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?


Like what you’ve read? Let us know by following this blog (on the right side, up near the top), or:

Email: 123sportslist@gmail.com

Twitter: @123sportsdigest

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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 September 1, 2014

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Checkmate of the Month

Right now, the world’s best Chess players have converged in St. Louis, of all places, for a tournament. And the best of the bunch is a 23 year old Norwegian – Magnus Carlsen. Carlsen is the reigning world chess champion. Unlike most top Chess players, Carlsen doesn’t train with computers and has a more organic style. This gives him an advantage over the other players, because they are all trained the same way and expect a player to respond in a certain way. Carlsen doesn’t do that. And… ok, look. When we started this blog, I never thought I’d be writing about chess, either. But I’m telling you – this is a good read! It actually made me think, “It would be pretty cool if a chess champion took the world by storm like Bobby Fisher did.” Man, the 1970’s were weird. -TOB

Source: The Most Compelling Athlete In America Right Now Is Here To Play Chess“, by Dave McKenna, Deadspin (09/02/14)


Should I Stop Watching Football?

While reading this story, I couldn’t stop nodding my head in agreement, and shaking my head in shame. Over the last few years, we’ve learned a lot more about what the game of football does to the men who play, and it is not good. I used to love football. I still kind of do. I mean, I watch, but I feel guilty about it, and as I watch, I am constantly grimacing at the crushing hits. I’m not alone. Author Steve Almond just wrote a book entitled, “Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto.” Almond was a decades long football fan who this offseason decided his conscience couldn’t allow him to keep watching football. This is an interview with Mr. Almond, exploring the reasons why he “quit” football, and why he wrote the book. If you like football, and consider yourself a moral person, it is a good read. If you are interested in the subject, I’ve listed a couple related articles I enjoyed this week. -TOB

Source: Interference: One Man Questions Everything Football Has to Offer”, by Patrick Sauer, Biographile (09/03/14); Companion pieces: “People vs. The NFL“, by Matt Ufford, SB Nation (09/04/14); “The League That Never Sleeps“, by Bill Simmons, Grantland (09/04/14)


Does Defense Still Win Championships?

Offenses in college football have exploded. It seems like every offense is running a spread variation, and most are running no-huddle hurry-ups to put maximum pressure on the defense, prevent them from substituting, and eventually wear them down. And it sure seems to work. So, does the old adage still hold? Do defenses still win championships? Well, Mark Dantonio, head coach of the defending Rose Bowl Champion Michigan State Spartans, sure thinks so. There’s a bit of “chalk talk” here, but mostly it’s an interesting look at a coach who has learned to adapt to a changing game. -TOB

Source: A Defense to Match: Appreciating the Stingy Spartans in the Offensive Age“, by Chris B. Brown, Grantland (09/02/14)


Ichiro Es Muy Gracioso. Y El Mejor.

Ichiro is just the best. His career is winding down, and amusing stories keep leaking out. This is the latest – Ichiro did his best to pick up some Spanish and use it to talk trash to his opponents. Of course, the Latino players love him for it. -TOB

Source: “Ichiro Suzuki Uncensored, en Español“, by Brad LeftonWall Street Journal (08/29/14)

Note: This makes so much sense – foreign players (regardless of country) feeling a bond – and yet it’s a notion I’ve never considered. My favorite quote from the article: “I feel a bond with them…We’re all foreigners in a strange land…And besides, we don’t really have curse words in Japanese, so I like the fact that the Western languages allow me to say things that I otherwise can’t.” -PAL


He’s Just ‘Bout That Action, Boss

Marshawn Lynch was a freshman at Cal just as I was graduating. In his first career game, he did this. Against Stanford that season, he did this. A couple years later, after almost single handedly dragging an underachieving Cal team to an overtime victory against Washington, he celebrated by stealing the injury cart and mobbing all over the field. He said after the game that he wanted to ghostride it, but he was afraid he’d hurt someone. He invented the nickname “Beast Mode” – which has been stolen and completely overused by everyone else. His house in Oakland was once shot up in a drive-by – and the perpetrators later came by to pay their respects and apologize because they got the wrong house and wanted Marshawn to know they meant no harm. That is boss. Needless to say, I was a huge fan when he entered the NFL. I was annoyed when the Niners passed on him, but they did take Patrick Willis one spot before the Bills took Marshawn, so that worked out. And he had a pretty good rookie season…but then things kinda fizzled. He had a few run-ins with the law and his career seemed to be sputtering. Now, of course, he’s one of the best running backs in the NFL. But, he’s a different kind of dude, and this is an interesting look at how Marshawn has tried to balance his many sides.

Source: “Dr. Marshawn and Mr. Lynch“, by Kevin Fixler, SB Nation (09/04/14)


Local Flavor: St. Paul, Minnesota

Here’s how my mornings would go back in Minnesota when I was a kid: Wake up and shuffle down stairs, find a box of cereal that had more than half a bowl’s worth of the goods, pull the sports page out of the Pioneer Press, and see if “Shooter” had an article that day. Charley Walters is a sports gossip (way ahead of his time, I suppose). As a kid, I took it as the real inside scoop, especially when one of his paragraphs started with – I shit you not – “a little birdie told me”. He plays favorites (I’m sure he has a Joe Mauer tramp stamp) and doesn’t care. Now, I love his articles for their comedic qualities, intended or otherwise. I mean, this guy is reporting on washed up basketball players from local D3 schools signing to play in some German league. I love it. I’m asking Tommy to feature a story from his hometown paper next week, and we would love suggestions from you, our 12 readers. Tweet us your favorite hometown sports stories/writers @123sportsnews. Tommy will buy a beer for everyone who’s story gets featured in our next issue. – PAL

Source: “Charley Walters: Adrian Peterson has good years ahead, Foreman says”, by Charley Walters, The Pioneer Press (8/30/14)


VIDEO OF THE WEEK


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“It was one of those nights. You know the kind. Like day, but darker.”

– Eric Matthews