (Mike D’Antoni, who coach for the Suns, Knicks, and Lakers, played in the NBA before heading across the Atlantic). Just another reason why I’m looking forward to the Finals. – PAL

Source: Isn’t it time Cleveland Cavaliers coach Davie Blatt receives some credit for taking his team to the NBA Finals?”, Terry Pluto, Cleveland Plain Dealer (5/27/15)

TOB: Two things stick out here: (1) Blatt left his wife and kids in Israel to come to the NBA. I mean, Jesus. (2) The article glosses over this, but the job Blatt did after the roster changes is phenomenal, in my opinion. Here’s what Blatt said: “Guys really bought in… You get a rim protector like Timo. You get a defender like Shump. You get J.R. Smith, who is really locked in and plays both ends of the court. Put that together with the guys we had already buying into what we wanted, that turned things around for us.” He makes that sound easy. The first time I read it I even thought, “Well, sure they did better. They got a lot more talented.” But, wait. Iman Shumpert is a heck of an athlete and a great defender when locked in. But before coming to Cleveland, he seemed unable to stay focused for an entire quarter, let alone for a deep playoff run. J.R. Smith had the exact same scouting report, plus the fact that he never cared a lick about defense. Mozgov’s numbers in Cleveland are the best of his career. Blatt took these castoffs and headcases and got them to gel in almost no time at all.This was not an easy task! Having LeBron never hurts, but this was a heck of a coaching job.


Baseball Card Nostalgia

I’m not sure how it happened, but this week I read two great stories (published the same day) that mirrored my childhood love and adult relationship with sports cards. Grantland’s Shea Serrano wrote about recently purchasing a box set of Skybox basketball cards (which were awesome in the 90’s). SB Nation’s Grant Brisbee, one of my favorite writers, wrote about discovering his childhood baseball cards recently. I highly recommend both articles.

I particularly enjoy nostalgia stories where I feel like the author and I had a shared experience. Like me, the writers were big sports card collectors as kids. I still have a binder full of them. I also had some boxes, which I lost years ago. I considered them an investment, one that surely did not pay off. But I still hold onto that binder, and every few months I flip through the pages, organized by what I considered the best/most valuable cards when I was 12. Each time, I am amazed at how big of a Nick Van Exel fan I was when he was in college. As in the Skybox article, I am excited to share them with my son when he is old enough to understand. But like the writer, I will probably react in horror when the boy gets his filthy hands all over my Michael Jordan 1990 Fleer. -TOB

Source: Skybox Basketball Trading Cards Were Incredible”, Shea Serrano, Grantland (05/26/2015); How I Fell In Love With Baseball Cards All Over Again”, Grant Brisbee, SB Nation (05/26/2015)

PAL: I was a careless, half-assed card collector, but I love Brisbee’s adult approach to picking his baseball cards now: “What I needed were cards with stories. If my daughters asked for a story about the 5,339 Eric Anthony rookies I had in a box, it would be simple. They weren’t worth as much as I thought they were going to be. Sorry. That’s the story, kid.” Curt Flood (father of free-agency) and Doc Ellis (pitched a no-hitter on acid) cards from 1970 actually have some folk-like worth beyond their monetary value. The cards are cool mementos of culture, and that makes a lot more sense than caring if a card has a bent corner on it.


Wacky Rules in Baseball’s Youth

This is fun. In its early years, baseball was trying to figure itself out and had some weird rules. This article runs down the 10 best. My favorite: “[Umpires] were chosen from the crowd prior to first pitch — they were often prominent members of the local community — and rather than spend all that energy to squat behind the catcher, umpires were given easy chairs in the general vicinity of home plate….The old time umpires were accorded the utmost courtesy by the players. They were given easy chairs, placed near the home plate, provided with fans on hot days and their absolute comfort was uppermost in the minds of the players. The umpire always received the choicest bits of food and the largest glass of beer.” I umpired youth baseball this year. Hot damn, that sounds great. -TOB

Source: “10 Bizarre Baseball Rules You Won’t Believe Actually Existed”, Chris Landers, MLB.com (05/22/2015)

PAL: “The spitball was outlawed in 1920 — but pitchers who had been throwing it for years were grandfathered in.” When has the Grandfather Clause ever been less than an entertaining solution? No helmets in hockey? Awesome old-timers with and hair unencumbered by a dumb helmet were men amongst wimps. No ear flaps on batting helmets? Dave Winfield was awesome and had no flaps in the same league that included scary, double ear flaps Otis Nixon.


Catching Up With Craig Ehlo: The Victim of “The Shot”

For many sports fans, the mere mention of the name Craig Ehlo evokes the very same memory – “The Shot” – Michael Jordan’s series winning jumper in the 1989 NBA Playoffs. Jordan drives to his left, rises, and hangs in the air for an impossible amount of time while Craig Ehlo flies by. Jordan then leaps into the air and pumps his fist over in joy, while Ehlo collapses to the ground in agony.

jordan-vs-ehlo

Ehlo was a decent player who will always be remembered for that image. Bleacher Report brings us this short video interview with Ehlo where he reminisces on that game, and the unfortunate turn his life took after his retirement from the NBA. -TOB

http://bleacherreport.com/video_embed?id=pjdGxidToE8nQlc8KfK-5nlyfX7enTPa

Source: Craig Ehlo: Michael Jordan’s Most Famous Victim and the Lowest Point of His Life”, BR Studios, Bleacher Report (05/27/2015)


Video of the Week

I have no idea how I missed this when it came out two years ago, but thanks to friend of the blog, Ryan Rowe, I have now seen Bob Costas rapping some Ludacris. And so have you.


PAL’s song of the week: Nation of Heat” – Joe Pug. Check out all of the 1-2-3’s weekly picks right here.


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“Why are you so sweaty?”

“I was watching Cops.”

– Dale Doback & Brennan Huff

Week of May 18, 2015

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I spy irony.


The Phenom’s Phenomenal Comeback: Shaun Livingston

He could’ve been the next Magic Johnson or Penny Hardaway (before the injuries). As a 6’7 point guard drafted 4th out of high school (the only high school guard ever taken in the top 5 of the NBA Draft), Shaun Livingston was a special talent, and then his knee exploded in every possible way when landing after a layup. Torn MCL, ACL, PCL, meniscus, and a dislocated knee. There was legitimate concern that they would have to amputate. All the potential gone, and that makes his presence as a key role player for the Warriors all the more rewarding. Dude came off the bench and scored 18 in game 1 of the conference finals. Those aren’t garbage time stats, either. This guy who was supposed to have it all fought for years when no one was watching to make it back, and he’s done it. It’s easy to think you love something when you’re young and it comes easy; it’s cool when when a story like this happens, and it reveals someone’s work ethic and passion exceeds his potential. -PAL

Source: Shaun Livingston’s long, broken road to unlikely postseason hero”, Roger Sherman, SB Nation (5/20/15)

TOB: It’s hard to know what Livingston’s career would have been. He was part of those fun mid-aught’s Clippers teams with Elton Brand and Corey Maggette (the fact that he missed Darius Miles like ships passing in the night is a shame. Imagine the lobs!). I don’t know about the next Magic or Penny, as Phil suggests. He was closer to a tall Jason Williams – not much of a jump shot, not much of a scorer, but boy – could he pass. My guess is his ceiling is not much more than we’re seeing – it’s hard to be great in the NBA when you can’t shoot. Also, as the article notes, his injury was absolutely gruesome. One of the top 5 worst I’ve ever seen. But I wonder if Shaun would find this article a bit patronizing. The author seems to be saying, “Gee, Shaun, anything you contribute on a basketball court is great, considering.” That being said, I have always enjoyed Livingston’s game, and I am rooting for him.


Law and Order on the Allegheny

As both a sports fan and an attorney, this is an interesting case. Here’s the scenario: On Tuesday, Pittsburgh Pirates slugger Pedro Alvarez crushed a home run deep beyond the stadium in right field, and right into a boat docked along the edge of the Allegheny River.

Shortly thereafter, a man jumped into the boat and took the ball.

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A local news station tracked the owner of the boat down and he said that he’d like the ball back. The news station then contacted the local police department to see what they had to say, and the officer they spoke with said that no crime was committed because the passerby only grabbed the ball and nothing that belonged to the boat owner, noting that when balls are hit out of the park it becomes a “free-for-all.”

In law school, I had the pleasure of studying the infamous case of the fate of Barry Bonds’ record-setting 73rd home run, Popov v. Hayashi, (memorialized in the film “Up For Grabs”). An interesting fact that I remember from that case is that MLB considers baseballs hit out of play to be abandoned property. Hence the officer’s legal analysis. However, where this differs from a normal home run or foul ball is that the ball came to rest in someone’s private property – a boat. The passerby then committed a trespass in entering the boat, and took the baseball.

I contacted my dad, who has worked in criminal law for over 35 years, and he agreed with my analysis. Based on common law principles, whether the baseball belonged to the boat owner when the ball landed in his property is unclear, but the man certainly committed a trespass. BOOK ‘EM, DANO. -TOB

Source: Pirates’ Home Run Lands in Boat, Passerby Grabs Ball; Boat Owner Wants Ball Back”, Ashlie Hardway, WTAE.com (05/20/2015)

PAL: Wait, when did Tommy become a lawyer? Laws aside, you never board a man’s boat without permission.


No Experience Required

There is a coveted and limited job out there that pays over $500K and requires no prior experience. On May 18, The Florida Marlins fired Mike Redmond and moved its GM Dan Jennings into the manager role. Although Jennings has several years experience as a baseball executive, the last time he actually coached a team it was of the high school variety. This isn’t exactly an outlier. Currently, there are 10 managers in MLB with no prior managing experience. Most of them are former players – sure – but at no point did they learn how to do the job they currently hold. You can see this happening in the NBA as well. Steve Kerr, Mark Jackson, Jason Kidd, and Steve Fischer never led a team as a coach prior to their current gigs. What gives? Part of it might be a result of better analytics. Another part of it might be organizations loading up in the experience department by way of the assistant coaches. That being said, it’s noteworthy that at the pinnacle of a profession, more and more people are entrusted to succeed at something they’ve never done while being paid a heap of cash in the process. – PAL

Source: Grizzled Manager Part of a Bygone EraTyler Kepner, The New York Times (5/18/15)

TOB: To me, the most interesting point in this article was the role of the minor league manager in modern baseball. As Mets manager Terry Collins notes, minor league managers today have very little autonomy:

“In the minor leagues, you really don’t manage anymore. The minor leagues are set up like: ‘You’re starting, he’s coming in for the fifth, he’s throwing X amount of pitches, let’s make sure these guys play today, let’s give so-and-so a day off.’ Nobody pinch-hits. It’s, ‘Hey, look, here’s your lineup, go get ’em.’ ”

 Given that, it makes sense that an aspiring major league manager would not want to waste his time managing in the minors. You are really nothing more than a babysitter in a baseball uniform.


The Musical Vulgarity of Sports: Action Bronson

You know who Action Bronson is if you’re a fan of Hip Hop. While incredibly vulgar, he’s also hard to dislike. Here’s an overweight former line chef who’s one of the most talented rappers going today…and has a food show series called “F*&k, That’s Delicious”. He’s also a mega sports fan, so here’s every sport reference from his songs. He’s not afraid of obscure sports references (Jeff Hornacek, Randy Velarde), which makes these even more enjoyable, albeit incredible crude. You’ve been warned, now enjoy. – PAL

Source: The Young Randy Velarde, and 289 Other Sports References by Action Bronson”, Roger Sherman, SB Nation (5/18/15)

TOB: This is pretty great. But I got a beef with Bronson:

I’m the doobie scholar / Old foreign white shooters, Tom Gugliotta — from “Auntie Maria’s Crib” by Nitty Scott

Though Tom Gugliotta sounds foreign, the dude is American! Where’s your fact checker, bro?


Bumgarner > Kershaw

Yesterday, the Giants swept the Dodgers at home for the second time this year. It was particularly sweet. They shut the Dodgers out for the entire series (only the second time the Dodgers have shutout for an entire series of at least three games since moving to Los Angeles – the previous was also by the Giants, waaaaay back in 2012). The sweep also cut the Dodgers’ division lead to just 1.5 games.

The final game was a matchup of aces – Bumgarner vs. Kershaw. It was only May 21, but it was the third time the two have faced off this season. The Giants have won all three games, with Kershaw, the reigning NL Cy Young and MVP, taking two losses and a no decision. The best part of yesterday’s game, though, may have been Bumgarner taking Kershaw deep in the third to open the scoring. It was the first time Kershaw had ever given up a home run to an opposing pitcher. For the series, Bumgarner outscored the entire Dodgers team over three games! With all that said, MLB Statcast is one of our favorites here at 1-2-3 Sports!, and Statcast analyzed Bumgarner’s homer off Kershaw (the distance of the homer at 415 feet with an exit velocity of 105 mph!). I enjoyed it. -TOB

Source: MadBum HRs Off Kershaw; Statcast Tells You Why“, Mike Petriello, MLB.com (05/21/2015)


Video of the Week:

https://vid.me/e/pcVw


PAL’s song of the week: My Baby Just Cares For Me” – Nina Simone (and here’s a playlist of all PAL’s Songs of the Week)


“What is art? Are we art? Is art art?”

-Lisa Turtle

Week of May 11, 2015

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I am only a doctor of law, but I can tell you: That is not good.


Big Data Reaps Big Rewards

Like many Americans, you probably tuned into the 2012 Olympic Games in London. One of the events that garnered a lot of attention was Team Pursuit Cycling in the “Velodrome”. The U.S. women’s team surprised many people when it came out of nowhere to capture the Silver medal. In the months leading up to the Olympics, the women’s team was putting up times during competition and training that would have left them well off the medal podium. In a short amount of time, the team shaved upwards of 5 seconds (which is an eternity in this event) off their mark. How did they do it? According to a documentary premiering on May 16 at the Seattle International Film Festival, the team owes its thanks, in some part, to Datameer, a big data analytics tool. The team began using fitness/sleep trackers, medical devices, and DNA testing to collect mountains of data on how their bodies were responding to training, and different factors in their lives (e.g., diet and sleep). The team then turned to Datameer to help analyze that data and try to identify patterns and inefficiencies in the way the athletes trained or prepared for training. Full disclosure: my wife works for Datameer and, prior to the 2012 Olympics, got to travel to the team’s training facility to help produce this video:

She had a great time at the Velodrome and I can’t wait to see this documentary, demonstrating how “data, not doping” can improve athletic performance. -TOB

Source: How the U.S. Women’s Cycling Team Transformed Itself With Technology”, Tom Taylor, Sports Illustrated (05/14/2015)


Show Her the Money!

On the court, the NBA is in the midst of its most entertaining stretch of the season – the playoffs, and there things are good. Off the court, however, a storm is brewing. In October, the NBA signed a new TV rights deal with ESPN and TNT – $2.7 billion dollars per year (starting in 2016), nearly triple the size of the previous deal, signed in 2007. That should mean sunshine and roses for all involved – after all, the players are guaranteed around 49% of basketball related income (BRI). More money from the TV deal means more money to be divided up by the players. However, the Players’ Union was smoked by the League in the last two rounds of labor negotiations (e.g. prior to the 2011 deal, the players were guaranteed 57% of BRI, and gave back that 8% to save the season) and they are looking to get some of that back, among other concessions. Last summer, the Union selected Michele Roberts, an extremely successful attorney with little sports experience, to be its new executive director. Roberts is the first female head of any major American sport’s players’ union. As she told the players in her pitch to select her: “I bet you can tell I’m a woman. My past is littered with the bones of men who were foolish enough to think I was someone they could sleep on.” No wonder she was a near-unanimous selection.

Immediately, Roberts came out swinging – setting the stage for an absolute labor war with Adam Silver, the NBA’s new commissioner, and the owners. Roberts has begun with a PR battle. “The (league has) done a great job promoting the notion that the owners make all the investments and take all of the risks and barely make a dollar … One of the things that I have on my list, that I will absolutely not go to my grave until I correct, is responding to that narrative.” She has a point: The value of NBA franchises has soared recently. Just six years ago, the New Jersey Nets were purchased for $365 million. They are presently valued at $1.5 billion, and would likely sell for over $2 billion on the open market. Pretty good ROI.

But Roberts’ job is not an easy one and her biggest problem may arise from within her own ranks. Although she has enlisted the help of stars LeBron James, Chris Paul, and Carmelo Anthony, NBA players have little incentive to pass up the kind of money that a work stoppage requires. “The problem is that basketball players have an average career of four years and an average salary of $5 million per year,” says Andrew Zimbalist, a sports economist at Smith College. “Given that and given that these guys love to play basketball, they don’t really have the basis to stay unified for a substantial period of time. They’re saying, ‘You want me to risk half a season so my salary could go from $5.1 million to $5.2 million?’ That’s going to be Michele Roberts’s main challenge.”

I have been on the union’s side in sports labor fights since the first one I can remember – the 1994 baseball strike. As Roberts points out, “It’s mind-boggling to me that people think that the players make too much. There would be no money if not for the players. Let’s call it what it is. There. Would. Be. No. Money. If not for the players. They create the game.” Good luck, Michele. You’re going to need it -TOB

Source: Outside Shooter”, Max Chafkin, The Atlantic (May 2015)

PAL: Roberts is right, but Zimbalist is more right. While owners have nothing to do with what I like most about the sport – a LeBron chase-down block, a Steph Curry 3 from 29 feet, Paul Pierce going to the well one last time – the stars aren’t the players most impacted by rev share. It’s not about the difference between $20M and $25M; it’s about the difference between $3M and $4M. Are aging, financially set stars whose main concern is their legacy on the court really going to give up a season for the seventh man in the rotation?


NBA Draft Reform

Tanking for draft position has been around for a long time. Way back in 1985, the NBA instituted the Draft Lottery to discourage teams from tanking for the opportunity to draft Patrick Ewing. The lottery has been in place, with some variations, ever since. In recent years, there have ever-growing calls for reform, to remove the incentive to tank. The fact is, tanking remains the best way for a bad team to get better, and as long as that is true, bad teams will have incentive to be even worse than they are. One proposed solution is known as “the wheel” sets draft order based on a rotating schedule, known years in advance. I hate this idea – because while tanking is disheartening as a fan, it at least offers hope. If your team is bad and you don’t have the hope of a high draft pick, following your team is the not fun.

Enter the “You’re the Worst” Plan, as proposed in this article. In short, before a season, teams would select, in reverse order of their finish from the previous season, the team they think will have the worst record the following season. In the draft the following summer, you would then have that team’s draft position (teams could not pick themselves). For example, the Timberwolves had the worst record in the NBA this season. They’d pick first. If they think the Sixers will have the worst record next year, they’d take the Sixers. If the Sixers had the third worst record next season, then the Timberwolves would draft third.

There would still be some incentive to tank, because it would give you an earlier pick to select the worst team, but the reward is far less immediate and far less concrete. After all, a team could end up being a lot better than you hoped. Plus, the possibility of bad blood between teams would be fantastic, and the selection process would make for amazing television. I’m in! -TOB

Source: The NBA Draft Is Broken: Here’s How to Fix It”, Seth Stevenson, Slate (05/13/2015)

PAL:  A list of #1 draft picks since 1999 (I’ve italicized the ones I think have proven to be franchise players):

  • 1999: Elton Brand
  • 2000: Kenyon Martin
  • 2001: Kwame Brown
  • 2002: Yao Ming
  • 2003: LeBron James
  • 2004: Dwight Howard
  • 2005: Andrew Bogut
  • 2006: Andrea Bargnani
  • 2007: Greg Oden
  • 2008: Derrick Rose
  • 2009: Blake Griffin
  • 2010: John Wall
  • 2011: Kyrie Irving
  • 2012: Anthony Davis
  • 2013: Anthony Bennett
  • 2014: Andrew Wiggins (TBD)

All involved have been happy with the results of 5/16. Let’s be honest – I’ll take a 31% chance at LeBron, Anthony Davis, or even Blake Griffin. In that same 16 years, six teams have won NBA Championships: Spurs (Duncan), Lakers (Kobe), Pistons, Heat (Wade + Shaq/LeBron), Dallas (Dirk), and Celtics. The Pistons, Celtics, and the Heat (Shaq and LeBron pairing with Wade) did it with free agents as cornerstones of the team. It’s cheaper to draft greatness, but ultimate success is still a crap shoot. I get why the Sixers are tanking (now in its third year?), but there’s a shelf life and a limited amount of patience, and I think the team has less than one year to start showing some flashes of improvement. All of this is to say that, of all the proposed changes to the lottery, I think I like the true lottery option the best. Every team that doesn’t make the playoffs gets the same odds of winning the first pick in the next draft.


Jered Weaver: Total Killjoy

Jered Weaver sucks. I know because I have him in a fantasy keeper league. He’s got enough of a name that I don’t want to outright drop him, but he has zero trade value. After getting rocked in just about every start this season, I benched him for his start against the then-hot Houston Astros last weekend. Of course, he threw a complete game shutout and had the most K’s he’s had in you a game all season. Dillhole. So how does this guy celebrate?

By getting legitimately angry at his teammates who were just having a little fun. Look at that stare at the 1:03 mark! And how he ends the interview like a petulant child! Man, what a fun teammate he must be. Stupid Jered Weaver. -TOB

Source: Weaver on Shutout, Gets Doused”, MLB.com (05/08/2015)

PAL: Sounds like someone’s got his panties in a bunch over fantasy sports. I couldn’t disagree with you more on this, TOB. First of all, let’s just chill out on the Gatorade showers. Also about just a pinch of “act like you’ve been there” for a shutout…in May on a team that’s currently .500. I guarantee you Pujols and other veterans sided with Weaver. What’s more, I honestly think Weaver handles the situation really well. He rolls with the hack move Gatorade dousing, but throwing what I assume is a bag of sunflower seeds at him on top of that is: (A) not funny or entertaining, (B) overkill after the dousing, and (C) an aggressive, dick 12 year-old move. Weaver takes a moment to gather himself (the camera zoom doesn’t help here), gives a polite, canned answer to get out of the interview, and ducks down into the clubhouse where he can light into some idiot for acting like a moron.


Has King James Left the Building?

For around a decade, LeBron James has been the best basketball player on the planet. He led the Miami Heat to four straight NBA Finals, winning two, before returning to Cleveland last summer. When he returned, though, something seemed off. Was it the hair plugs? Well, yes, those looked odd. But LeBron didn’t seem as explosive. He was more content to take jump shots than to get to the rim. He seemed less aggressive, less focused. People openly questioned if he was finally on the decline. Now, with the regular season behind us, we can evaluate – did LeBron’s game change? As it turns out, it did. Grantland’s Kirk Goldsberry uses statistical analysis (noticing a trend?) to show that LeBron did shoot more jumpers this year and did attack the rim less. Is he in decline? Or was it a one-year blip? And where does his game go from here? -TOB

Source: The King’s Burden: Saving the Cavs Has Changed LeBron James”, Kirk Goldsberry, Grantland (05/13/2015)

PAL: “One of the most interesting things about superstars is watching them change their games in the face of decreasing athleticism. It’s the most human thing about them.” As Goldsberry captures in this piece, it’s fascinating to watch a supreme athlete be so open to evolving his game. Fascinating – yes – but it will never be better than watching a guy at his peak. Also, carve out 8 minutes and watch the video of LeBron working on post moves with Hakeem. Hakeem still has it in his fifties. That’s one graceful big dude.


Video of the Week

In honor of Corey Kluber’s ridiculous 8-inning, 18-strikeout, 0-walk, 1-hitter this week, check out the above video of young Kerry Wood’s 20-strikeout game against the Astros in 1998. Filthy. Nasty. And that ‘Stros lineup was legit!


“I bet you can tell I’m a woman. My past is littered with the bones of men who were foolish enough to think I was someone they could sleep on.”

-Michele Roberts

Week of May 4, 2015

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1 year of 1-2-3 Sport! No sweat, says Draymond and Steph.


Happy First Birthday to 1-2-3 Sports!

The idea was hatched at a bar, as many good ones are. Our original goal was to make it six months. And to be honest, that seemed like a stretch. Before we found our groove, Thursdays were very late nights for us – reading, writing, editing. A few weeks after we started, my baby boy was born, making things even worse. But we powered through and here we are. We missed only one week – New Year’s Day – and in my mind that’s a hell of an accomplishment. We have had a lot of fun – there’s a lot of time and energy that goes into this weekly digest, but we have taken something we both really enjoy and tried to share that with our family and friends. The feedback we receive, whether online or in person, is rewarding – it’s nice to know that people enjoy our efforts and the product.

We will continue to do our best to bring you our favorite sports writing, with our own take – hopefully in an entertaining fashion. Please do continue to give us feedback as it is always appreciated. And if you really enjoy a particular week’s post, you can always share it with your friends and family, too. -TOB

Tommy likes sports. Phil likes sports. Here are our favorite stories of the week. That summary is at the top of every post we share, and that remains the goal: Hunt down the best sports-related stories, explain why we think they are worth your time, and link to the story. Simple. Tommy’s doing the heavy lifting with regards to eloquence and gratitude here. I’m going to ask you for something. On this, our first anniversary, I ask you to write an email to a few friends who like sports, add https://123sportsnews.wordpress.com into the email with the subject line “A Sports Blog Worth Your Time,” and write one sentence on why you like it. We appreciate you, and we need more of you! -PAL


Bill Simmons Is A Free Agent

ESPN will not renew Bill Simmons’ contract in September, 2015. The biggest name in sports blogs was a bartender when he started a website called BostonSportsGuy.com in 1997. At first, his column was only available on AOL. He started with ESPN in 2001, helped create the 30 for 30 documentary franchise, hosts the most popular sports podcast, and generally speaking has built a nice little empire for himself, all stemming from a sports blog. I don’t love his writing, but it will be interesting to see what he does next. Grantland will continue without Simmons at the helm-PAL

Source: Bill Simmons and ESPN Are Parting Ways, Richard Sandomir, The New York Times (5/8/15)

TOB Note: I saw this news on Twitter this morning while sitting on the toilet, which seems appropriate, given Simmons’ habit of encouraging readers to print his long columns at work and read them in the bathroom. Simmons has not been the entertaining Simmons he used to be for quite some time – probably since he moved from Boston to L.A. and began splitting his time with ESPN and the Jimmy Kimmel Show as a writer. He got to Hollywood, he started hobnobbing with celebrities, and he lost his fastball as a writer. It wasn’t all downhill, though. As Phil mentioned, Simmons helped create the 30 for 30 series, which isn’t perfect but has put out some damn good movies, and he created Grantland, which is also hit-and-miss. I am curious about what happens to Grantland. Despite Skipper’s statement that this won’t affect Grantland – how can it not? He is Grantland. He handpicked his staff. Wherever he goes, he has a stable of writers who may or may not want to follow. As Jerry Maguire once said, “Who’s coming with me?”


Baseball’s Renaissance Man

Michael Burke was a soldier and a spy. He ran the circus, worked in Hollywood, and had a butler deliver his juice to him while he served as a CBS executive. He was President and part-owner of the Yankees, drinking buddies with Ernest Hemingway, and he drove a Delorean. I don’t know what else I could tell you that would better convince you to read his story. – PAL

Source: Yankee, Executive, Soldier, Spy”, Robert Weintraub, Grantland (5/6/15)


There Was No Joy in Manila, Mighty Manny Had Struck Out

If you enjoyed the Mayweather/Pacquiao fight, you are probably a boxing fan – Mayweather put on an absolute clinic and made one of the most exciting boxers of his generation, Manny Pacquiao, an absolute bore. That is the sign of a great boxer, and Floyd (for all his personal failings), has been doing that for his entire career. If you thought the fight was boring, you probably watch one or two fights a year, when you hear that a buddy is ordering the fight. If the fight left you dejected, though, then you are a huge Manny fan (or Floyd hater) and have an idea what the fight was like in Manny’s home country of the Philippines. Grantland’s Rafe Bartholomew was in the Philippines, watching the fight at a medium-sized public gathering with the people. His description of the scene as the fight unfolded is great:

“The Mandaluyong crowd, however, seemed unperturbed by Mayweather’s defensive clinic. Perhaps this was because many average Filipinos, with help from the partisan local media, haven’t been privy to the thorny, complicated history of why this fight took five years to be made. For them, the story is simple: It didn’t happen because Mayweather was afraid of Pacquiao. In Manila, the dominant fight-week narrative wasn’t Mayweather’s history of violence against women, but how Pacquiao would finally get a chance to shut up loudmouth “Money” Mayweather. So even though Mayweather was flummoxing Pacquiao early, the fans around me remained mostly untroubled because Mayweather wasn’t landing many telling blows of his own. Every time Mayweather jumped away from a Pacquiao blow or hugged him to squelch his combinations, the crowd hooted and laughed. They saw what they already believed: an opponent who feared the power behind their countryman’s fists.” -TOB

Source: Mayweather-Pacquiao: A Sad Morning in Manila”, Rafe Bartholomew, Grantland (05/04/2015)

PAL: I’m out on boxing. Has anyone talked about this fight after lunchtime on Monday? I like the idea of it, but I’m an amatuer watcher. The clinic that Mayweather put on Manny did nothing for me. I don’t know enough, and I don’t care enough. I do love the hype though. Leading up to the fight, I was getting excited. I like the slo-mo documentaries and the training montages, but from what I saw nothing happened in the fight. Because the fight stunk, my interest in the ancillary stories like this one fall a bit empty. So this is how the rest of you feel when you watch a baseball game, eh?


Del Boca Vista: Barry Bonds & Life After Baseball (and BALCO)

By most accounts Barry Bonds is a dick who was the best at his profession, which is why a story showing him experiencing humility is a good read. Bonds – a man whose connection to PEDs and doping are recorded ad nauseam – has donated over $100K to a women’s cycling team. The fact that a man famous for his skills in a sport forever linked to doping is backing a cycling team – the only other sport that rivals baseball in doping infamy – is interesting on the surface. What’s more interesting about this story is the unique situation Bonds found himself in following his retirement. What does someone who is the very best at his/her thing do when they can no longer do his/her thing? Barry Bonds was not only the most gifted hitter most of us have ever seen, but he was/is also a genius when it comes to hitting technique and the chess match between pitcher and hitter. In other words, he knew more about his craft than just about anyone breathing. So take that expert and put him on a bike – something he knows nothing about – at a time when he’s in court, hated by most everyone outside of the 415 area code, and going through his second divorce. A hyper-competitive, talented athlete exploring a sport and skill he knows nothing about at a time when he’s on an island. Instead of making adjustments at the most microscopic level, he’s learning the fundamentals. Here’s a fresh perspective on a master in the beginner class.  Thanks for sending this along, Jamie Morganstern. -PAL

Source: Barry Bonds Is Shifting Gears”, Bonnie D. Ford, ESPN the Magazine (5/6/15)

TOB: I didn’t love this story – there is far too much discussion about Bonds’ connections to steroids and cycling’s doping problem – but one thing I really like about it is that it shows Bonds has more depth than the baseball media portrayed during his career. It reminds me of the article we featured last week ahead of the Mayweather/Pacquaio fight – how the sports media paints with a broad brush on who is “good” and “bad”. Bonds was “bad” because he wasn’t polite to the writers who covered him, and that is how most sports fans knew him. But as with everyone, there are shades of gray. Bonds has done a lot of great things that don’t get a lot of attention, like offering to pay for Bryan Stow’s children’s college education, and now supporting this women’s cycling team. I’ve always liked Bonds and thought he got a bad rap – it’s nice to see him get some positive attention, even if it’s 20 years late.


Manny Being Too Manly?

Pedro Martinez released an autobiography this week. He’s been making the media rounds, telling some stories; this one, about the 2004 Red Sox, is especially great. They called themselves “The Idiots” – and, really, it was hard to argue. But the team also was a lot of fun. Pedro writes that before playoff games the players would take a shot, suggested by a different player each game. When it was Manny’s turn, he suggested a shot of “Mama Juana” – gin, honey, wine, and medicine root. But Manny added his own twist – Viagra. Ellis Burks, who was on the team but not active, decided to give it a shot. As Pedro tells it:

“I say, ‘You know, this Mama Juana, if you drink it, you might get turned on.’ He said, ‘Oh, I’ll try it. I’ll try it. I’m not playing anyway.’ So he took it, it seemed like it worked. So everybody was coming up to him for a little shot.”

Watch Pedro tell it himself here.- TOB

Source: Manny Ramirez Gave Ellis Burks a Boner”, Barry Petchesky, Deadspin (05/06/2015)

PAL: Two things: (1) Pedro Martinez, a head-hunter loathed by many (and one of the best 10 pitchers in the history of the game), is going to age very gracefully and become MLB’s cool uncle who’s full of wisdom. His stock will only go up in retirement, and he’ll become baseball’s better version of Charles Barkley. (2) Baseball players are a bunch of grown-ass men acting like fifteen year-olds, and sometime that’s really funny. This is one of those times.


Video of the Week:


PAL’s song of the week: Hey Now Baby” – Professor Longhair. The version on Alligator has the crackly recording, and the vocals are perfect.

Also, with permission from Ryan Rowe Productions, here is the “Walk Up Songs” playlist you’ve been waiting for. What song would want playing when you walk up to home plate to hit a home run?


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“I got laid off when they closed that asbestos factory, and wouldn’t you know it, the army cuts my disability pension because they said that the plate in my head wasn’t big enough.”

– Cousin Eddie

 

 

Week of April 27, 2015

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Camden Yards Attendance: 0

In response to the riots in Baltimore this week, MLB made unfortunate history: On Wednesday, the Orioles and White Sox played the first ever major league game without a paying crowd. The game at Camden Yards was closed to the public so police and National Guard resources could be stationed elsewhere in the city. The decision was made in response to the riots that overtook Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray. While the “ghost town” atmosphere created bizarre results – infielders openly heard talking to each other, the crack of the bat echoing around the stadium, and announcers calling the game as if it was The Masters – it was a stark reminder that sports do not only exist on highlight reels and big screen televisions. Ironically, a game played before an empty stadium served as a reminder that sports and the communities for which they play are inseparable. – PAL

Source: Even with Camden Yards closed to the public, fans found way to support O’s”, Eduardo Encina and Chris Kaltenbach, The Baltimore Sun (4/29/15)

TOB: At 1-2-3 we write about sports, and we generally avoid divisive political/social issues. But the situation in Baltimore, I cannot abide. However, there are writers who can say this more eloquently than I can, and so I leave you with this story from the Atlantic, by Ta-Nehisi Coates, wherein he writes:

When nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself. When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse. When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con. And none of this can mean that rioting or violence is “correct” or “wise,” any more than a forest fire can be “correct” or “wise.” Wisdom isn’t the point tonight. Disrespect is. In this case, disrespect for the hollow law and failed order that so regularly disrespects the community.


So, Lonestar, Now You See That Evil Will Always Triumph, Because Good Is Dumb

On Saturday, the fight boxing fans have been waiting for will finally take place: Floyd Mayweather, Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao. Unfortunately, it’s about 4 years too late, as both fighters are no longer in the prime of their careers. Nonetheless, the years-long buildup and anticipation are expected to make this the highest-grossing pay-per-view fight in boxing history.

Floyd Mayweather is not a good person. He has done some terrible things. Boxing fans have largely overlooked that fact because Mayweather is the greatest fighter of his generation, and a very good entertainer. But the press is building this fight up as Good vs. Evil (Mayweather, a showman and a salesman, is not exactly discouraging that story, as he knows it will increase PPV sales and therefore his paycheck). But as with all such real-life storylines, it’s not that simple. Manny Pacquiao is no saint. Diana Moskovitz details some of their failings. As she sums it up:

What’s worse, beating up women or trying to make it harder for millions of them to get birth control? Do you mind less the absent politician or the abusive father? Which is easier to tolerate, a man who leveraged his fame and fortune for favors across the Philippines or a man who leveraged his fame and fortune for favors across the United States? Athletes are human; they exist on the same ethical continuum as the rest of us, stretching from saints to sinners with a long, murky middle where most reside. It should be enough to sell this fight that Mayweather and Pacquiao are the two best boxers of their generation. But don’t let the appeal to morality confuse you: that’s all they’re good for.

She’s right: this is entertainment (though I disagree with her other contention that who you root for says something about you). I will be rooting for Mayweather, because I think Mayweather is the better fighter and have thought so for years…and I like being right. Either way, I’ll be watching the fight. You’re welcome to come by, but don’t start crowing about Mayweather being a bad person. Pacquiao ain’t much better. -TOB

Source: Don’t Believe the Hype: Mayweather-Pacquiao is Not Good vs. Evil”, Diana Moskovitz, Deadspin (04/09/2015)

PAL: “But sports is never just about the act itself. It’s about the the storylines, the unknown, the unexpected, the sides we choose, and what those choices say about us. We do define ourselves by the team or the athlete we back. And in this case, we have no comfortable choices.” Moskovitz brings up a fresh and insightful argument, but I would only add this caveat: We are allowed – and take advantage of this allowance –  to selectively “define ourselves by the team or athlete we back.” We define ourselves with partialities when it comes to sports, because we have no negative relationship with beloved athletes or teams. It’s easy for me to sing the praises of Kirby Puckett because he gave me great personal moments. As horrible as it sounds, I have no personal connection to him allegedly threatening his wife with a knife or being charged with fifth degree sexual assault. But I can tell you that I jumped up from a video game rocking chair when he hit that home run in the ‘91 Series. Charlie Leibrandt leaves a circle change-up out over the plate. Chili Davis is in the on-deck circle, and my mom – a lady who would rather vacuum than watch a baseball game – is laughing, cheering, and crying at the same time. Joe Buck’s announcing the game and shouts, “We’ll see you tomorrow night!” I can hear Buck shout that line out as if he is on my radio as I write this. Puckett bookmarks some of the happiest moments of my life, and that’s unchanging. Like it or not – there are more than a few people out there who feel the same way about Mayweather and Pacquiao.


OH, HELL YEAH: A STORY ON HUMAN CANNONBALLS

Yeah, I went full capslock. That’s how excited I am to share this story. It doesn’t disappoint. How are the cannons made? No one knows. How far down the barrel is the human projectile? No one knows. How many people have died doing this? Not exactly sure. Why don’t we know the answers to any of these questions? Because the human cannonball is like a magic trick* in that no one who practices the art divulges any information on how it is done and it’s not like there’s a circus version of Baseball Reference out there to keep records such as fatalities for a stunt that’s been going on for hundreds of years. Also, good luck if your dream is to become a human cannonball. It’s a family affair, in large part to protect the aforementioned trade secrets. One overachiever from – where else? – Minnesota has found her way into a club that some estimate is less than 10 active members. Gemma “The Jet” Kirby gives writer Robbie Gonzalez a partial peek into the guarded world of the Human Cannonball. – PAL

Source: A Glimpse Inside The Secretive World Of Human Cannonballs”, Robbie Gonzalez, io9 (4/30/15)

TOB: Wow. This is fascinating on many levels. I recall the first time I saw a person shot out of a cannon. The details are incredibly vivid to me. I was at Disneyland, probably about 6 years old. We were headed toward Tom Sawyer’s Island (yes, I know the name has changed). A crowd was gathered and my parents told me that someone was about to be shot out of a cannon. What in the world!  We were quite close to the cannon – I remember him tucking inside. He was dressed a bit like Evel Knievel. There was incredible anticipation in the crowd. Then an explosion! And holy hell if the guy didn’t fly halfway to Tomorrowland! Looking back, he probably flew only to the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. But it was far! Far enough that I couldn’t see him land. My dad assured me he was ok. But in reading this article, and about how dangerous this job is, how could he have been so sure? Maybe the guy broke his neck? Thanks for letting me see a guy break his neck, Mom and Dad. Also: Drug dealers use cannons to shoot drugs across the border from Mexico??? This story has it all. Finally, am I imagining this story at Disneyland? Was it a dream? Mom and Dad, you are invited to chime in on this topic.


Math Is Good; ARod Was Better

This is really funny. Someone got a copy of Scott Boras’ actual projections for Alex Rodriguez when he was negotiating with the Rangers back in 2000. For Boras’ “projection system” he simply took Rodriguez’ previous 5 years and averaged them out until A-Rod was 40. Stupidly simplistic, right? Well, amazingly, Boras was pretty accurate, up through A-Rod’s age-34 season, which would have been the end of his original, 10-year, $252 million dollar contract. A-Rod was that good for that long. This is funny, the way the writer presents it is funny, and the way it makes me think that this is what Boras did to convince Sabean to give Zito that huge contract is not funny. -TOB

Source: Pebble Hunting”, Sam Miller, Baseball Prospectus (04/27/2015)

PAL: Great find, TOB (eat it, Rowe). In other words, Boras was negotiating a contract for an unprecedented player. Wasn’t that the larger point? Wasn’t his goal to convince teams to throw out all financial comps when it came to ARod’s contract, because there was no comparable player like him? Boras’ projections were simultaneously laughable, accurate in chunks, and a $uccess ($252MM).


Updates:

  • Last week we posted a great story about how a series of photographs from the Boston Marathon helped changed the course of female athletics. My sister, Angela Fehringer (mother of 4), burned up the 2015 race with a staggering time of 03:23:07. So impressive.

Video of the Week:

CANNONBALL! The aforementioned Gemma “The Jet” Kirby in action, GoPro-style.


PAL’s song of the week: I Ain’t Blue,” Bonnie Raitt. Yep, still have a crush on her. Also, SF’s Nicki Bluhm sounds a lot like Raitt, and that’s not at all a bad thing.

Follow the 1-2-3 Sports! Weekly Pick’s playlist


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“Illusions, Michael. A trick is something a whore does for money.”

– GOB

Week of April 20, 2015

This is why the Warriors are up 3-0 in the series. God does not reward Anthony Davis fandom of this nature.

Picture Perfect

Monday was Patriots Day in New England, which is something I have to experience firsthand in my life. It’s a recognized holiday, so no school and no work. The Boston Marathon (the longest running marathon in the world) kicks things off, which by all accounts is 26.2 miles of well-wishers cheering on 30K+ runners fulfilling a bucket list accomplishment. That’s followed by a day game at Fenway. All join in the festivities, and the runners represent seemingly all makes and backgrounds. But back in the mid 1960s, this was not the case. “The universal thinking among sports’ male powerbrokers was that women were not physically equipped to endure the rigors of the marathon distance of 26.2 miles. They claimed that the strain would cause women’s uteri to fall out or that they would become musclebound and grow hair on their chests.” Now, I don’t need to tell you that isn’t the case anymore, but I do need to tell you about a series of photographs. Three pictures that capture perhaps the moment when the shift took place for women’s athletics.

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Here’s a story about that moment, the leadup, and the culture shift that followed. To quote Julia Chase-Brand, a running legend, “The iconic photos of this encounter clinched it: American women were not going to be pushed off the roads, and now a sports issue became a feminist issue—which of course it always had been.” – PAL

Source: Behind The Photo That Changed The Boston Marathon Forever”, David Davis, Deadspin (4/20/15)

TOB: A very good article on a story I had never heard about before.


The Closest Thing The NBA’s Got To The Godfather

Great stories are about perspective, which is yet another reason why you all should bookmark The Stacks series on Deadspin. They find the best sportswriting from throughout the years and post them (with author permission). What’s cool is the time between the original publication of the stories and the moment you’re reading them adds yet another layer of enjoyment and and intrigue. This edition sheds light on Pat Riley when he first went to Miami to coach. This is before he won with Shaq and Wade, before he courted Lebron, won 2 more championships, and the subsequent parting of ways. The dapper Riley’s upbringing will surprise you, and the 1995 cultural references will bring a smile. – PAL

Source: What Failure Did To Pat Riley”, Mark Kriegel, Esquire (12/1995); reposted by The Stacks (4/21/15)

TOB: Two passages I really enjoyed:

“I want to treat my players to the best. If I’m having a team party, I want white tablecloths, I want china, and I want silverware. I don’t want fuckin’ plastic plates. And I want a flower arrangement in the middle. And if the towels are hotel white, hey, put some color in there, I don’t give a shit. I want my team to fly first-class, to stay in first-class hotels. I’m gonna ask them to do a lot. So tell me, is that wrong, wanting them to have the best?”

And:

“And the clothes?…They’re really all Armani?”

“Yeah.”

“Why?”

He looks at me with disbelief, even irritation, squinting until the hint of a grin forms at the corners of his mouth. “’Cause it’s good shit, that’s why.”


Stanozolol: The Old-School Steroid Worth The Risk

Until this season, it had been seven years since a MLB player tested positive for using Stanozolol (this is is what sprinter Ben Johnson tested positive for, and what Barry Bonds is accused of taking). This year, three pitchers were suspended 80 games for a positive test. It’s an old school anabolic steroid, and an easily detected one at that. However, during the past six season a whopping 125 minor league players have been busted using the steroid. What gives? Perhaps the risk (80 game suspension or roughly ½ a big league season) is worth the long-term rewards. Four-time olympian Francis Dodoo, who now serves on the World Anti-Doping Agency committee, might sum it up best: “You don’t just dope, get caught and return to where your body started.” I guess some guys just take a short-term risk, and if they get burned, then they still have a better shot at reaping the benefits down the line. – PAL

Source: Persistence of a Steroid Bedevils Baseball”, Juliet Macur, The New York Times (4/21/15)


Interview with Barry Bonds’ Son

An interesting interview by sportswriter Jeff Pearlman, who once wrote a very unflattering book about Barry Bonds, with Bonds’ son Nikolai. Nikolai, a former Giants bat boy and now in his mid-20’s, opens up about growing up as Barry’s son – both the good and the bad. It’s a complex relationship, to say the least. But Nikolai clearly cares about his father, and strongly believes that his father belongs in the Hall of Fame:

“My dad’s job was what exactly? To entertain. That’s it. That’s the first reason. Second is, as you said, he didn’t break any rules of the game. So what did he do wrong? Third, Hank Aaron admitted to greenies. An enhancer. Babe Ruth drank during prohibition. Illegal. Ty Cobb beat a woman during a game. What we are talking about is someone who is enhancing his performance within the rules of the sport he plays to entertain the rest of this world … and he is getting crucified for it.”

But my favorite part is this exchange:

Q: In exactly 33 words, can you make a Hall of Fame case for Jeff Kent?

A: Nope.

Nobody likes Jeff Kent. -TOB

Source: Nikolai Bonds”, Jeff Pearlman, jeffpearlman.com (04/21/2015)

PAL: Is it just me, or did Barry Bonds’ son admit that his dad took PEDs:”…[H]e didn’t break any rules of the game. So what did he do wrong?…Hank Aaron admitted to greenies. An enhancer. Babe Ruth drank during prohibition. Illegal. Ty Cobb beat a woman during a game. What we are talking about is someone who is enhancing his performance within the rules of the sport he plays to entertain the rest of this world…” Also, I don’t believe Barry Bonds’ son was ever homeless as he claims.


Updates:

  • Last week we recommended a story about Barry Bonds working with (and rooting for) Alex Rodriguez. ARod’s off to a surprisingly good start to the season (15 games): 4HR, 11 RBI, .991 OPS
  • Two weeks ago, we posted about Lon Simmons’ passing. On Wednesday night during the Giants-Dodger game, I swear I saw Vin Scully pay tribute during the Giants Wednesday broadcast. Am I making this up? Can someone confirm or deny this, please. – PAL

 Videos of the Week:

(Explicit language, but so worth it)

Steph Curry is the truth.


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“Life is just one crushing defeat after another until you just wish Flanders was dead”

-H. Simpson

Week of April 13, 2015

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When it’s your birthday, Helmet Nachos are acceptable.


Why Charles Barkley Once Gained 19 Pounds in 2 Days (On Purpose)

Unrelated to the above photo, this is a great story about Charles Barkley. We’ll get out of the way and let Charles tell it:

“Back in my day we had a hard salary cap so you could not go over the salary cap like you can today and the Sixers had the No. 5 pick in the draft. I left college after three years and in fairness, I was fat in college. I played at 300 pounds. The Sixers called me a month before the draft and said, “We want you to get down to 285 pounds and come in before the draft.” So I get down to 283 and the night before we fly into Philly my agent said, “You do know if the Sixers draft you they are going to give you $75,000,  right?”  I said, “Dude, I didn’t leave college for $75,000. We have a problem.” He said, “You weigh about 283 now. What do you want to do? You beat their weight limit.” I said, “Let’s go out.”

So we went to Dennys and I had like two Grand Slam breakfasts. We went to lunch and I had like two big barbeque sandwiches. That night we went to a big steakhouse. The next morning I had two more Grand Slam breakfasts and when we flew to Philly, I weighed 302. I was like, Thank goodness, the Sixers are not going to draft me. So when you look at my face when commissioner [David] Stern says ‘With the fifth pick in the draft, the Philadelphia 76ers select Charles Barkley,’ I was like, ‘Oh, sh–.’ When people go back and look at me walking, and they see that awful burgundy suit, everybody else is happy and Charles isn’t happy. But it worked out great. The most important person in my basketball career was Moses Malone and he got me down to under 250 pounds and the rest is history.”

Classic Chuck. -TOB

PAL: If for nothing else, read through Barkley’s transcript to see a dude who can get onto a tangent faster than a dog gets on a dropped piece of steak. In response as to whether he will accept an invitation to the Sloan Conference (an advanced metrics gathering), he said the following:

“They just charge you more calling them analytics but they are just stats. It’s kind of like, if you are black, you are a cook and if you are white, you are a chef. The chef gets paid a lot more than the cook (laughs). But my big rule is if people should be able to take a joke … Everyone knows Muhammad Ali is a hero of mine. So is Dr. Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. I did some research on Abe Lincoln when that movie came out. There are a lot of great men. But when they asked me for some great Americans, I said Colonel Sanders.”

Source: Charles Barkley Talks Fame, Social Media, at SXSW”, Richard Deitsch, Sports Illustrated (04/12/2015)


Curt Schilling Message to Himself at 16: Don’t Chew Tobacco

I’m not a fan of Curt Schilling. He’s a blowhard. But this should be mandatory reading for all people who chew tobacco, and all teenagers and their parents. Curt Schilling chewed tobacco for decades. It gave him cancer. He is still here, but there’s no way to know if the cancer will come back. Here, Curt writes a letter to his 16-year old self, urging himself to never start the habit. It’s a very powerful essay, written by someone who has stared his own mortality in the face. -TOB

Source: Letter to My Younger Self”, Curt Schilling, The Players’ Tribune (04/11/2015)


Bonds on A-Rod…But Really on Himself.

I have always liked Barry Bonds. I have never liked Alex Rodriguez. This makes their new-found friendship a conundrum for me. Barry helped A-Rod during his hiatus and is supportive of A-Rod’s pursuit of home run milestones. So how do I reconcile this? I have mostly ignored it. My dislike of A-Rod has nothing to do with steroids (as I’ve said here before, I don’t care about that). But in reading this article about Barry and his feelings on A-Rod’s return – it’s striking how Barry’s plea to give Alex a chance is really a plea to give Barry a chance. For example: “Why the hate? Why hate on something you’re paying to see? I don’t understand it. He’s entertaining us…I wish life wasn’t like that…This guy is not running for president of the United States. He’s not running for commissioner. We’re not running for political office. We’re just ballplayers. We’re not God. We’re imperfect people. We’re human beings.” Poor Barry. Just elect the greatest hitter of all-time to the damn Hall of Fame, will ya? -TOB

Source: “Barry Bonds on A-Rod: ‘I can’t wait until he hits 660’”, Bob Nightengale, USA Today (04/13/2015)

PAL: First off, I think TOB and I need to have a good ol’ debate about the Hall of Fame (I don’t think Bonds, ARod, Pete Rose, Sosa, Palmerio, etc. should be in). Secondly, I agree with TOB in that Bonds’ support for ARod is a plea for himself. I would also add that Bonds’ support is conditional, in that he knows ARod will never challenge his home run record.


Matt Barnes: Future Sacramento Mayor?

Well, that’s his life goal, anyways. I nearly fell out of my chair laughing when I read that. I’ve never liked Matt Barnes. He’s a punk. He was a punk in high school, and college, and in the NBA. But I read this story, and I’m glad I did. It gives a lot of insight into an athlete that has many layers and wears his emotions on his sleeve. For example:

“We get paid a lot of money to play basketball. But what I want to let people know is that we’re still human. We’re still going through day to day struggles that everybody else goes through, but for two and a half hours, when you see us on TV, we have to act like we have the most amazing life in the world.” He pauses. “A lot of people don’t give a s— and I get that. They’re paying a lot of money to come see us play and we get a lot of money, so f— your human side.”

Matt Barnes may never be the mayor of Sacramento, but I understand him a bit more after reading this. -TOB

Source: The Clippers Polarizing Pariah Who Tells It Like It Really Is”, Chris Ballard, Sports Illustrated (04/10/2015)

PAL: “And being an a–hole, he knows, is what’s kept him in the league.” Matt Barnes is a goon, and I mean that as a compliment. Every great hockey player has had a goon by his side. Teams in any sport need an enforcer, someone to keep the edge sharp. You don’t like these guys, and — guess what — you’re not supposed to like them, but they serve an important purpose. It’s a bonus that he seems to have his priorities straight when it comes to his kids, too. His job in the NBA isn’t glamorous, but it’s a necessity for a team to be great.


It’s Not Yet an Ending, And It’s Not Exactly Happy – But This is Great

As you may recall, Bryan Stow is the Giants fan who was beaten nearly to death, in front of his children, four years ago after an Opening Day Dodgers-Giants game at Dodger Stadium. He suffered traumatic brain injuries as a result. Stow has had a long road to recovery. It’s not over, but this week he provided quite the moving moment. On Thursday, Stow threw out the first pitch at the San Jose Giants’ (the San Francisco Giants’ minor league affiliate) game. Stow needed a walker to get out on the field, and he can no longer throw overhand, but damn if he didn’t get it to the catcher’s glove. Great job, Bryan – and good luck in your continued rehabilitation. -TOB

Source: Stow Tosses First Pitch For San Jose Giants Home Opener”, Jimmy Durkin, San Jose Mercury-News (04/16/2015)

PAL: You know what really sucks about this? Bryan Stow is known by millions as the guy that was beaten into a coma in some pointless, drunken brawl outside a baseball game. No one deserves to be defined by what has happened to him or her. I wish him all the best, and I commend the Giants for sticking by him all these years (especially Tim Flannery), but it pisses me off that he’s known for what happened to him.


Video of the Week

Well, that was ridiculous.


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Before we get to the quote of the week, I want to thank Tommy for being a great friend, a pain in the ass in a debate, and a well of inspiration. This guy is a friend who always shows up, a doting father, and a husband who’s ridiculously in love with his wife. He’s doing it right, and I’m lucky to call him my friend. Happy birthday, buddy!

“Damn you people. Go back to your shanties.”

-Shooter McGavin