Week of September 14, 2015

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It’s Just a Sweet, Sweet Fantasy, Baby…

If you watch sports on TV, you have lately been inundated with commercials for “Daily Fantasy” sports. The Daily Fantasy commercials feature excited people receiving oversized, seven figure checks (longtime 1-2-3 readers may recall this story about a guy making $1M/year in fantasy sports that we featured in one of our very first posts). It all sounds great, and on Monday night, I thought, “Well maybe I should try it.” This, despite the fact that I am a terrible fantasy football player. I am glad that I instead found this story on Tuesday, which made me realize that I would merely be throwing my money away. To wit: “Analysis from Rotogrinders conducted for Bloomberg shows that the top 100 ranked players enter 330 winning lineups per day, and the top 10 players combine to win an average of 873 times daily. The remaining field of approximately 20,000 players tracked by Rotogrinders wins just 13 times per day, on average…Only the top 1.3 percent of players finished in the green during the three months measured by the Sport Business Journal.” Those odds are awful. Don’t get suckered in. Don’t play Daily Fantasy. -TOB

Source: You Aren’t Good Enough to Win Money Playing Daily Fantasy Sports”, Joshua Brustein and Ira Boudway, Bloomberg Businessweek (09/10/2015)

PAL: Hey, my college buddy and sportswriter posted the perfect companion piece! Whereas Brustein and Boudway’s take underscores the odds of winning playing DFL (I will only refer to it as DFL from here on out), Opatz takes a crack at the effect DFL has on how we experience games. In addition to learning about DFL camps in Vegas (for cryin out loud), he nails it when he writes, “Watching sports for fantasy takes the poetry out of it, reducing the subtleties and nuance of sports to simple accounting in a ledger. It turns an epic novel into a spreadsheet. But that didn’t stop me from drafting a fantasy football team this year.”

Source: Fantasy Factory”, Louie Opatz, Litchfield Independent Review (09/10/2015)


Baby, I’ve Got Your Money

If you enjoy college sports, the idea to allow schools to pay players directly is troubling. In a free market system, an already stratified sport would only become worse, and the games would become a farce. Inevitably, many schools who are barely breaking even as is would be forced to cut football. At other schools, profits from football pay for non-revenue sports, including women’s sports. If college football players begin getting paid, available profits for smaller sports will shrink. The Title IX implications are also significant – it is likely that, at least at some schools, every non-revenue male sport would have to be axed in order to comply with Title IX. It seems like a horrible mess and the death of college sports. However, inspired by a Nike commercial tribute to Animal House featuring great Oregon Duck football players of the past, Andrew Sharp proposes a system to pay college football players, without the payments coming directly from the schools themselves. His suggestion: Allow private companies to pay them. Nike, UnderArmour, local car dealers, etc. Just let players trade off their fame. It hurts no one. Hell, it even helps college football. If Johnny Manziel could have traded off his likeness for $10M/year for two more years of college, he’d be a lot better off, and so would college football fans who got to watch him, than he is being battered in the NFL. This idea is not without flaws, as schools like Oregon, with strong ties to Nike will have a strong advantage over other schools. But it’s better than the alternative, and at least the players are getting paid. -TOB

Source: The Pac-12 and the Smartest Way to Pay College Athletes”, Andrew Sharp, Grantland (09/16/2015)


I’ll Give You Summer Teeth. Some’r Here, Some’r There.

As a non-hockey fan, I do enjoy a good hockey fight. I was actually a big hockey fan in the early to mid-90’s, but when you get older you have to prioritize. I watch way less sports in general than I did when I was a kid, and hockey is one of those sports that did not make the cut. One of my favorite things about hockey fights is “jerseying” – when the players fighting attempt to pull their opponents’ jersey over their head. I had no idea, though, that this practice was effectively banned by the NHL in the late-90’s, which is a bummer – it’s such a classic move. This light-hearted article takes a look back at the history of Jerseying with some excellent examples, including an appearance by Terry O’Reilly, who was immortalized in the opening moments of Happy Gilmore. -TOB

Source: It Made Sense at the Time: The Art of Jerseying”, Sean McIndoe, Grantland (09/16/2015)


Discussing the Writing of the Unwritten Rules of Baseball

This is hilarious. First, watch this video:

http://m.mlb.com/video/topic/6479266/v484986883

Ok, who was wrong here? I think it’s Seager. What a punk. For a more thorough and hilarious breakdown, please read Grant Brisbee’s article. -TOB

Source: The Unwritten Rules of Kyle Seager Calling for Time the Wrong Way”, Grant Bisbee, SB Nation (09/17/2015)


Alabama Weak Sauce

By now everyone has heard how nuts Alabama football fans are about their team. They are proud to be certifiable when it comes to the Crimson Tide, so I have to call them out on this weak ass crap. Every year before the home opener, people come together for the “Bear Bryant Namesake Reunion”. I know what you’re thinking – whoa, that’s nuts! Everyone named after Paul “Bear” Bryant come together to celebrate his or her father’s obsession with football that swirled out of control to the point where he named his child after a football coach. Here’s the deal – the rules for being a namesake are weak. Bryant Lambert, Andrew Bryant Madaris, William Bryceton Wooters, Paula Harrison – although technical namesakes, these folks are getting pretty loose with it. Only one kid featured here had the obvious, most bad-ass name: BEAR. That’s commitment to the insanity which should be at the heart of this bonkers tradition. As far as I’m concerned, there are only two people who should get the invite next year: Bear Bryant’s son (Paul, Jr.), and 7 year-old Bear Zeiden. – PAL

Source: Where Bear Meets Bryant, Again and Again“, Mark Tracy, The New York Times (9/14/15)

TOB: This reminds me of a favorite story of mine. In the late-1980s, the father of Isaiah Thomas, the player currently on the Celtics, was a huge Lakers fan. The story goes that his father was friends with a big Pistons fan, and that the two made a bet before the 1989 NBA season. If the Pistons won the title, Thomas’ dad had to name his son Isaiah Thomas, after the Pistons star. The story goes that although Isaiah was born 3 months before the Finals, by that time his dad had warmed to the name and it stuck.


PAL’s Song of the Week: Fleetwood Mac – “What Makes You Think You’re the One”Bullseye Podcast w/ Jesse Thorn

Check out all of our weekly picks here. It’ll make you better looking


Video of the Week

Hitting Cage Bombs with my amigo, Domingo Ayala! If you get a few minutes, check out more of Domingo’s videos. Like this one. And this one.

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“Hi… not you… Hi.”

– Ernie McCracken

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Week of March 16, 2015

NCAA Men's Final Four - Championship

Don’t Hate The Player – Hate The Game

As someone who doesn’t have a horse in the race, my rooting allegiance was available for the NCAA tournament. Kentucky is the odds-on favorite to win it all and has a chance to be the first team since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers to go undefeated (note: the tournament included only 32 teams in 1976). This article goes beyond the reasons Kentucky will or will not win the title; rather, Sharp makes argument for why as the headline suggests, the team matters. For instance, Coach John Calipari might be hated for recruiting “1-and-done” players, but all the major programs have followed his lead to a lesser degree of success. Furthermore, attracting super recruits is one challenge; getting a group of them to understand that playing as a team ultimately better for the individual player’s future is quite another challenge. And ultimately, the product is more entertaining during a time when the college game has become slow, low-scoring, and devoid of upper-classmen with NBA talent. Taking all of this into consideration, go Wildcats. – PAL

Source: Kentucky Is the Only Team That Matters, Andrew Sharp, Grantland (3/19/15)

TOB: #theyjustjealous. Every other coach wishes he could recruit the kind of talent that Calipari does every year. This is a true story: Kentucky has a guy named Marcus Lee. Lee is a 6’9 PF from the Bay Area. He was ranked as high as #19 in the country out of high school. He picked Kentucky, with Cal as his #2. Lee and his family explained that while they knew he wouldn’t get much playing time at Kentucky, he had a better chance of making the NBA by playing against the one-and-dones at Kentucky in practice every day for four years, than he did as the best player at Cal. Now, I don’t know if I agree with this, but it’s not insane. As I was writing the preceding sentence, I heard Calipari say at halftime of their first round game against Hampton, “It was nice I could get Marcus Lee into the game because (Cauley-Stein) had foul trouble.” Lee, who probably could have helped transform Cal’s basketball program, is a garbage time afterthought at Kentucky (he averages 11 mins and 2.7 points per game). I can’t be mad at that, though. Kentucky is undefeated and outscoring opponents by twenty-one points per game. They beat tournament teams UNC and UCLA by 24 and 39. They beat Kansas (a #2 seed) by 32! They are fun to watch – I hope they meet Arizona in the Final Four (who I think is even more fun). It will be can’t miss television.


Who Am I? (What’s My Name)

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Guillherme Fuck is a college basketball player in Canada. He’s from Brazil. His last name, as you can see, has made some…uncomfortable. But Fuck embraces his name and so should we. I hope he runs for office one day. -TOB

Source: What’s in a Name? Fuck Proud of His”, Ryan McCracken, Medicine Hat News (03/19/2015)


Chalk One Up For The Geezers

With a kiss! Send it in, Jerome! Bill Raftery (73) has one of the most recognizable voices (and catch phrases) in college basketball, so it shocked me to discover he’s never called the Final Four on television until this year. He’s never complained or lobbied for the job, even when he’s been passed over for younger, and in some cases far less experienced candidates. He also represents a group of geezers that have no intention of retiring (I don’t believe the Jim Boeheim “retire in three years b.s. any more than you do). Legendary announcer Dick Vitale (76), SMU coach Larry Brown (74, and damn, did they get hosed in that game or what), and defiant Syracuse coach Boeheim (70) all keep chugging along. Unlike the others, who have reached the pinnacle of their respective professions – Brown is the only coach ever to win both an NCAA and NBA title, Boeheim got a title behind a teenaged Carmelo Anthony, Vitale as the pop culture icon – this is Raftery’s first time to the mountaintop. Good on you, Bill Raftery. You deserve it. -PAL

Source:At 73, a First TV Job at the Final Four”, Richard Sandomir, The New York Times (3/16/15)

TOB: As if Billy Packer for decades wasn’t bad enough, whoever chose Clark Freakin Kellogg over Raftery for the Final Four should be tried for crimes against humanity. And then Greg Anthony after that!? The stated reason of not wanting to break up Verne Lundquist and Raftery is bull. I’m excited for Raftery – I just wish it had happened sooner. At 74, he’s not quiiiiiite the announcer he used to be. Nonetheless, I expect at least one, “ONIONS IN INDY!” at the Final Four. I can’t wait.


One Player’s Pre-emptive Strike Against CTE

As you’re probably aware, 49ers linebacker Chris Borland retired unexpectedly this week. Borland had a very promising rookie year. But he walked away, after just one season and less than one million dollars in career earnings, because he was afraid of what the game of football might do to his brain. The news was shocking, especially to 49ers fans, who have experienced an almost comically bad offseason. As you can imagine, a lot of words were written about Borland’s decision. These were two of my favorites. -TOB

Source: Everyone Wants Chris Borland to Mean Something”, Barry Petchesky, Deadspin (03/17/2015); The Definition of Tough: How Chris Borland Walked Away From His Dream Job”, Bill Barnwell, Grantland (03/17/2015)

PAL: “At this point, it’s about the fact that football destroys some or many of the people who play it, and the consequences of that knowledge.” That’s the best description of where the NFL (and the country) is at with the CTE situation. Now that we have the knowledge, what do individuals do with it? Some players will say, “screw it,” and play anyway, and some won’t. More important to the long-term future of football: what decision will parents make on behalf of their kids? What’s most shocking to me is when I hear retired players who are seemingly healthy and got out unscathed (Herm Edwards is one example) say they would go back and do it again while knowing the risks. Really? You were lucky enough to have made it through the gauntlet once, while other players have suffered horribly, and you’d risk it again? That’s arrogance. Above all, I think Borland displays humility and confidence by walking away now. He’s not foolish enough to think it (CTE) won’t happen to him, and he has the confidence to not define himself by football.  


Crawford’s Web

Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford makes some incredible defensive plays. This article was a great idea by Giants beat writer Alex Pavlovic, who sat down with Crawford to break down five of his best. Crawford explains what went through his head, how he made the play, and how he feels watching them now. I enjoyed it thoroughly. -TOB

Source: Giants’ SS Crawford Breaks Down Top 2014 Defensive Gems, Alex Pavlovic, CSN Bay Area (03/18/2015)

PAL: Beer on me for whomever posts a picture or short video of the following (someone take me up on this already, dammit!). Go to your local field (regulations size, folks), stand where the infield dirt meets the outfield grass 20 feet from the third base line, and throw a ball to first base. You’ll find it’s a hell of a long throw. Imagine diving for a ground ball, getting up, and making a throw to first base in time to beat a professional athlete to the bag. Someone please do this. Pat O’Brien, Al Pflepsen, and Ryan Nett, Ryan Rowe – I’m looking at you. In fact, Tommy and I might be cooking up a video series idea to try to recreate the best plays of each month from this upcoming season. You can already file it under comedy. Crawford is a maestro.


The Manhattan Project of College Sports

This week, Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick, the most influential AD in the NCAA, just pulled a Harry Truman, announcing the college sports atomic bomb. This has been brewing for years, but to hear the Notre Dame AD come out and present it as a viable plan is more than a little shocking. Swarbrick addresses the movement toward paying college players, and how some schools just will not go there (e.g. Notre Dame and Stanford). He proposes a move to two associations. Teams like Alabama and Oregon, who are committed to winning football at all costs, would go in one association. In the other association would be teams like Notre Dame and Stanford, following more of an Ivy League model. He believes that Notre Dame will still command a major TV contract even if they are not playing the other elite teams. I’m not so sure, and this seems like a major gamble for him. Will ND’s nationwide fans continue to follow the team if they move to what will be viewed as a lower division? I also found the placement of my alma mater, Cal, in the same division as Notre Dame as interesting. No doubt, the administration would want to join that league. But Cal just renovated their stadium a few years ago and need to pay off around $300 million over the next 40 years. Can they afford the move to the lower division? I am skeptical. -TOB

Source: Notre Dame AD Has a Vision of Two Collegiate Athletic Associations”, Dennis Dodd, CBS Sports (03/18/2015)

PAL: Let’s say this happened tomorrow. Notre Dame Football would be (more) irrelevant within 3 years, if not sooner. The coach would bolt, and boosters would have Swarbrick canned long before that. Perhaps one example of collateral damage in the eventual payment of college athletes is Notre Dame becoming a note in a sports almanac. Also, you are delusional if you don’t think Notre Dame athletes are receiving “benefits” right now. My advice: Lean into it, Mr. Swarbrick.

TOB: With the rare counterargument: From what I have read, Swarbrick is extremely intelligent and good at his job. It would shock me if, before he went public with this, his message was not run by (1) ND Administration and (2) NBC Sports Execs. I find it hard to believe that this mandate is not coming from his school’s higher ups – ND fancies itself in the rarefied air just below the Ivies, and they truly may not want to go to a pay-for-play model. But, I find it hard to believe they’d also forego the TV money they get from NBC. Perhaps they convinced NBC that they’d still draw ratings (though I think, as Phil said, it would not take long for viewers to tune out).


Video of the Week

This week’s video is another edition of MLB Statcast, where they use science to break down amazing plays. This play is the near-double play the Giants pulled on the Cardinals after the deflection off of He Who Shall Not Be Named’s glove in Game 5 of the NLCS. Click the image to load the video.


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“What kind of person could ever cheer for that Duke team over the Fab Five? Is that someone you would ever want to be friends with?”

-Chris Ryan, Grantland

 

 

Week of November 10, 2014

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Randy Moss: Everything You Actually Want In Your Athlete

“Some players are so good that rooting against them is pointless. Moss was in that category immediately.” We all love the ‘gamer’ athletes. The guys that just grind out base hits, do all the “little things” right, and aren’t afraid to get a little dirty eeking out a win for our team. Yeah, yeah, yeah. You know what’s better? Usain Bolt in the last 30 meters. LeBron James in the open court. Randy Moss outrunning everything – the coverage and the ball, then slowing down and jumping 5 feet over the defense to make a catch. Here’s the truth: we don’t care if our favorite athletes are nice, or kind, or hard-working, or good husbands or fathers (assuming they aren’t violent, horrible people). We don’t care at all, because the type of person they are has no impact on our lives. What captivates us is someone doing the one thing he or she was put on earth to do, and to see him or her do it so much better and easier than everyone else. And while Moss definitely was an arrogant piece of work at times, he seems like a pretty grounded superstar that’s transitioned into retirement pretty smoothly. Apparently the key is saving money and fishing a lot.  – PAL

Source: “There Will Never Be Another Randy Moss”, Andrew Sharp, Grantland (11/11/14)

TOB Note: A couple lines from this really stand out for me. “If I find out someone doesn’t like Randy Moss and Allen Iverson, it’s a pretty clear sign we could never be real friends…Randy Moss was the type of player that dads didn’t like rooting for. That made it all the more fun.” This is so true for me. I always liked guys the stuffy media would tsk tsk at, and hated the ones they gushed over. So, of course, I loved Moss (and Iverson).


Moving Forward

Last year, NBA player Ryan Anderson’s life was turned upside down when his girlfriend, Gia Allemand, a former Bachelor contestant, committed suicide after the two had a fight. Ryan was the one who found her. Unlike most suicide-related stories, this one focuses on those who remain, namely Anderson. How does one deal with the grief, guilt, and relationships? Anderson has faced all of these questions head-on, and doing so while continuing to excel on the court. I feel a bit of a personal connection to this story, in a degree of separation sort of way. Ryan Anderson is from El Dorado Hills, where my family moved when I was 16. He’s a few years younger than me, but we have more than a few mutual friends, and I’ve met him a couple times in passing. So I read this with much interest, but it’s great even without those connections – a story of someone being dealt an unfathomably terrible blow, but choosing to get up and keep moving forward.  -TOB

Source: Love, Loss, and Survival”, by Chris Ballard, Sports Illustrated (11/13/14)

PAL Note: Anderson handles a nightmare situation with vulnerability, grace, and action. As Tommy mentions, I too appreciate that the story focuses as much on what happens to those close to the person as it does on the act itself.


It’s Time to Pay College Football/Basketball Players

After reading this article by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, it’s hard to argue that college sports is not broken, and that it has been for decades. It’s possible to both acknowledge that college sports needs fixing and still be a fan. But things do need to change. For years, I have wrestled with the understanding that football and men’s basketball players (the only consistent positive revenue sports) deserve to be paid, while also knowing that doing so will change those sports (and all the non-revenue sports that rely on those two sports for funding) forever. Well, too bad. These players risk their long-term physical health and get pushed through toward graduation (if they get that far) with a meaningless degree in b.s. majors. It’s time. A few changes are easy:

  • Education standards must be tougher, so that they actually get a meaningful education.
  • The players should be paid. If that means less scholarships for gymnastics, oh well.
  • Coaches’ salaries should be capped. It’s insane that Coach K makes nearly $10M a year while the schools claim they can’t afford to pay players.
  • Revenue-positive sports should be exempt from Title IX restrictions – it makes no sense to count football and men’s basketball, sports that earn the school money and literally pay for those other sports, as expenditures for Title IX purposes.

College sports are broken. But they are fixable. This shouldn’t be that hard. -TOB

Source: College Athletes of the World Unite”, by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jacobin Magazine (11/12/14)

PAL Note: Holy sh*t – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar worked as a groundskeeper at UCLA during spring break. I cannot get over this. I wish I could make the argument that college athletes in revenue-positive sports shouldn’t be paid, and that gymnastics is as valuable as football – that money can’t be the the only metric of value when we’re talking about college athletics – but we are so, so far beyond that point.


Video of the Week

You may have seen highlights of this game before. It is hard to argue that it is not the greatest finish to a high school football game of all-time. A tremendous effort to come from behind on the back of three recovered onside kicks in the last few minutes. Elation, followed by devastation, and some of the greatest lines from any announcer, ever. This version is new – a look back at this crazy game, including interviews with the players, and those announcers, who lived it.


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“God bless you all. And as for you bastards in charge, don’t dream it’s over. Years will come, years will go, and politicians will do fuck all to make the world a better place. But all over the world, young men and young women will always dream dreams and put those dreams into song. Nothing important dies tonight, just a few ugly guys on a crappy ship. The only sadness tonight is that, in future years, there’ll be so many fantastic songs that it will not be our privilege to play. But, believe you me, they will still be written, they will still be sung and they will be the wonder of the world. ”

-The Count