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

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Week of February 16, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 10.59.21 PMThe 49ers’ terrible management has incurred the wrath of The Bird of Death upon Levi’s Stadium.


The Cat’s in the Cradle

As Tim Lincecum’s pitching deteriorated over the last three years, so did his relationship with his father. His dad built the pitching mechanics that led to two Cy Young Awards, but his critiques were no longer welcome, and the relationship between father and son suffered. But after losing his spot in the rotation and making just one mop-up appearance in the Giants’ run to the World Series, Timmy knew he had to make a change. He went back to his father “with (his) tail between (his) legs” and asked for help. His father’s response? “We’ve done this together. Let’s continue to do this together until I’m not here.” Father and son worked hard in the offseason, and will continue to do so during Spring Training. Reading this story reminded me of Cats in the Cradle by Harry Chapin. On so many levels, I hope the reunion with his pitching coach/father helps Timmy return to form. -TOB

Source: “Tim Lincecum Turns to Father as He Tries to Find Cy Young Form”, Alex Pavlovic, CSNBayArea.com (02/18/2015)

PAL: Going back to his dad is Timmy’s last move. Like everyone in San Francisco, I love and pull for Timmy. The pantry is looking bare, and this is the last idea he has. I’m pulling for him, and I really hope he just lights it up this year.


Curtain of Distraction

1-2-3 Sports! reader Michael Kapp brings us this fascinating story:

As far back as I can remember, basketball fans behind the basket have attempted to distract opposing free throw shooters. They stand, make noise, and wave balloons. In recent years, college student sections have begun printing giant heads of various people – themselves, opposing players, famous people, etc., in the hopes of distracting shooters. It’s unclear that it’s ever been effective. Until now: Last season, Arizona State introduced what they call the “Curtain of Distraction.”Here are some examples:

The novelty of “The Curtain” has garnered a lot of attention. But the strangest thing is that it appears to actually work. Over two seasons, opposing teams are missing around 5-10% more free throws at ASU than in their other games. The New York Times performed a statistical analysis and found that:

“Taken together, the data suggest that something changed to affect the accuracy only of free throws, only by visiting teams, only when those teams were visiting Arizona State, and only after the Curtain of Distraction was introduced. Statistics can never fully prove a causal link, but this case is pretty strong.”

We will undoubtedly see copycats, which will likely reduce the Curtain’s effect. Nonetheless, pretty fascinating. -TOB

Source: “How Arizona State Reinvented Free Throw Distraction”, Justin Wolfers, New York Times (02/13/2015)

PAL: Well, I guess ASU has 3 things to be proud of now – Pat Tillman, John Hughes, and the “Curtain of Distraction” (what a great name). The downside – the players and students still attend ASU. I’m interested to see whether or not this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Too bad they aren’t making the NCAA Tournament (currently 14-12 W/L) and given the national spotlight.


Sympathy for the Devil: Alex Rodriguez

We’ve all read stories about falls from grace. I know, I know – everyone is sick of ARod. I’m sick of ARod. He lied about taking PEDs – yeah – but he’s far from the only one. The PEDs are not why people are sick of him. People are sick of him because he’s not lovable in any way. He comes off as a d-bag time and time again. It’s the $400+ million dollars he’ll earn by the end of his career, the picture of him kissing himself in the mirror at the gym, tanning in Central Park, the Madonna relationship (when she was perhaps most insufferable), the popcorn at Cowboy Stadium with Cameron Diaz, the highlights (hair), the pearl white batting gloves…but most of all it’s that smug gaze reserved only for the super-duper rich, good-looking, touched-by-God athletic, tall dude. That guy messed up – twice – and, boy, do we like watching him fall on his ass. So many steroid/PED stories focus on the fall or the subsequent rise; I was captivated by this story because it examines the quiet absurdity of purgatory for an adult grasping for sense of self. He’s Derrick Zoolander – superficially talented, banished, hated, ill-equipped for anything outside of his absurd profession, and seeking answers in ridiculous places while holding out hope for his “Blue Steel” moment. It’s a long story (absolutely worth the read), so I pulled some of the most captivating and bizarre tidbits below. – PAL

  • Barry Bonds throws ARod batting practice in Marin and talks a lot of sh*t.
  • “[H]is stealth hobby is visiting college campuses, that he’s been to nearly 40 so far, that he almost always takes the campus tour, visits the bookstore and buys a sweatshirt and a backpack”
  • “[T]hroughout his decade-long tenure with the Yankees, he tries to buy three custom-made suits for every rookie who walks into the clubhouse.”
  • “In New York he would routinely befriend young artists, leave them tickets at the box office so they could come see him play, and in exchange they had to let him drop by their studios. He’d sit in the corner of some dingy loft for hours, watching some intense kid paint or sculpt or draw, because it inspired him, sent him back to his own studio, the batting cage, with new dedication.”

Source: “The Education of Alex Rodriguez”, J.R. Moehringer, ESPN the Magazine (02/18/2015)


Albert Belle Was a Baaaaaad Man

I vaguely remember this, but it is awesome. In 1999, Albert Belle was playing for the Baltimore Orioles. In this game against the Angels, he had already hit three monster home runs and was coming up in the 11th inning, looking to win the game with his record-tying 4th. Instead, the pitcher throws one near Belle’s head, hitting him with a fastball in the shoulder. The umpire immediately signals that Belle was hit, and sends him to first. But Albert Belle shakes him off! Skip to the 1:16 mark:

You can read his lips, as he lies, arguing with the umpire, claiming the ball hit his bat. Albert was so sure that he was going to win the game, that he would have rather taken a strike than taken a base. Awesome. -TOB

Source: No Hitter Has Ever Been More Terrifying Than Albert Belle in This Game”, Tom Scocca, Deadspin (02/16/2015)

PAL: I forgot about Albert Belle. Seriously. The name has not occupied space in my brain for some time until I saw this story, which is crazy. While this scene takes place when Belle is on the O’s,  I remember him as a member of the supremely talented Indians of the 90s (Jim Thome, Roberto Alomar, Omar Vizquel, Kenny Lofton, Carlos Baerga, Matt Williams, David Justice, Jose Mesa, Manny Ramirez, Albert Belle…jesus!) Belle was the baddest of the bunch, and he definitely scared me the most out of that group. He was really, really good, and a redass to boot, which is captured perfectly here. The video is pretty incredible, too.


Video of the Week

In honor of Cal announcing a home and home series with Ole Miss, we present you this video of fans tailgating at “The Grove”. 1-2-3 Sports! is already planning an RV trip to Oxford in 2019.


Tweet of the Week


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“Tiger will do more than any other man in history to change the course of humanity.”

-Earl Woods

Week of August 11, 2014

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Click on the pic to get the joke.


The Tiger Effect: Overrated?

“Tiger will do more than any other man in history to change the course of humanity.” – Earl Woods. I didn’t buy that even when I was 14, but I did buy into the notion that Tiger Woods was one of the very few transformative athletes. While his impact can’t be summarized by the almighty $, Matt Brennan’s examination of Tiger’s financial, social, and cultural impact on the game is revelatory. This could be one of the best original pieces I’ve read on Deadspin. -PAL

Source: “What Happens To Golf After Tiger?”, by Matt Brennan, Deadspin (8/14/14)

TOB: I have always liked Tiger Woods. But whenever I think of how Tiger’s career has fallen apart over the last five years, I think of this. At the 2009 Big Game, a game that underdog Cal would win over Toby Gerhart and Andrew Luck, Stanford honored Tiger Woods. As Tiger tried to give his speech, the Cal fans that had taken over Stanford Stadium began to boo him mercilessly. And the look on Tiger’s face is priceless. He is a true Stanford Man – smarmy and entitled – and he had no idea how to react to a negative reception, even some good-natured ribbing like this. Cal fans rightfully take credit for jinxing his career.

PAL: Did you guys know that Tommy went to Cal?


Think Different

Chip Kelly is a great football coach because he doesn’t think like a typical football coach. He doesn’t do things just because that is the way they’ve always been done. He questions why things are done a certain way and whether there is a better way to do them. This method has allowed him to be extremely successful everywhere he has coached. In short, I’m glad he’s not coaching Oregon anymore (did you know I went to Cal?), and this story is why. -TOB

Source: “The Influencer”, by Chris B. Brown, Grantland (08/14/14)

PAL: I’m not the biggest NFL fan in the world, but this is a good read on innovation, especially for anyone who’s coached or thinking about coaching. My favorite part: “The practice field is not where we talk. It is where we do the skills. We want to keep the words there to a minimum. The words you do use must have meaning. [Players] do not want to hear you give a 10-minute clinic in the middle of the field.”


The Next Great American Hope

I am not exactly a soccer nut, but I do enjoy it, and I feel as though I know more about it than most American sports fans. So while my soccer knowledge is not great, it was impossible not to notice 21-year old Deandre Yedlin every time he entered the game for the U.S. at this summer’s World Cup. It was really freakin obvious – he was fast as hell, and caused havoc all over the field. The world took notice, too – and Yedlin became one of the most sought after young players to emerge from the World Cup. Since the article was published, the Seattle Sounders agreed to transfer Yedlin to the English Premier League’s Tottenham Hotspurs (former team of current Sounder Clint Dempsey) for about $4M, to begin in 2015. If you want to know what it’s like to go from being a fairly unknown athlete to being chased by some of the top teams in the world in a very short amount of time, read this. -TOB

Source: “America’s Most Wanted”, by Jordan Ritter Conn, Grantland (08/12/14)

PAL: This is the first time I’ve heard about the MLS Homegrown Rule, and I think we should immediately implement it in all major sports (TOB: Agreed). Also, I buy into the belief that it has/will take generations before US Soccer can legitimately compete for a World Cup. The infrastructure has been there in youth leagues for about 25 years now, and I think we’re starting to see it bear fruit on the world stage.


The guy behind ‘The Guy’.

Listen, I’m over the PED in sports stories, too, but this article is about the disposable men in illegal schemes. Does the name Yuri Sucart mean anything to you? I didn’t think so. He’s Alex Rodriguez’s cousin. He’s the guy A-Rod threw under the bus the first time he tested positive for PEDs, and Sucart was up to his elbows in the Biogenesis scandal that will more than likely end A-Rod’s career (don’t forget – A-Rod was on track midway through his career to become one of the best 5 players to ever play the game by any standard). I found this mini-profile interesting, sad, a bit pathetic, and quietly dark when you look at the facts. – PAL

Source: “Yuri Sucart Faces a Decade in Prison After Years of Doing A-Rod’s Dirty Work”, by Tim Elfrink, Miami New Times (8/11/14)

TOB: If you need more confirmation that Barry Bonds is great and A-Rod sucks, you have it here. Bonds’ Guy, Greg Anderson, served time in jail instead of testifying against Bonds, and I guarantee that Bonds didn’t cut the guy off. Even the mob knows (in the movies) that you take care of your loyal soldiers. A-Rod sucks.


Too good to be true. 

Grantland’s “30 for 30” shorts are admittedly hit or miss (Steve Nash’s ‘The Finish Line’ series had its moments, but any doc in which the feature is also an Executive Producer is a bit suspect). Danny Almonte captivated the Little League World Series, striking out 32 out of a possible 36 batters in the first two games. That stat turned out to be literally unbelievable. At just under 18 minutes, don’t feel the need to watch the entire thing if it doesn’t grab you, but watching the highlights of him dealing is pretty funny, especially for those of us who vaguely remember Almonte. Spoiler alert: he’s filled out. Also, parents in youth sports can be the worst. No embed available. -PAL

Source: 30 for 3o Shorts: ‘Kid Danny’, directed by Andrew Cohen, Grantland (8/13/14)


Video of the Week: 

Mike Schmidt should be number 1, for crying out loud. I’ll give TSN – a Canadian network – a pass here, but that squeal at the end is the capper.


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Herman Blume: So you’ve changed your mind and you want the job.
Max Fischer: No, I’ve got an idea and I need some money.

– Rushmore