Best of 2015, Part 1


On this, the day of the Rose Bowl, a.k.a, “The Granddaddy of Them All”, we bring you Part 1 of 123’s Grandaddy of Them All – the Best of 2015. Today’s post features our 6 favorite stories we shared with you throughout 2015. Take some time and read even one of these stories. They are all fascinating. Tomorrow, Part 2 will feature the 6 funniest stories and our favorite videos from 2015. This AP photo of Harry Caray was our favorite that we came across. Are you sensing a superlative theme here?

In all seriousness, we love sharing these stories with you, our friends and family. If you love 123 Sports, or even like it sometimes, then we would so very, very much appreciate you spreading the word this weekend. While our readership is the best, it’s quite small. We’d like to change that, and we need your help in order to do so. Send the link to a friend and tell them it’s worth 10 minutes every week. – TOB & PAL

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Mark Davis Doesn’t Give a Damn What You Think

This is an amazing piece of journalism, by one of my longtime favorite sportswriters, Tim Keown. Keown profiles Raiders owner Mark Davis, who took over the team when his dad, Al Davis, died in 2011. That guy above? That’s Mark. Do you see that haircut? Mark has been rocking that awful hairdo for years, and people have been mocking it for just as long. But Mark Davis doesn’t just like that haircut. He travels 500 miles to Palm Springs to go to the same barber to get that haircut. Does he know people laugh at it? Yep. Does he care? Nope. The dude is worth $500 million and he does not care what you think. Check out the opening paragraph to the story:

Most days start the same — behind the wheel of a white 1997 Dodge Caravan SE outfitted with a bubble-top Mark III conversion kit, a VHS player mounted to the roof inside and a r8hers personalized plate. Mark Davis pilots this machine from his East Bay home to the nearest P.F. Chang’s, where he sits at the left end of the bar, same spot every time, puts his white fanny pack on the counter, orders an iced tea and unfolds the day’s newspapers. Beside him on the bar, next to the papers, is his 2003 Nokia push-button phone with full texting capability. When someone calls and asks him where he is, he says, “I’m in my office,” and sends a knowing nod to the bartenders. It gets ’em every time.

I have read that five times and I laugh every time. If that doesn’t make you click this story to read the rest, I give up. -TOB

Source: Just Live Up to Your Dad’s Name and Solve the NFL’s L.A. Problem, Baby!”, Tim Keown, ESPN the Magazine (10/01/2015)

PAL: The next time someone tells you “I don’t care what other people think,” you can call bulls*&t. Simply pull out your phone, have them read this story. Mark Davis doesn’t care what other people think, and he’s the only one. Hilarious story. Great find. Also, the man is worth $500 million and he drives a conversion van with a vanity plate. Can we get the Mark Davis biopic movie into pre-produciton already?


Twins.com

This is one of the funniest stories I’ve ever read. Durland and Darvin are twins. In 1995 they registered for the URL twins.com. In the 20 years since, all but 3 URLs for MLB baseball teams have been secured by the MLB. The holdouts: The Giants (football team got that one), the Rays (a restaurant in Seattle has that one), and the Twins. While the Giants and Rays situations make sense, the Twins URL makes for a great, absurd, hilarious story. I don’t want to spoil too many tidbits about these brothers – remember, their names are Durland and Darvin – but here are a couple teasers:

  • Aside from living together, at one point they had complementary black and white humvees. 
  • They were in a successful San Francisco band…a “copy” band of course, and nearly made the finals of a national Battle of the Bands in the early 80s against eventual winner…Bon Jovi.

I want a 30 for 30 doc on these brothers, and I want it now. – PAL

Source: “The Website MLB Couldn’t Buy”, Ben Lindbergh, Grantland (8/27/15)

TOB: I cannot recommend this story highly enough. It is completely absurd and I laughed out loud at least a half dozen times.


Before He Was A Cub, Harry Caray Was A Trailblazer

“The Stacks” collection is one of the best series featured on Deadspin, and this week’s story will have you smiling all the way through. Read how Harry Caray (the legendary Cubs announcer and perhaps Will Ferrell’s best impersonation) got his break into calling games for the Cardinals, how he changed the way baseball was announced, his odd but powerful relationship with “Gussie” Busch (Budweiser), and how his “call it as I see it” approach enraged players and coaches alike. Some people loathed him, but the fans sitting by the radios throughout the country loved him. In his own words:

“I like to think that if I’ve accomplished anything, well, I’ve tried to develop the feeling in the little man, the man we call the fan, that I have his interest at heart. In the baseball business I’m the last of the nonconformists. I feel that eventually, in this day and age, my kind of guy’s gotta get fired.”

Fantastic read that got me ready for the baseball season to kick off! – PAL

Source: “When Harry Caray Was A Rebel With A Microphone,” Myron Cope, Sports Illustrated, October 1968 (℅ Deadspin, 4/1/15)

TOB: Like many baseball fans of my age, I grew up watching Cubs games on nationally-aired WGN, announced by Harry Caray. He was like a lovable grandpa – loud and funny, maybe a little drunk. He loved baseball and he made you love it, too. But this article has me rethinking my understanding of Harry Caray. While I will always appreciate the enthusiasm with which he called a game – and his concerns about play by play announcers becoming mellow and boring was prophetic – e.g., Joe Buck, Dave Flemming (yes, I said it) – this article sure does mention a lot of people that worked with Harry that did not like him. He sounds like the kind of guy who stepped on a lot of people to get to the top. There are multiple facets to every person, but this does paint a picture of a Harry as someone whose public persona was more contrived than I had previously thought. Still, I can’t help but agree with this poem, taken from the story: “If you lack the tickets to see the Cards, you can listen in your own backyards, and the greatest show, no ifs or buts, is to hear Harry Caray going nuts.”


OH, HELL YEAH: A STORY ON HUMAN CANNONBALLS

Yeah, I went full caps lock. 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.


Tom Brady: Profile of a Christopher Guest Character

Tom Brady is successful, and, according to the writer, “anything but a bonehead football player.” Yet, he comes off like a, well, a bimbo in this story. Like the best characters from all of the Christopher Guest movies, he seems to lack self-awareness outside the realm of the football field. I’ll let one quote do the heavy lifting for me: ‘He marched me back into the house, through the kitchen and past a shelf that displayed a large glass menorah. “We’re not Jewish,” Brady said when I asked him about this. “But I think we’re into everything. . . . I don’t know what I believe. I think there’s a belief system, I’m just not sure what it is.”’ There are two types of people that can say something like this and get away with it – really attractive women and Tom Brady. And – yes – of course he is a spokesman for Stetson cologne. – PAL

Source: “Tom Brady Cannot Stop”Mark Leibovich, The New York Times Magazine (1/26/15)

TOB: If you’re looking for some laughs, read this story. Phil and I had a great time copy/pasting the best Tom Brady lines to each other as we read. Find a buddy and do the same.


Steve Kerr: Good Dude

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

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

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


Video of the Week: Wait for the Best of 2015, Part 2 tomorrow! We’re posting the best videos/vines of the year in addition to the funniest stories of the year.


Song of the Year: No, this is not a song released in 2015, but a song discovered in 2015. For me, it was a clear choice: Fleetwood Mac – “What Makes You Think You’re The One”.

Check out all of our Songs of the Week in this here playlist.


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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

 

 

 

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Week of June 1, 2015

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

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Steve Kerr: Good Dude

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


No Back Talk, Please

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

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

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


So Fresh, So Clean

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

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

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

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


MORE CURRY!

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

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

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


Video of the Week

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


Tweet of the Week

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


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


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– Derek Doback