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


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: @123sportsnews


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

– Random dude at the gym

Advertisements

Week of September 15, 2014

pic


Hey, Everybody. We Matter!

Yes, more about the mess in the NFL. My opinions on this have been conflicting and inconsistent. I have at times lamented the fact that the NFL punishing players for off-field incidents is nothing more than PR, and so it seems hollow and fake. But in this article, Will Leitch makes a really great point:

The pressure on everyone involved, from the league to the sponsors to the team to the players … it has all come from you. From us. Sure, it’s cynical and hypocritical of all these entities to pretend they care about “the right thing” and justice, when all they really care about public relations. But that doesn’t mean that the right thing wasn’t done, that justice wasn’t actually served. That’s because of you. That’s because so many people spoke up and, more important, they could all hear us. They couldn’t ignore us if they tried…. Sometimes you look at Twitter, and social media, and comments sections, and it makes you despair for humanity. But sometimes it makes a difference. Sometimes it is a force for good. Sometimes, it really is progress.”

That is spot on. Unlike Phil, I don’t feel the need to boycott the NFL. Being vocal about how these incidents, and the NFL’s maddeningly inconsistent punishments, however, does help. And if the punishments cause players to stop doing things like beating their wives and girlfriends (or even just reduces the number), well, that’s also good. -TOB

Note:  Boycott, tweet, post, etc – whatever card you want to play is fine by me, but play a card.  We – the common people – need to be better on calling b.s. when b.s. is what we’re fed. – PAL

Source: The NFL: Where Our Opinion Matters”, Will Leitch, Sports on Earth (09/17/2014)


Yes, Even More About the NFL

Dave McKenna is a great sports writer with real integrity. In this piece, he goes in-depth on how the most prominent NFL sportswriters have become nothing more than mouthpieces for the NFL and Roger Goodell. But this cozy relationship hung these prominent writers out to dry when the second Ray Rice tape was released. They had all suggested or said that the NFL had seen the second video, and that the video backed up the light punishment. Those writers now look like idiots, and initially they were quite unhappy. But, they couldn’t bit the hand that feeds too long, and before the week was up, many of them were backing off their criticism of the NFL, and once again spouting the party line. Sad. I highly recommend this one. -TOB

Source: “Will the Elite NFL Media Still be Stooges After the Ray Rice Scandal“, Dave McKenna, Deadspin (09/16/2014)

Note: This story was a pick of mine this week, too. Upon more reflection, it seems obvious that we shouldn’t have our primary source of sports news be a company that has a professional relationship with a league upon which it reports. -PAL


Power Play

I don’t expect you to care about the Columbus Bluejackets. Hell, I don’t expect you to even know what professional league the Columbus Blue Jackets play in (the NHL). But here’s a story for any fan who’s gone through the dreaded contract negotiations headache (Giants fans, be prepared – your next one will be Pablo Sandoval, and we all know he’s looking to get paid). Depending on your view, the NHL team in Ohio (not a misprint) pulled either a pretty gutsy or dumb move  – they went public with the offers rising star Ryan Johansen has rejected. How could this move end well for the team? Maybe they just wanted to call b.s. on this kid. I can get behind that. Of course he can call b.s. on the team, and I can get behind that, too. -PAL

Source: Blue Jackets Not F*&^ing Around With Ryan Johansen Contract Negotiations”, Barry Petchesky, Deadspin (09/17/2014)

Note: I know nothing about this kid, but if he’s a very good, young star, then I have no problem with him seeking as much money as he can get. Owners are greedy billionaires who make money hand over fist. If Johansen, a restricted free agent, can get better money elsewhere and force the Blue Jackets to let him take that deal, or to give it to him themselves, more power to him. -TOB


1 Swing >/< $10 Million?

Anthony Kim was on the verge of being the next young rival to Tiger Woods. Don’t forget – he was a badass on the 2008 Ryder Cup team. He also liked to party and spend his money (and wear oversized belt buckles). Where has he gone? Injuries have a lot to do with it, but so too might a hefty insurance policy that would be void if he came back. -PAL

Source: “Anthony Kim, MIA Since 2012, Wrestles With Whether To Tee It Up Again or Reap an Eight-Figure Disability Settlement“, Alan Shipnuck, Golf.com (09/17/2014)


Close, But No Cigar

A guy placed a $5 bet on the NFL games last week. No big deal, except he did a 15-team parlay. Through Sunday, he was 14-0 and poised to turn $5 into $100,000. Then a kid from Stanford had to screw it all up. – PAL

Source: Bettor loses $100k payday”, David Purdum, ESPN (09/17/2014)

Note: As always, Eff Stanfurd. -TOB


VIDEO OF THE WEEK

Bryan Cranston, aka the Dad from Malcolm in the Middle aka Walter White aka Heisenberg absolutely kills this long commercial for the MLB Playoffs. It’s six minutes, but super funny.


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: @123sportsnews


“…cause’ there will always be poverty and pain and war and justice in this world, but there will, thank the Lord, always be… the Beatles.”

-The Count, Pirate Radio

Week of September 1, 2014

yavs95lrhnoszoxgrdfj


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


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: @123sportsnews


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

– Eric Matthews

Week of July 28, 2014

aav6pnk3qvv6gnsok6ub


It’s Not That I Condone Fascism, or Any ‘ism’ for That Matter.

Our muscles are covered with a series of connective tissues called “Fascia”. Until recently, fascia has been understudied and largely ignored. For decades, it was believed to have no function at all. However, recent research has shown that fascia may be incredibly important to our health. “New Age” medicine has been onto this idea for decades, but the medical establishment had been slow to come around. And there is still push back – but as a guy in his early 30’s, still feeling sore four days after pitching three innings of stick ball, this article certainly had me fascinated. -TOB

Source: “How a Mysterious Body Part Called Fascia is Challenging Medicine”Robert T. Gonzalez, i09.com, (07/29/14)


Roger Goodell Sucks.

I have hated Roger Goodell since the beginning of his commissionership. He is heavy handed with punishments – including recently suspending the Browns’ Josh Gordon for the entire season for failing a marijuana test. Imagine the surprise, then, when the NFL announced Ray Rice’s suspension – for knocking his then-fiancee, now-wife, unconscious in a public elevator, and then dragging her unconscious body into the lobby of the casino – of only two games. It seemed preposterous. How could that be worth two games, but marijuana is worth a whole season? But details have emerged of the NFL’s investigation of the incident, which make it even worse – including the wholly inappropriate decision to interview Rice’s wife – and even worse to do so with Rice, her abuser, in the room at the time. Yes, I’m sure she felt she could answer freely, Rog. To make matters worse, the story subjected us all to the idiotic ramblings of Steven A. Smith. Twice. Thanks, Rog, you soulless human being. -TOB

Source: “Does the NFL Think Ray Rice’s Wife Deserved It?”Greg HowardDeadspin (07/30/14)

Note: I’m pretty much done with ESPN, and its coverage of this story is a perfect example as to why. They first report on the story (NFL player knocks is then fiancé out), then every ESPN personality weighs in, then ESPN makes a story of how its employees weigh in on the story. After someone says something stupid (Stephen A. Smith), a contest emerges amongst ESPN talent to see who is more offended by A) the original story, and/or B) the Smith’s reaction to the story. As for Goodell, he couldn’t have handled this any worse. What about the Baltimore Ravens (the team for which Rice plays)? They could simply make him inactive and impose a larger punishment. They didn’t. Also, you can shove your apology up your ass when you knock out a woman. Don’t tell me, “That’s not who I am,” Ray Rice. It is who you are, because you did it. – PAL


Life Imitating Art Disneyshit. 

Remember Remember the Titans  – that high school football movie that has Denzel Washington acting all Denzel while using football to solve the racial tension of 60s school integration? Aside from introducing me to Wood Harris (Avon Barksdale, folks…come on!), the only other thing the movie had going for it was the “based on a true story”. At least I could think to myself, “this really happened?” Well, as we now know, “based” is code for “some of this sorta happened at some point in time”. What’s fascinating here is Herman Boone, the coach Denzel portrays, maybe wasn’t the great guy leader of young men that the movie made him out to be. What’s more, in the wake of the movie’s success, the real Herman Boone has taken on an acting role of his own – he’s portraying (and selling) himself as the Denzel version of Herman Boone.

Source: “Remember The Titans” Is A Lie, And This Man Still Wants You To Know ItDave McKenna, Deadspin (7/29/14).

Note: Remember the Titans introduced you to Wood Harris? C’mon, Phil! Above the Rim! Motaw! Really, a stunning cast. Tupac, Marlon Wayans, Bernie Mac, Leon (aka Dereese from Cool Runnings), Eric Nies. Eric Nies. If you haven’t seen Above the Rim, or haven’t seen it in the last ten years, do so tonight. -TOB


Videos of the Week (Both of these are too good not to share):


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: @123sportsnews


“Isms, in my opinion, are not good. A person should not believe in an ‘ism,’ he should believe in himself.”

– Ferris Bueller

Week of May 18, 2014

The Western Conference Finals.

 


What Exactly Does a Pitching Coach Do? More Than You Might Think.

I’m a huge baseball fan. But sometimes I wonder, what exactly does a good pitching coach do? What does it mean to be a good pitching coach? Why do some seem to have such good reputations in the media? Doesn’t the staff’s success have more to do with talent, and the organizations ability to discover it? 123 favorite Jonah Keri explores why the Cardinals staff has been so good for so long, no matter the names: the foundation laid by former pitching coach Dave Duncan is the reason why. -TOB

Story Link: “The Duncan Way”, Jonah Keri, Grantland (05/21/14)


“I’ve been waiting 20 years for someone to knock him on his ass.”

Refs might not decide the outcome of a game, but they sure as hell influence it. Part 5/5 of a series examining NBA officiating and its lack of public accountability includes the story of Tim Donaghy–the ref busted for betting on games back in 2007–knocking out Joey Crawford (the bald ref that everyone hates, especially the Spurs). -PAL

Story Link: “Punching out Joey Crawford, and the issues on NBA officiating”, John Canzano, The Oregonian (05/16/14)


When’s the right time to call up a stud baseball prospect? Follow the money.

I’ll admit it; I’ve never completely understood the facts of team control over their baseball draft picks. This article lays it out nicely and explains the possible routes a team can take to promote (or delay) a stud minor leaguer to the bigs. Are teams putting playoff births at risk in the interest of staving off arbitration for one more year? How many divisions or wildcards have been won by a game? -PAL

Story Link: “The Polanco Problem…” Ben Lindburgh, Grantland (05/19/14)


Ever Wish You Had Grown Up Playing Sports With a Future Star? This Guy Actually Did.

Growing up, everyone probably had one or two people they played sports with, or against, that you were sure would be a future star. Usually, it never happens. This is a fun story about how a guy, about to graduate from Georgetown Law School played on a team with Kevin Durant and Michael Beasley. Yes, Beasley was always kind of weird. -TOB

Story Link: “The Lawyer Who Blocked Kevin Durant”, Dave McKenna, Grantland (05/16/14)


Sleeping With the Enemy

When my team is knocked out, I rarely root for a division/conference rival to do well. Did I want Stanford to win the Rose Bowl after my Cal Bears went 1-11 last year? Hell no. Did I cheer when they lost that game to Michigan State? Hell yes. Screw them. But that’s not the case for many Canadian hockey fans, a country that hasn’t seen the Stanley Cup return home to Canada in 21 years. They wrap themselves in the flag and root for their otherwise bitter enemies. -TOB

Story Link:  “Canada First: Why I Root for Teams I Hate”, Eva Holland, Grantland (05/22/14)


Video of the Week:


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: @123sportsnews

“And just remember, fans, in the airport of life, sports is just the baggage.”

-A.C. Slater