Week of November 16, 2015

I beg your pardon?


Two of A Kind: John Calipari and Mike Krzyzewski

John Calipari stands for what’s wrong in college basketball, while Mike Krzyzewski represents what’s pure about the game. These seem to be the respective narratives that follow the two best college basketball coaches. They present themselves differently, to be sure, but are they all that different?

“Calipari is the salesman who laughs past the pretense that his players are ostensibly students first; alternatively, he is the false consciousness-lifting truth-teller who plays within bad rules (after years of reportedly flouting them) and thereby exposes the sport’s unfair reality. Krzyzewski is the traditionalist who still believes in developing players; or he is the hypocrite who pretends that player development is his priority, rather than winning.”

Here’s the thing, Duke exploits the absurd NBA rule requiring players to be one year removed from high school before entering the draft just as much as Kentucky. Talent trumps experience in big-time college hoops. Calipari accepts it, Krzyzewski grumbles over it, but they both know it’s true and run their teams accordingly. -PAL

Source: “Kentucky and Duke Are Looking More Alike All the Time”, Marc Tracy, The New York Times (11/17/18)

TOB: I’ll take it a bit further than Phil is willing to: Calipari and Coach K are the same, but Cal is honest and Coach K is full of it. Here’s the thing about “one-and-done” college basketball players: It’s such a farce. To remain eligible, they need only pass classes the Fall semester, then they can focus on basketball in the Spring. Anyone who pays attention understands this, and really it’s fine. But here’s why I can’t stand Coach K: There was a time when Coach K tried to hold himself and his program up as a model for all other college basketball programs to follow. And he resisted the move toward “one-and-done” recruits because, by golly, he had principles. But, Coach K had those principles until Duke stopped winning. Then those principles went right out the window. Now, Coach K freely recruits players he knows will leave after one year – for example, last season he won the national title on the backs of three freshman who did not return to Duke this year: Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow, and Tyus Jones. In my view, Coach K is the guy who looks at the system and pretends to be above the fray, and Coach Cal is a guy who embraces the hand he was dealt.


Fashionable + “Technology” = Nike Air

I’ve been buying the same model of running shoes for a couple years now. Before that, I bought the same running shoe for 5 years. Over the course of 7 years, 14 pairs of running shoes. I find shoes that feel good, and I stick with them, but I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t care what they looked like (the current pair are a god-awful black and green combo). Let’s be honest here, there is a certain level of fashion in our fitness purchases. If we’re going to put in the work, we’re at least going to get the cool gear, right? Damn right. Want to read a great story on marketing? I highly recommend this history of Nike Air. Teaser below. – PAL

“Nike’s mercurial take on technology is a lot like the fashion industry’s relationship to certain recurring trends, like fur or metal. They come and go, without much rhyme or reason. There’s very little science involved in Nike’s constantly-evolving ideas about shoes. Yet for fans, the bullshit seems to be half the fun.”

Source: The Absurd History of Nike Air Technology”, Adam Clark Estes, Gizmodo (11/19/15)

TOB: That last line is perfect.


Video of the Week:

May-may!

Bonus Video of the Week

White Chocolate. Nuff said.


PAL Song of the Week: Charley Pride – “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone

Here’s the full playlist of all our picks. Get fat on turkey, stuffing, and good tunes.


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“You know that Julie chick? Loves you. You want her? Gotta play it cool, you know. You can’t let her know how much you like her, cause if she knows, she’ll dump you like that. Believe me. Like, if she asks you if you want a ride, you say, ‘No, I’ve got my own ride, but maybe I’ll see you later.’ Sounds stupid, doesn’t it? It works.”

-Dawson

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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 March 2, 2015

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It’s that time of year again, folks. Spring Training is here!

Holding Back A Running Prodigy

According to running guru Alberto Salazar, Mary Cain has “as much talent as any young athlete I’ve ever seen in running in my life.” For now, though, she needs to take it slow. Writer Elizabeth Weil uses Cain as a jump point to examine a variety of subjects, including the physiological dangers in over-training young women, the positive impacts of a more matured Title IX, and how to approach practice when the intention is to peak in six or seven years from now. Thanks for sending this along, Jamie Morganstern. It’s a great read for everyone, but I think runners – especially female runners – will be fascinated. – PAL

Source: “Mary Cain Is Growing Up Fast”, Elizabeth Weil, The New York Times Magazine (3/4/15)

TOB: My grandparents (I think) got us our first subscription to Sports Illustrated when I was a kid. I’ll never forget the first issue we got – Jennifer Capriati’s “And She’s Only 13!” cover story after her run to the finals of a tournament in 1990. I’ll also never forget her fall from grace, culminating in her arrest in 1993. It is refreshing to read about a coach and parent who are not pressuring a young prodigy into too much too soon. I hope to hear Mary Cain’s name at the next Olympics.


“The Winds of Autumn are a Pirate…”

I say this with the knowledge that it is not necessarily a good thing: But I’d put my knowledge of sports trivia up against most. A big part of this is thanks to NFL Films – whose Super Bowl recaps I watched religiously as a kid. In the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, ESPN would show them in chronological order, and I would tune in everyday after school to gobble it up. These days, NFL Films get the winning team’s Super Bowl recap together in a very short amount of time, complete with footage and audio from the game, sideline and huddle – all set to inspiring music. NFL Films is the best in the business. This is an interesting look at how that sausage gets made. -TOB

Source: Monuments Men: Inside the Mad Scramble to Bring You Your Annual NFL Championship DVD”, Katie Baker, Grantland (03/02/2015)

PAL: For the past 7+ years I’ve worked at a company that shoots a lot of music performance videos. One of our biggest events is shooting concerts at the SXSW music festival. It’s a crazy amount of pre-production, man power, logistics, and media management…and that’s just for 15 bands over 3 days. The scale of what NFL Films does is staggering (covering 30 teams), and the efficiency with which they do it is masterful. A fun read on the cultural staple that is NFL Films. Also, please join me in supporting Tommy’s bid to get on Sport Jeopardy.


Game, Blouses

We all know and love the legendary Prince basketball skit from Chappelle Show. Well, here’s some evidence that Prince (5’2”) was a solid player for real, and he argued about playing time with his coach, too. The team photo alone is worth the click here, folks. A side note: while I love Bob Dylan, Prince is actually the musical icon of Minnesota. The dude still lives there, regularly goes to Timberwolves and Vikings games, and records his music right there in Minnesota. True blue Minnesotan. Got to love it. – PAL

Source: “Prince Was An Afro-Rocking, Coach- Hating Schoolboy Basketball Player”, Billy Haisley, Deadspin (3/3/15)


The Cardinals Can’t Stop Talking About Not Talking About Themselves

As far as rants go, Drew Magary dropped the mic on this one. Giants fans will get an additional kick out of this, too. The St. Louis Cardinals self-aggrandizement is insufferable, and writers who drink the punch on this line of B.S. are even worse. A writer from USA Today did a story about how the team lets its play to the talking for them. Naturally, the story is filled with quotes from several players and management talking about how “talk is cheap.”  Maybe I was only halfway into my coffee this morning, but I’m ready to loathe the Cardinals again. Ah, spring must be in the air. – PAL

Source: “Moron USA Today Columnist Thinks The Cardinals Poop Vanilla Sprinkles”, Drew Magary, Deadspin (3/4/15)


Video of the Week:

Bonus:


“About those sit-ups you want me to do. I got it right here in my contract – it says I don’t have to do any calisthenics I don’t feel are necessary. So, what do you think about that?”

– Roger Dorn

 

Week of February 2, 2015

Madbum rocking the Carhartt while slamming suds with Khal Drogo from Game of Thrones. No big deal.

Running & Autism: A Perfect Fit For Mikey Brannigan
Remember those “Faces In The Crowd” pages in the old SI magazines? Well, I’ve just found out they’ve expanded the format for the online version, and – man – it is really cool. Instead of the one paragraph description, SI goes all-in with a full article. This month’s feature is especially impressive – a must-read. Mikey Brannigan was diagnosed with Autism at an early age, and it wasn’t until a chance encounter that the family found the perfect outlet for him: running. The simplicity of the sport, combined with a lot of other factors specific to autism, has allowed Brannigan to do more than compete at the varsity level – he excels. He’s on track to be an Olympic hopeful. How cool is that? – PAL

Source: “High School Athlete of the Month: Mikey Brannigan”, Ali Fenwick, Sports Illustrated (2/4/15)

TOB: Enjoyed reading this, and also enjoyed that it led me to finding this – people featured on Faces in the Crowd who went on to famous athletic careers, including Phil’s favorite (/sarcasm), Joey Mauer.


The Basketball Glass Ceiling Has Been Broken in Russia
WNBA players are not paid very much money. I knew this was true, but even the very best players barely get paid over $100,000 a season. To supplement that income, many WNBA players head overseas in the offseason and play in leagues in Europe and Asia. Amazingly, though, they get paid more overseas. A lot more. Take Diana Taurasi. She was the 2014 WNBA MVP runner-up, and she made just $109,500. But in Russia she made $1.5 million. This has been going on for years. The new twist, though, is that Diana Taurasi’s Russian team, looking to protect its $1.5M investment, is paying Diana Taurasi to sit out the next WNBA season, thus keeping her healthy and fresh for her Russian team. This must be very embarrassing for the WNBA, and worse yet is that apparently foreign teams have been trying to get WNBA stars to do this for years. If more players follow Diana’s lead, the WNBA could be in serious trouble. – TOB
Source: “Diana Taurasi’s Russian Team is Paying Her to Skip the WNBA Season”, Kevin Draper, Deadspin (02/03/15)

PAL: A part of me thinks if some Russian oligarch wants to lose $7 million to fund a women’s basketball team for which no one pays to see play, then that’s on him. A part of me thinks that the US market for a professional female basketball player is somewhere between 50-150k – it’s not even in the stratosphere of the NBA, but – hey – it’s a living, right? And then I think about the LPGA (est. 1950) and the Women’s Tennis Association (est. 1973 by Billie Jean King). While Tommy was right – both tennis and golf are individual sports that derive a large portion of revenue from sponsors, consider the following:

  • According to the LPGA official website, 45 women have earned over $5 million in winnings throughout their career.
  • Look at the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) – 30 women have earned over $10 million in their career
    • The Williams sisters have over $80 million in prize money between them!
    • You know how much Billie Jean King won in her first Wimbledon – what amounts to $857.89.

Women’s professional sports is a longview, social endeavor. It requires support, because it’s more than business. Should I have a daughter, and should she excel in sports, I want to live in a place that allows her dream to become a reality.


10 Steps To Buy A Recruit

Wednesday was National Signing Day for college football, so this story is timely despite its publication date. ESPN televises 17 and 18 year-olds doing their version of LeBron’s “The Decision” on this day – the first day for recruits to officially commit to a college. While the relatively recent glamorization of this day doesn’t sit well with me, the under-the-table work of actually getting player X to sign at school Y is pretty interesting, as this step-by-step, first-person account reveals. We all know that illegal benefits are given to top recruits, but I haven’t seen a story about the system of how to do it been laid out this plainly. This isn’t the story of Nevin Shapiro at Miami – this is the story from the guys who are smart enough to not get caught. One other note – the scroller indicates this story is much, much longer than it actually is. – PAL

Source: “Meet the Bag Man”, Steven Godfrey, SB Nation (4/10/14)


Video of the Week

Vine of the Week


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“I call it the goddamned blessed road. I’ve buried friends. I’ve put friends in rehab. I’ve watched marriages dissolve. There’s a lot of collateral damage in this lifestyle I’ve had for 33 years. I’m going to send myself home safely.”

– Tim Flannery

Week of December 22, 2014

 

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Now that I am married, I could do that with Christmas cards, like this high school football player does with his recruiting letters. And it makes me feel like this bear:

Merry Christmas, everybody!


 

This Is How Sports Matter

One of the best concepts for a story I’ve seen, and one of the best written sports stories I’ve read. Don’t read this on your phone – there’s a very cool interactive element that deserves a bigger screen. Gary Smith hits this piece flush, which focuses on a fascinating photograph taken by Marvin E. Newman. The picture features TCU in the locker room 15 minutes before facing off with Jim Brown and Syracuse in the 1957 Cotton Bowl. Smith walks the reader through the stories of the subjects, the place, the time, and what waits in the future for all involved. Beautiful, every part of it. If someone asks me why I loved playing sports so much, I will just send them this story from now on. Joe Williams (a player on the team) summed it up best 40 years after the photograph was taken: “More than who you’re looking at now, that guy in the picture, that’s me. That’s who I really am.” – PAL

Source: “Moment of Truth”, Gary Smith & Marvin E. Newman, Longform – SI.com (12/18/14)

TOB Note: Damn, Phil stole what I was gonna quote. But don’t worry. This story is so great, there are plenty of other options to use to induce you to read it. For example:

“That’s Frankie Hyde just behind Doc Hardt’s right shoulder…Doesn’t know that he’ll hurt his shoulder a few months from now in spring training, that he’ll never suit up for a football game again.”

This reminds me of  the time the the equipment manager, an old former player and coach, came to my JV football practice. He told us to enjoy each practice and game, because he had seen seniors crying on the sidelines at the end of the season, knowing it would be the last time they’d ever play the game. This lesson stuck with me, as a broader message: you never know when something will be the last time you do something, whether it be something you cherish or something mundane. So enjoy it. This story has stories about this thought in spades, and as Phil said it demonstrates why sports matter to us.


The Next Frontier in Draft Bust Avoidance

Before the 1998 NFL Draft, the Indianapolis Colts reportedly agonized over their choice with the #1 pick – Peyton Manning or Ryan Leaf. Manning is possibly the greatest passer in NFL history. Leaf is widely regarded as the biggest bust in NFL history. In 2014, it’s hard to believe, but it was a real debate over the two of them. The Colts got it right. But they almost didn’t, and teams invest millions of dollars in their top picks – and they are always looking for a way to find the Peyton Mannings and avoid the Ryan Leafs. The newest tactic being employed? Facial coding experts – teams are attempting to determine the emotional makeup of a player through facial microexpressions. But does it work? Or is it junk science? -TOB

Source: Teams Turn to a Face Reader, Looking For That Winning Smile“, Kevin Randall, New York Times (12/25/14)


A Running Race We Can All Get Behind: The Beer Mile

I have done the Beer Mile. 4 laps around a track, 1 beer before every lap. There are other rules, but that’s the gist. I wouldn’t call it a good time, but it’s something everyone should try (1-2-3 Sports! Beer Mile, anyone? Get at us, and we’ll set it up). The fact that people are close to breaking the 5-minute mark on this is insane, and I love it. A great way to get a party started, as long as you can keep the beer down. I’m calling out “Mr. 5k” to do this with us, if that’s even your nickname anymore. – PAL

Source: “Chug, Run, Repeat”, Allison McCann, fivethirtyeight (12/12/14)

TOB Note: I’m in. Tell me where. Tell me when. Reminds me of one of my favorite scenes from Revenge of the Nerds – the beer chug/tricycle race. Classic.


Jim Harbaugh Is Crazier Than You Can Imagine

Harbaugh is crazy, we all know that. But this story has me utterly dumfounded:

It was 2007, his first year as Stanford’s football coach, and during what was meant to be a motivational speech, Harbaugh told his players that he wanted to play in the game alongside them. He wanted this so badly that he informed his players that he wanted their blood on him if they bled during that week’s game.

But in the game, right tackle Chris Marinelli ran off the field with the rest of his offense after a touchdown drive, his arm bloodied. He went straight to Harbaugh to show him.

Harbaugh looked at the blood and did exactly what he said he would. He took his hand and wiped it on Marinelli’s arm. The player’s blood was on the coach’s hands.

Then, Harbaugh took it a step further. He smeared Marinelli’s blood all over his own face like war paint.

What the god damn hell? -TOB

Source: “From War Paint to Shakespeare…“, Max Cohen, Michigan Daily (12/23/14)

PAL Note: These stories of Harbaugh’s insanity have gone to such an extreme that I’m beginning to question his sincerity. Wiping someone else’s blood on your face and quoting Bill Shakespeare come off like the actions of someone who wants a legend built around him, which is inherently lame.


What Would You Rather Do: Play QB For the Browns or Kite Surf?

For most of us, the answer is easy: If you had the ability to play QB in the NFL, you’d do it. But if you’re Rex Grossman? And it’s December, when it is cold as hell in Cleveland? And you’re in Florida? And you’ve been kite surfing? And you’ve made a lot of money? And the pay is “just” $53k? Well – Rex Grossman made his choice. And it’s hard to argue with it. Enjoy the swells, Sexy Rexy. -TOB

Source: “Rex Grossman Rebuffs Browns to Kite Surf With Family Over Christmas”by Eric Edholm, Yahoo! Sports (12/22/14)

PAL Note: Not mentioned in the story was the fact that Rex couldn’t get the deposit back on the house rental, and Kai – the windsurfing instructor – is booked for, like, 5 weeks!


VIDEO OF THE WEEK


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“We need to get there early if we want a seat at Christmas Mass.”

– Phil’s dad

Here’s the available seating at 8:30 A.M. for the 9 o’clock mass:

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Week of November 3, 2014

Who Will Play Robin Ficker In The Biopic?

Robin Ficker is a heckler. A heckler at a game has to be pretty damn clever for me to appreciate him or her. It’s never been my thing, so why the hell is a feature about this nuisance making our top picks this week? Robin Ficker’s life story reads like the slightly lesser version of Forrest Gump. Some highlights from this long but worthwhile read:

  • Ficker would hang out at Muhammad Ali’s training facility and joined Ali on his morning runs.
  • He played a somewhat significant role in Watergate.
  • He is a primary reason why local blackouts no longer exist for sporting events that sell out.
  • He’s a lawyer who played a major role in combating gender discrimination while representing Deborah Drudge (the mother of Matt Drudge).
  • He’s run for public office for the past four decades, with only 1 victory.
  • Charles Barkley flew him to Phoenix for the 1993 NBA Finals in order to taunt Jordan.

I still don’t know what to make of this guy, and that’s what made this story spin around in my head the last couple days. I’m not sure I’d like him, but – man – would I love to go on a run with him and hear some stories. – PAL

Source: “What The Most Infamous NBA Heckler Learned From His Friend Muhammad Ali”, Dave McKenna, Deadspin (11/4/14)

TOB: Last night, Phil and I got to sit courtside at a Cal basketball exhibition game against CSU San Marcos. I’ve never sat courtside before. It was awesome. It’s also sort of frightening. I didn’t talk trash at first, but toward the end (mostly because I was annoyed with CSUSM’s coach, who would scream in the Cal player’s ears and was generally an ass to his players, too) I started to lightly heckle. For example: “Shoot the J! SHOOT IT!” But it’s definitely intimidating sitting that close. So when I read this story I was sort of amazed. Ficker pissed people off so much that he was spit on by both a player and a coach. Isiah Thomas threw a shoe at him! The story about Barkley hiring him to heckle Jordan in the Finals reminds me of the heckler in Happy Gilmore. “You will not hit this putt, JACKASS.”


Rest In Peace, Oscar Taveras

A little bit lost amidst the hoopla of the World Series, was the tragic death of St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras. Taveras died, along with his girlfriend, in an automobile accident in his home country of the Dominican Republic. Taveras was a top prospect – ranked the #3 prospect coming into the 2014 season – and he oozed talent. Giants fans knew him well. He was called up on May 31st and in his second career at bat, absolutely destroyed a Yusmeiro Petit pitch deep into the right field bleachers. In Game 2 of the NLCS, he homered against the Giants again. He had a sweet swing – it was a big, looping swing. He had his struggles this season, as rookies often do, but he kept flashing that potential – a potential that was not realized. You wonder – what if the Cardinals win that NLCS over the Giants – Taveras would still be alive. It’s a sad thought, but the Cardinals didn’t win and Oscar is gone. Grant Brisbee is one of my favorite writers – he’s funny, smart, and a huge Giants fan. He wrote about Oscar Taveras’ death and it really hit home with me – why the death of someone I never met had me so stunned:

“That hope is gone. You’ll never find the right amount of empathy for someone you didn’t know personally, so there’s no sense beating yourself up over it. But you’re an expert in the kind of hope that Taveras offered to his fans, to his friends, to his family and to himself. It’s gone now, and all you can do is mumble something like “Rest in peace,” even if you have no idea what that really means.”

Rest in peace, Oscar. Whatever that means. -TOB

Source: The Lost Hope of Oscar Taveras”, by Grant Brisbee, SB Nation (10/27/14)

PAL Note: Brisbee crystallizes something I’ve definitely felt but never identified, which is the sign of excellent writing. “It’s why this is different from the traffic accident you’ll surely pass one day, why it’s different from the news about the young friend of a friend of a friend, why it’s removed from the awfulness you have to step over every day to keep moving. Those are abstract situations. Your brain has to keep them abstract or you’ll collapse. You knew exactly how Taveras was going to make millions of strangers happy, though. You knew exactly how he was going to make himself and his family happy. You could see it. It was familiar. You had the path all plotted out in your head. He deserved that chance. Your brain can’t keep that loss abstract.”


A Statistical Push: Bowl Championship Series vs. College Football Playoff
The college football national champion will be determined by a tournament format for the first time this year, and it might not make a difference. From 1998 – 2013, the national champion contestants (2) were determined by a hybrid of algorithms and polls (a Coaches’ Poll and an Associated Press poll). This year, the tournament teams will be selected by a committee that includes Condoleezza Rice (Stanford), Archie Manning (Ole Miss), and athletic directors from USC and Wisconsin. While contingency plans are in place should the teams associated with committee members be a factor in the playoff selection, the numbers and research suggest how little a difference the playoff approach might make in determining teams that deserve to play for the title. Right or wrong, a tournament format allows for more drama and excitement than a single-game approach, which is the entire purpose of sports. There seems to be a lot of emphasis on “getting it right” in the sports landscape in recent years (instant replay, player safety, fines/suspensions/investigations), and – if I’m being honest – I don’t know if “getting it right” plays a major role in why we love them in the first place. – PAL

Source: “The BCS Wasn’t Any Worse Than A College Football Playoff Will Be”, by Neil Paine, FiveThirtyEight (10/28/14)

TOB Note: The selection process shouldn’t be too hard. The top 4 teams seem pretty obvious in most years. Nonetheless, I remain skeptical, because the members of the committee are a complete joke. The list reeks of ridiculous politics and PR. The members include Condoleeza Rice (now a Stanford professor) and a retired Air Force Lt. General. What, exactly, are their qualifications? Andrew Luck’s dad is on there (he’s the Athletic Director of West Virginia). So is Tyrone Willingham, former coach at Stanford. Gee, are we seeing a theme? If you’re keeping score  that is 3 out of 13 members with direct ties to Stanford. The Gods have righted this wrong, though, as Stanford is in serious jeopardy of not being bowl eligible this year and is certainly not in the discussion for the playoffs. Hallelujah! Forever and ever, amen!


There Can Only Be One Winner

Considering we wrote over 3,000 words last week, all of them basking in the glory of the San Francisco Giants winning the World Series, we should probably say a bit about the Kansas City Royals. This article, written by lifelong Royals fan and Grantland writer Rany Jazayerli, is excellent. Unlike Giants fans, Rany and his fellow Royals fans experienced pain and heartbreak. But does a great job illuminating why we love sports – despite the fact that sports almost always bring pain – because of the feelings of hope and community and shared experiences that are otherwise becoming tougher and tougher to experience as we as a culture otherwise continue to isolate. -TOB

Source: Pain Demands to be Felt“, by Rany Jazayerli, Grantland (10/31/14)

PAL Note: It’s awful but true – “Sports are pain, but pain is something only the living can feel.” With that said, I have to put it to our readers who are Giants fans: Is this how you felt after the Giants lost the 2002 World Series in painful fashion? Did you see the silver lining of community and relevance like Jazayerli, or did you just want to throw up for two months?


VIDEO OF THE WEEK


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“You’re not trying hard enough. Try harder.”

– Random dude at the gym

Week of October 6, 2014

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We’ve all been there.


The Flood Gates of Free Agency

Even if you are a huge sports fan, you may not have not heard of Curt Flood. But more than perhaps any athlete since Jackie Robinson, Curt Flood changed the landscape of American sports. Two words: free agency. Flood sat out the 1970 season to sue MLB over the ‘Reserve Clause’. In plain speak – after a player’s contract with a team expired, team owners could unilaterally renew those contracts for one year at a time, in perpetuity. While he lost the case (and would go on to only play 10 more games in his career), MLB players were granted free agency by 1975. In the coming years, the other major sports would follow suit. Now, when a player becomes a free agent and is able to sell his services to the highest bidder, he should thank Curt Flood. There’s also an accompanying video that must be watched. -TOB

Source: “The Athlete Who Made Lebron James Possible”, Clyde Haberman, New York Times (10/05/14)

PAL: What a great piece of multimedia (the accompanying doc short is on par with a 30 for 30 piece). I knew of Curt Flood’s importance, but only in the way you know the answer to a trivia question. There’s much more to the story than the advent of free agency and the flawed man who demanded it. One detail stands out in particular: “After his death in 1997 — in January, during the off-season — no active players could bring themselves to go to his funeral, though they were all beneficiaries of his legacy.”


The Inexact Science of Breaking World Records

“At the very edges of human capacity, fewer and fewer things can turn out less than perfect and keep a record attempt intact.” While this story focuses on how far we are from witnessing a 2:00:00 marathon, its draw comes from the axis of science, physiology, and environment. Clearly, the main ingredient is an athlete that is what Malcom Gladwell termed an “outlier” (see: Usain Bolt). However, there are so many other seemingly minute factors that come into play when the difference between a 2:02:57 marathon (current record) and a 2:00:00 marathon is 6 seconds per mile. Physiological makeup, the route, the pace, the natural instinct to beat the field rather than the clock – hell – even the prize money comes into account (as a disincentive, if you can believe that). Once you’ve considered all of this, ask a friend who’s run a marathon what kind of difference 6 seconds per mile feels like, and they’ll tell you it’s a huge chunk of time. Whether or not you’re a runner, this is a great read. -PAL

Source: “How Close Are We To A Two-Hour Marathon”, Kyle Wagner, Regressing (10/3/14)


Goodell Hoisted By His Own Petard

Deadspin’s Drew Magary with an excellent explanation of how the NFL, under Roger Goodell, unwisely tried to become a shining beacon for American society and how the decision to portray the league as such has blown up in Goodell’s face. -TOB

Source: “The NFL Is Having Its Steroid Moment”, Drew Magary, Deadspin (10/02/14)

PAL:  The parallels between the NFL’s handling of domestic abuse and MLB’s handling of steroids are right on. “Football cannot be anything more than what it is, which is cheap and disposable entertainment for the masses. The second you try to seize the moral high ground, you have lost it. Baseball still hasn’t quite figured that out, and it doesn’t look like the NFL will either.”


What The Hell Is Going On With Adrian Peterson?

By now you’ve heard Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has been charged with felony child abuse. As of Thursday, it’s being reported that paperwork has been filed for his bail to be revoked after Peterson told a drug tester he has “smoked a little weed,” which is a violation of the terms of his bail. There are also reports citing problematic financial discrepancies surrounding his charity. Currently, a man in Sioux Falls, SD is charged and pending trial for second degree murder (amongst other charges) in the death of Peterson’s 2 year-old song. I’m in no place to say Peterson is guilty or innocent of anything; I’m just looking at the bullet-points here, and I’m reminded again and again that we have idea for whom we cheer. Seinfeld was right; we’re cheering for laundry. Here’s a breakdown of Adrian Peterson’s timeline of issues, dating back to his college days at Oklahoma. – PAL

Source: “Behind Peterson’s perfect image lay an imperfect human being”, by Mike Kaszuba, Rochelle Olson, and Paul McEnroe; Star Tribune (10/7/2014)

TOB: This story just keeps getting weirder. But, as a silver lining, the guy who had Peterson in my fantasy league released him in protest of his actions,. I scooped him up and will stash him on my bench. It’s a keeper league, so I was pretty pumped. I’m awful.


Video of the Week:

Quote of the Week:

“I think we can agree that all wine tastes the same and if you spend any more than 5 dollars on wine, you are very stupid.”

– April Ludgate