Week of April 19, 2019

Did not give up popcorn for Lent.


Reminder: Tiger Woods Won The Masters

It’s not even a week old, but Tiger’s unlikely Masters win, his fifteenth major victory, feels like such old news. We’ll get into why people care about this so much in a moment, but the sleazeball actually made it all the way back after his life and his body fell apart. Say what you want about the type of person he is, or has been (I don’t know; is he a ‘good guy’ now?), but it’s undeniably incredible that he came back to win another major after over a decade of setbacks – injuries, surgeries, infidelities, arrests, and just bad golf. Through it all, people held out hope to see this performance. We just kept waiting, long after we should have, and then it finally happened.

Tiger Woods is undeniably bland and boring and captivating and unique. The regular sports fan cares about Tiger playing golf; the regular sports fan doesn’t care about golf. I haven’t experienced an athlete with that much gravity in his or her sport. I’m guessing Ali was like that and maybe Babe Ruth. Whoever’s on that list, it’s a short list.

Needless to say, there was a few columns written about Tiger’s win at Augusta. I found this Drew Magary paragraph in particular to be the most resonant:

Athletes are measuring sticks. You measure their ability against yours and you measure their ability to handle pressure against your own, naturally. But you also measure their lives against your own. Their history is your history. They’re personal markers, just as certain movies and songs and pictures evoke moments from your youth that have grown warmer and fonder and perhaps more unattainable over time. I was rooting for Tiger yesterday, but to be more accurate: I was selfishly rooting to relive my own past. I was still in college and away on a semester abroad when Tiger Woods won his first Masters, back in 1997. I read all about his win in a hard copy of USA Today I got from a newsstand in England, because reading news online wasn’t a thing most people did back then. He was already the biggest name in golf even before he won that first title, and he has remained the biggest name in the sport—perhaps all of sports—as he’s toiled for the past 11 years and change to assume his throne once more.

Magary’s onto something here. I was absolutely pulling for Tiger, and afterwards I wondered why. I really wanted him to win, and it just might be because no other golfer serves as personal marker on my life. I also just want to witness historic moments in sports. There are very few events when you know something historic is taking place in the moment. – PAL

Source: Un-Fucking-Real”, Drew Magary, Deadspin (4/14/19)


Pesky Morality

We’ve posted a lot of stories about CTE over the years. Heartbreaking personal stories, medical stories, political stories; this issue flows into so many facets of culture and very well could be the defining sports story of our generation.

This week, Michael Powell wrote about another scenario in which CTE cannot be ignored. When a college wants to hire a coach, that needs to be approved by a board of regents, as was the case at the University of Colorado recently. Mel Tucker’s five-year, $14.75MM contract went to the board for a vote. That vote comes with some culpability.

The nation’s universities face a more ticklish problem known as morality. These institutions were founded with the purpose of developing and educating young minds. It is difficult to square that mission with the fate of those like running back  Rashaan Salaam, who ran so beautifully for the University of Colorado and then as a pro, and like Drew Wahlroos, a fearless, rampaging Colorado linebacker. Both men suffered emotional and cognitive problems that friends and family and even university officials related to thousands of hits taken over the course of their careers. Each killed himself.

In what I’m sure would be seen as high comedy on the campuses of Ohio State, Clemson, or Alabama, two regents at Colorado voted against the hiring. It wasn’t as much about Tucker as it was about their belief that football is an unsafe game.

Regent Linda Shoemaker: “I really thought at first that we could play football safely with better rules and better equipment; I drank the Kool-Aid. I can’t go there anymore. I don’t believe it can be played safely anymore. I want these young men to leave C.U. with minds that have been strengthened, not damaged.”

Wherever you come down on CTE and football (or any sport connected to CTE), what this story highlights is the fact that this issue touches all of us. It’s not just isolated to locker rooms and athletic departments; we vote and pay taxes that go schools that field football teams. Those institutions, and the student body, are our responsibility, and that – man, that really hit home reading this story. – PAL

Source: At Colorado, a Breach in Football’s Wall”, Michael Powell, The New York Times (4/18/19)


Video of the Week: More of this, please.


Tweet of the Week: 


PAL Song of the Week: John Prine – “A Good Time”

 


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With all due respect, Officer Berg, you are not bald. You’ve chosen to shave your hair and that’s a look you’re cultivating in order to look fashionable, but we don’t really consider you part of the bald community…with all due respect.

-L.D.

Week of November 30, 2015

God bless the super senior.


Greatest Post-Fight In-Ring Interview Ever

I almost made this the Video of the Week, but it really deserves so, so much more. When I saw this I texted it to Phil and said: “This is why we started 1-2-3 Sports!” It’s quite possibly my favorite sports video of all-time. Quick background: British boxer Tyson Fury beat long-time Heavyweight champ Wladimir Klitschko last Saturday. It was a HUGE upset. Klitschko had been the champ for 10 years. In the ring after the fight, Tyson Fury (that name is pretty fantastic) took the mic and…just watch:

Tears in my eyes, man. -TOB

PAL: I cannot recommend clicking on this link enough. So absurd and hilarious.


Once Again, Navy’s Uniforms Are So Choice.

A few years ago, Navy unveiled these awesome uniforms for its annual game against Army. Those helmets remain SWEET.

Navy 1Nothing about that is bad. Great job by Nike. Since then, Navy has moved to UnderArmour, and I do not often say this, but UnderArmour has bettered Nike on this one:

Navy 2

Look closely. Those are seven different helmets, with seven different hand-pained Naval ships, with one ship for each position group. Plus:

Navy 3“Damn the Torpedoes” vertical down the leg. They’re gonna be so fired up, they’ll win by 50. Sorry, Army. And thank you to my own mother for sending in this story. We love reader submissions! -TOB

Source: Navy’s Badass Helmets for Army Game Have Hand-Painted Ships, Custom For Each Position Group”, Jason Kirk, SB Nation (11/30/2015)

PAL: “Damn the torpedoes” on the pants is a half-step too far. Everything else about this jersey kicks ass.


The Greatest Season by The Great One

In the 85-86 NHL season, Wayne Gretzky tallied 215 points in 82 games. For some perspective, Gretzky had more assists in that season (163, or just about 2 per game) than the previous NHL scoring record-holder (Phil Esposito) had goals and assists. To be fair, the NHL in the 80s was kind of like the NBA in the 80s – that is to say, high scoring – and I’m trying to figure out what a good comparison would be. Jordan averaging 45ppg? Magic averaging 15 points and 20 assists per game? I don’t know, which is kind of the point of this story. It’s hard to find a comparison to how great Gretzky was, especially in that 85-86 season. – PAL

Source: Assist by the Great One: How Wayne Gretzky redefined scoring in the NHL”, Colin Fleming, Sports Illustrated (12/02/2015)

TOB: I thought about Phil’s challenge for about 30 seconds before Steph Curry’s name popped into my head. And I spent much of the evening trying to formulate how I would make the argument that what Curry is doing as a shooter in basketball is equal to Gretzky’s prime as a scorer in hockey. Curry is shooting so many threes, at such a high rate, that the comparison is apt. But I wanted to find something to really make it stick. While trying to find an article to support my position, I had Sportscenter on in the background and heard Scott Van Pelt start talking about Curry. And he nailed it. I transcribed it, edited a bit for space:

“After our show last night a few of us were sitting in the office when something hit me: We’d done the highlight of the Warriors win, it’s 20 wins in a row to start the season; we’d shown the highlight where Steph scored 40 and we’d shown his latest monotone explanation about being more confident, and whatever else he said. And, here’s where I think we failed: We just acted like this is normal. Because this is what he’s done. Steph Curry has blinded us in short order to the fact that what he does on a nightly basis is completely out of order and outrageous.

An Ethan Strauss article on ESPN.com today began with a Klay Thompson quote: ‘This is normal. This is normal, now.’ Well, yes and no. Yes, this is what Curry does. But no, nothing about this guy is normal. He scored 28 points in a quarter. He had 14 points in the final 1:53 of the quarter on shots averaging almost 30 feet.

Tom Haberstroh had some insane stats on ESPN.com and on Sportscenter that framed the lunacy of Curry so very well. He’s 4 for 10 on shots of 30 feet or more this season. That’s legitimately his range. He’s gonna pull from a dribble over halfcourt sometime soon and I will expect it to go in. It will be effortless and it will be a reasonable shot for him to take. Haberstroh listed 17 NBA teams that have gone a combined 4 of 119 from 30 feet or more this season.

Another gem: Curry is on pace to make more 3’s over the course of last season and this one than Larry Bird had in his entire 13 year career. Larry Friggin Bird. 

Whatever the volume of freakout is on Curry, it is still insufficient and it is not hyperbole. He’s the best shooter I’ve ever seen and it’s really not close. I want to make sure we do a better job of not being as nonchalant as he is about it. Because this is starting to feel like some once in a lifetime stuff, and acknowledging it, and appreciating it, as it happens is what ought to be done. So we will.”

Amen, SVP.


Never Change, KG

Kevin Garnett is very nearly insane, and the stories are so damn entertaining. This is an anecdote by Jackie MacMullan, in a story about how KG is mentoring the young Timberwolves. It is set back in 2009, when KG was still with the Celtics. Coach Doc Rivers asked KG to sit out a practice, to give him some rest. Here’s what happened:

“Garnett, forbidden to take the floor by his own coach, had concocted his revenge: He would track the movements of power forward Leon Powe, the player who had replaced him in the lineup. As Powe pivoted, so did Garnett. As Powe leaped to grab a defensive rebound, Garnett launched himself to corral an imaginary ball. As Powe snapped an outlet pass, Garnett mimicked the motion, then sprinted up his slim sliver of sideline real estate as Powe filled the lane on the break. The players were mirror images: one on the court with a full complement of teammates, the other out of bounds, alone. Two men engaged in a bizarre basketball tango.

“KG,” Rivers barked, “if you keep doing this, I’m canceling practice for the whole team. That will hurt us.”

Garnett’s reverence for coaches was legendary, but still he turned his back on Rivers. He returned to his defensive stance, an isotope of intensity, crouched, palms outstretched, in complete concert with Powe. He was, in fact, becoming so adept at this warped dalliance he’d invented, he actually began to anticipate Powe’s movements, denying the entry pass to his invisible opponent before Powe thought of it.

Finally, an exasperated Rivers blew the whistle. “Go home,” Rivers instructed his team. Then he glared at Garnett. “I hope you’re happy.”

Hilarious. More KG stories, please. -TOB

Source: “Rookie Watch: The Cruel Tutelage of the Wolves’ Kevin Garnett, Jackie MacMullan, ESPN.com (11/25/2015)

PAL: Just to be clear, this is not the endearing type of crazy. KG is crazy crazy, as in “ruin a career crazy”. Also – I know I’m in the minority on this, but I can’t help but think the picture of him sitting in front of Flip Saunders’ parking spot has a pinch of self-aggrandizement. Interesting read, to be sure, but what KG defines as leadership comes off as, well, a teenager’s misguided understanding of the concept.


Flip A Coin: The Sports Tradition Goes Way Back

The coin toss first shows up in a sport’s rulebook in 1774. No surprise here, it appears in a cricket rulebook. Many of us consider it a tradition that now carries little significance to the game it precedes, but this story outlines many instances where that was not the case. Sometimes it led to a rule change (Jerome Bettis, anyone?), and in other cases (the NBA Lottery) it likely changed a franchise’s destiny. Most interesting, however, is how important the coin toss remains in cricket (for now?). Fun read about something we hardly ever think about in sports. – PAL

Source: Coin Toss Retains Its Place in History, if Not in Cricket, Victor Mather, The New York Times (11/30/15)


Bench Celebrations Never Get Old

Monmouth’s basketball team is off to a good start. They got a win at UCLA, then beat #17 ranked Notre Dame and USC. They are 4-2 and were a on my radar a bit after those big wins. But now they’re really on my radar, thanks to this Deadspin article highlighting their bench celebration antics. My favorite has to be this one:

But click the link and watch the rest. These guys are having fun and not afraid to look silly. Isn’t this what college sports should be about? -TOB

Source:Nobody in Sports is Having As Much Fun As the Monmouth Bench”, Patrick Redford, Deadspin (11/29/2015)

PAL: Would it be in poor taste to buy a keg and send it to the residence of where these perfect morons live in New Jersey? 100% love these goofballs.


Video of the Week:

PAL: Do any of our readers know this young lady? Asking for a friend.


PAL Song of the Week: Van Morrison – “Into The Mystic”. Dance with a loved one in the kitchen. Hold them tight, and don’t say a damn word.

Here’s the full playlist of all our picks. It’s all over the place, like you and me. 


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“You thought he was cute? Do you realize when he graduated we were like three years old?”

-Mike

Week of November 9, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 10.04.40 PM

Known as a dunker early in his career, Steph Curry has added a reliable outside shot to his game this year. 


 “I’ve never really given it my best” – Michael Phelps

He’s the most decorated Olympic athlete ever. A GOAT in every respect, and, for a good amount of time, he was also a young man adrift, unhappy, and – though no one close to him will out and say it – flirting with addiction issues. Following a stint in rehab, Michael Phelps seems happy, focused, and serious about training for the first time since the Beijing Olympics in 2008. If his recent race times are any indication, Phelps’ best might be yet to come in what will be his fourth Olympics. Referring to the upcoming Rio games, longtime swim coach (not Phelps’ coach) Eddie Reese says, “I think we’re going to see him go faster than he’s ever gone. Faster than [high-tech] suit times. He’s going to be very, very hard to beat.” I dug into this profile – it touches on a lot of factors at play (absent father, addiction, yes people vs. real friends, and riveting relationship between Phelps and his long-time coach, Bob Bowman). When it all comes down to it, I’m in – I want to see what Phelps’ best looks like. – PAL

Source: “After rehabilitation, the best of Michael Phelps may lie ahead”, Tim Layden, Sports Illustrated (11/10/15)


Phil Lang: Ahead of the Fashion Curve

Not too many years ago, it seemed weird to me to see a guy wearing shorts above the knees. But fashion has changed and now it’s weird to see a guy wearing shorts below the knees. Just the other day I was at a coffee shop and I saw a guy in his early 20’s and he had those monstrously baggy basketball shorts that were down to his mid-calf, and I could not stop wondering how he thought this was ok. To be fair, I always thought shorts that baggy were terrible. To be sure, baggy shorts were in from the early-90’s until just a couple years back. To his credit, 1-2-3’s own Phil Lang has been rocking thigh-highs for years. But even as men’s shorts have crept back northward, it hadn’t really hit the NBA. Until now: LeBron James, has begun wearing shorts several inches above his knee this season. To wit:

Nov 6, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) works against Philadelphia 76ers guard JaKarr Sampson (9) during the first quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

He’s still wearing compression shorts underneath, but it did get me wondering: With LeBron wearing shorter shorts, could we eventually see an NBA player return to the butt-huggers of the 70’s and 80’s?

DRJ

And then I read this article about Russell Westbrook’s interest and influence in high fashion. We now have our suspect: If any current player has the fashion sense and the clout to rock the Thighlights like Dr. J did, it’s Russ. I predict he does it within the next two seasons. -TOB

Source: LeBron Reveals the Reason Behind His Shorter Shorts“, Zach Harper, CBS Sports (11/09/2015); NBA Star Russell Westbrook is Changing How Men’s Fashion Works“, Joshua Green, Bloomberg Business (11/03/2015)

PAL: Am I visionary? A fashion icon? An inspiration? It’s hard to say no to any of those questions I posed to myself. I’ll add that I’m grateful my contemporary, LeBron James, finally saw the light I was shining.


We, The Fans, Are Morons, Exhibit 845

Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett was busted for DUI a couple weeks ago. The response from fans: Frustration with law enforcement for not doing real work. I would contend keeping drunk drivers off the road qualifies as real work, but that’s just me. My favorite: “[U]nderage drinking and a blood-alcohol content threshold of 0.08 are artificial limits set by a cowardly Ohio General Assembly more interested in federal highway funds than what was right for Ohio.” – PAL

Source: These Letters To The Editor Of The Columbus Editor Defending J.T. Barrett Are Hilarious”, Patrick Redford, Deadspin (11/8/15)

TOB: We now have dash cam footage of the arrest. Do yourself a favor and watch it to the end. The best part comes when the cops, who have kindly decided not to take J.T. to jail and allow someone to pick him up, have a hearty laugh at the fact that the person on his way to pick J.T. up is none other than Cardale Jones. Cardale is the other Ohio State QB, and J.T. and Cardale have played a bit of musical chairs with the starting QB job over the last two seasons.


The NFL Wants SF to Take Down Overhead Muni Cables

I just can’t even. At this point, the NFL is just trolling me. Me, personally. Reports this week say that the NFL wants the city of San Francisco to remove all the overhead Muni cables on Market Street in order to accommodate “Super Bowl City” for Super Bowl 50, which ohbytheway, will be played 45 miles south at Levi’s Stadium, the home of the Santa Clara 49ers. And ohbytheway, this will cost millions of dollars to accomplish. Even if the NFL foots the bill (which there is no suggestion that they are offering to do), I want to punch Goodell in the face. This will inconvenience commuters for weeks. I don’t even want them in our city. Go to San Jose, which is a lot closer to Santa Clara. If you wanted to “host” a Super Bowl in San Francisco, then maybe you should have built the stadium in San Francisco. And if the citizens of San Francisco wouldn’t give you any money to do so, maybe the 49ers should have spent their own money to do it, just like the Giants did. -TOB

Source: Muni Wires May Come Down for Super Bowl“, Joe Fitzgerald RodriguezSan Francisco Examiner (11/12/2015)

PAL: There’s one point you’re missing, TOB: The NFL wants it. They want it! Gimme…gimme. Come on. Just…Seriously, come on. I want it. I want it. I waaaaaaaaaant iiiiiiiiit! God, this is so unfair. 


Thursday Night Football Unwatchable For TOB and Others Like Him

So there were some new jerseys on display in Thursday night’s football game. The Buffalo Bills wore all red; The Jets wore all green. “Who cares?” you might ask. Well, I’ll tell you who – colorblind folks like Tommy. Deadspin did a nice job putting together a video of what the game looked to those folks – it really does look like everyone’s wearing the same jersey.

image

I’ve seen :15 of the world from your perspective, TOB, and I don’t like it. – PAL.

Source: Stupid Nike Uniforms Wreaking Havoc On Colorblind NFL Fans”, Timothy Burke, Deadspin (11/12/15)

TOB: Actual post I made about these uniforms as a comment Thursday night on FB long before reading this story: “I’m colorblind. When it is zoomed in, I’m fine. But on the normal distant shot I have serious trouble telling them apart.” It sucks, man. I am hopeful that, one day, the plight of the Color Blind is taken seriously.


Video of the Week:


PAL Song of the Week: Goat – “Run To Your Mama

Check out the entire playlist. I like it, and you just might, too.


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“I’m not talking about dance lessons. I’m talking about putting a brick through the other guy’s windshield. I’m talking about taking it out and chopping it up.”

– Royal Tenenbaum

 

Week of August 17, 2015

Mantis

#RallyMantis


Dirty, Flashy Money: Miami & Scamming Athletes

As if being a professional athlete doesn’t attract enough leeches, try being one in Miami. It’s not surprising that con men are swindling athletes out of money, but I’m shocked at how easily careless and shortsighted folks get million-dollar checks from people. In this story, Miami Heat employees even facilitated the introduction between the scammers and Heat players Mike Miller, Rashard Lewis, and others. There is a new money culture in Miami that is the perfect breeding ground for scams. Columnist Fred Grimm (not this story’s author) sums up this way:

“So many of us come from other states and other countries that we seem to lack that sense of shame that doing wrong would bring to someone living in, say, small-town America, where people have known you and known your family for years. What we have instead is a place where someone who flashes money and drives luxury cars and lives the high life can find instant social acceptance.” –PAL

Source: Taking the Heat”, Robert Andrew Powell, Grantland (08/18/2015)


Say Goodnight to the Bad Guy

There aren’t too many true “Bad Guys” in sports, but I think I found one. “New Jack” was a wrestler in the underground “ECW” (Extreme Championship Wrestling). The ECW was known for being, well, extremely violent. Absurdly so. New Jack was one of the more violent and infamous ECW wrestlers, and he was not a good person. In one match, he once beat an amateur wrestler unconscious – and then continued to beat him with weapons – including a cheese grater, a garbage can, and a crutch, at one point yelling, “I don’t care if the motherfucker dies!” The amateur, Jason Kulas, did not die. And New Jack escaped any consequences. When asked about it twenty years later, New Jack said, “I was high. I didn’t care. It didn’t matter to me. The fucking fans loved it. I thought it was great.” You know the famous scene in Scarface, when a coked up Tony Montana makes a scene in the fancy restaurant and then turns to everyone staring at him and gives his “Bad Guy” speech? New Jack was/is a true Bad Guy. He did truly insane things, but he was also insanely popular, even getting name-dropped by Weezer in El Scorcho (“…Watching Grunge leg drop New Jack through a press table, and then my heart stopped…”). In a truly fascinating profile, Grantland catches up with New Jack and tries figure out what made (and makes) this Bad Guy, who regrets nothing, tick. -TOB

Source: The Most Violent Man in Wrestling Lays Down His Staple Gun”, Tom Breiham, Grantland (08/18/2015)


A Quality Craigslist Find

Matthew Wallock was trying to find a used hockey goal for his young kids. He found one on Craigslist and went to pick it up. When he got there, he realized that the owners were the parents of NHL star Phil Kessel and US Women’s Hockey Player Amanda Kessel. A nice find. But he realized that the goal could not fit in his car. No matter. Mr. and Mrs. Kessel offered to drive the goal 40 minutes to Wallock’s house. And they did. To top it off, they threw in some hockey pucks and autographed photo of Phil for the kids. But that’s not all! Mr. and Mrs. Kessel then told Wallock that before they owned the goal, it was owned by hockey legend Bob Suter, a member of the 1980 Olympic Hockey “Miracle on Ice” team. Like I said, that’s a quality Craigslist find! -TOB

Source: Phil Kessel’s Parents are Top-Notch Craigslist Sellers“, Kevin Draper, Deadspin (08/18/2015)


Jason Day: An Unlikely Golf Story

This is an old story, but in the wake of Day’s first Major victory at the PGA Championship last weekend, it’s worth taking a look at his unlikely path to the PGA. Unlike most PGA golfers, Day grew up in poverty in Australia. His father, an alcoholic*, died when Day was 12. Shortly thereafter, the son was following in his father’s footsteps as a 13 year-old. His mother mortgaged the house and sought out help to get her youngest boy into a sports academy. His coach at the academy remains his coach to this day, caddies for Day, and has long been a father figure to the 27 year-old golfer. There have been other challenges along the way, and I found Day’s honesty in this story refreshing (he admits that for the first few years as a professional he played for the money because he’d never had any, and sometimes he likes to check his bank account online just to see the money in there). As writer Shane Ryan puts it, “For the poor kid from Beaudesert who started with nothing but a sawed-off 3-wood, the hard part of this journey ended a long time ago. The miracle was getting to the threshold; the price of a major is just four rounds of golf.” Now Day has paid that price, too. – PAL

Source: “Just Another Day, Shane Ryan, Grantland (07/17/2014)


“Like a Band of Gypsies We Go Down the Highway…”

Because of political wrangling over upgrades to their stadium, the Biloxi Shuckers (in their first year in Biloxi), the AA affiliate for the Milwaukee Brewers, began their season on a 58-day, 54-game road trip. David Fleming (not of SF Giants announcing fame, of course) followed the team on the trip – which ended up even more eventful than he could have imagined. A great look at a team enduring the ups and downs of minor league baseball, magnified by the longest road trip in American sports history. Long, but highly recommended. -TOB

Source: On the Road Again”, David Fleming, ESPN the Magazine (08/17/2015)


Video of the Week

Hopefully this kid learns a lesson here, or he’s gonna be grow up to be an unbearable jerk. For now, this is hilarious – as he smarmily shakes off his catcher and then gives up a dinger.

PAL’s Song of the Week: D’Angelo – “Sugah Daddy”

Check out all of our picks here.


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“Let me tell you something about these tattoos, okay. That is Buddhist, that is Nordic, that is Hindu, that’s just gibberish. They are completely conflicting ideologies, and that does not make you a citizen of the world, it makes you full of shit!”

– Sarah Marshall

Week of August 3, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 10.39.58 PM

An Interview With Mike Krukow

An excellent radio interview with Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow, as he discusses dealing with his muscle disease, discusses the exciting debut of Giants rookie Kelby Tomlinson, the return of Matt Cain, and more. Worth a listen. -TOB

Source: Krukow Opens Up to Radnich About Muscle Disease”, KNBR (08/04/2015)

PAL: One of the simple pleasures of living in this city is having Kruk and Kuip narrate the sport I so love. I just love these guys, and my heart goes out to Kruk, but he’s a gamer. He speaks so frankly (“It sucks, it does.”), and he remains upbeat and passionate – always passionate – about the Giants.


Italians Are Officially Insane

Look at this sport! Look at it! The game starts and the players just start fist-fighting. Brawling! It’s like a cross between MMA/Boxing, Rugby, and No-Holds Barred Pool Basketball. My brother Pat O’Brien sent me this video last weekend and I couldn’t believe it. Watch for a little bit. Bodies begin dropping and littering the playing field. I found the sport on Wikipedia. It is called, “Calcio Fiorentino.” The rules are stated as: “…the players try by any means necessary to get the ball into the opponent’s’ goal.” They aren’t kidding. -TOB

Source: Calcio Storico 2014”, Youtube

PAL: I think this might be the truest form of sport I’ve come across. That’s not necessarily a good thing, but it’s a sight to behold. Watch a few minutes from the beginning, middle, and end. You will be at once shocked, disgusted, and enthralled.


What Might Have Been: Jimi Hendrix – Sports Illustrator

Jimi Hendrix was not human. More specifically, none of us shared anything with Hendrix – at least that’s what I thought – but I guess the tabloids are right. “Stars – they’re just like us!” What the hell am I talking about? The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has five Jimi Hendrix drawings from from when he was 15, all of them depict various teams from the Pac-12. Check them out, if for no other reason than to see proof that this legend was human at some point in his short life. – PAL

Source: Have you seen Jimi Hendrix’s college football drawings?”, David Lombardi, ESPN.com (8/5/15)

TOB: As a diehard Cal fan, I do love this. It popped up on the internet a few years ago, and every so often it makes the rounds. I like to pretend he really liked Cal, and the others were just out of pity. Reminds me of a video clip of a Tom Hanks interview where he says he’d rather win the Heisman as a Cal running back than an Oscar (Hanks grew up in the East Bay).


Don’t Make Fun of MJ. It Makes Us All Feel Old.

Teenagers really suck, don’t they? This little chump has the gall to go to Michael Jordan’s basketball camp and during the Q&A make fun of MJ’s shoes (which are dope, btw) with some meme that no one over the age of 17 knew. How you gonna play MJ like that, son? -TOB

Source: “Michael Jordan Victimized by Meme-Wielding Teen”, Tom Ley, Deadspin (08/04/2015)

PAL: A part of me kind of likes this kid – actually – I support this chump 100%. MJ’s fashion sense – including his shoes – is atrocious. This kid’s calling it like he sees it, and I see it the same way.

TOB: Here are the shoes MJ was wearing. Those are nice!

Simple! Clean! Undeserving of scorn!


Story Update: Junior Seau

After much excoriation, the NFL/Pro Football Hall of Fame have reversed course, as Junior Seau’s daughter will be allowed to speak at his induction this weekend. 1-2-3 Sports! pats itself on the back for the part it played in righting this wrong. -Staff

Source: Junior Seau’s Daughter to Speak at Hall of Fame Induction”, Steve Almasy, CNN (08/01/2015)

PAL: This speech is a great opportunity to honor her father and use the platform to speak her truth. I hope she speaks from her heart, and if that includes speaking about CTC, then so be it. If not, that’s absolutely fine, too, but make them take the microphone from her hands. For an entity as paralyzed by the fear of PR fallout as is the NFL, I doubt they are capable of doing anything in the moment.


Video of the Week: 

Rays rookie gets the silent treatment after his first career home run, but he does not let them stop him from celebrating.


Bonus Video of the Week: http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=espn:13312264

This is a great 30 for 30 short on Eunice Kennedy Shriver, sister of John, Bobby, and Ted, mother of Maria, and her extraordinary efforts to improve lives through the Special Olympics. It might get a little dusty in the room.


PAL’s Song of the Week: The Tallest Man On Earth – “Sagres”

Check out the 1-2-3 Song of the Week playlist. Tommy’s wife really likes it, and you will, too.


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“Look, Buttermaker, you’re not my father and I’ll not move an inch to play baseball for you any more. So why don’t you get back into that sardine can of yours and go, go vacuum the bottom of the Pacific Ocean? I’ve got business to take care of. You’re blocking my customers with your car.”

– Amanda Whurlizter

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

Week of April 20, 2015

This is why the Warriors are up 3-0 in the series. God does not reward Anthony Davis fandom of this nature.

Picture Perfect

Monday was Patriots Day in New England, which is something I have to experience firsthand in my life. It’s a recognized holiday, so no school and no work. The Boston Marathon (the longest running marathon in the world) kicks things off, which by all accounts is 26.2 miles of well-wishers cheering on 30K+ runners fulfilling a bucket list accomplishment. That’s followed by a day game at Fenway. All join in the festivities, and the runners represent seemingly all makes and backgrounds. But back in the mid 1960s, this was not the case. “The universal thinking among sports’ male powerbrokers was that women were not physically equipped to endure the rigors of the marathon distance of 26.2 miles. They claimed that the strain would cause women’s uteri to fall out or that they would become musclebound and grow hair on their chests.” Now, I don’t need to tell you that isn’t the case anymore, but I do need to tell you about a series of photographs. Three pictures that capture perhaps the moment when the shift took place for women’s athletics.

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Here’s a story about that moment, the leadup, and the culture shift that followed. To quote Julia Chase-Brand, a running legend, “The iconic photos of this encounter clinched it: American women were not going to be pushed off the roads, and now a sports issue became a feminist issue—which of course it always had been.” – PAL

Source: Behind The Photo That Changed The Boston Marathon Forever”, David Davis, Deadspin (4/20/15)

TOB: A very good article on a story I had never heard about before.


The Closest Thing The NBA’s Got To The Godfather

Great stories are about perspective, which is yet another reason why you all should bookmark The Stacks series on Deadspin. They find the best sportswriting from throughout the years and post them (with author permission). What’s cool is the time between the original publication of the stories and the moment you’re reading them adds yet another layer of enjoyment and and intrigue. This edition sheds light on Pat Riley when he first went to Miami to coach. This is before he won with Shaq and Wade, before he courted Lebron, won 2 more championships, and the subsequent parting of ways. The dapper Riley’s upbringing will surprise you, and the 1995 cultural references will bring a smile. – PAL

Source: What Failure Did To Pat Riley”, Mark Kriegel, Esquire (12/1995); reposted by The Stacks (4/21/15)

TOB: Two passages I really enjoyed:

“I want to treat my players to the best. If I’m having a team party, I want white tablecloths, I want china, and I want silverware. I don’t want fuckin’ plastic plates. And I want a flower arrangement in the middle. And if the towels are hotel white, hey, put some color in there, I don’t give a shit. I want my team to fly first-class, to stay in first-class hotels. I’m gonna ask them to do a lot. So tell me, is that wrong, wanting them to have the best?”

And:

“And the clothes?…They’re really all Armani?”

“Yeah.”

“Why?”

He looks at me with disbelief, even irritation, squinting until the hint of a grin forms at the corners of his mouth. “’Cause it’s good shit, that’s why.”


Stanozolol: The Old-School Steroid Worth The Risk

Until this season, it had been seven years since a MLB player tested positive for using Stanozolol (this is is what sprinter Ben Johnson tested positive for, and what Barry Bonds is accused of taking). This year, three pitchers were suspended 80 games for a positive test. It’s an old school anabolic steroid, and an easily detected one at that. However, during the past six season a whopping 125 minor league players have been busted using the steroid. What gives? Perhaps the risk (80 game suspension or roughly ½ a big league season) is worth the long-term rewards. Four-time olympian Francis Dodoo, who now serves on the World Anti-Doping Agency committee, might sum it up best: “You don’t just dope, get caught and return to where your body started.” I guess some guys just take a short-term risk, and if they get burned, then they still have a better shot at reaping the benefits down the line. – PAL

Source: Persistence of a Steroid Bedevils Baseball”, Juliet Macur, The New York Times (4/21/15)


Interview with Barry Bonds’ Son

An interesting interview by sportswriter Jeff Pearlman, who once wrote a very unflattering book about Barry Bonds, with Bonds’ son Nikolai. Nikolai, a former Giants bat boy and now in his mid-20’s, opens up about growing up as Barry’s son – both the good and the bad. It’s a complex relationship, to say the least. But Nikolai clearly cares about his father, and strongly believes that his father belongs in the Hall of Fame:

“My dad’s job was what exactly? To entertain. That’s it. That’s the first reason. Second is, as you said, he didn’t break any rules of the game. So what did he do wrong? Third, Hank Aaron admitted to greenies. An enhancer. Babe Ruth drank during prohibition. Illegal. Ty Cobb beat a woman during a game. What we are talking about is someone who is enhancing his performance within the rules of the sport he plays to entertain the rest of this world … and he is getting crucified for it.”

But my favorite part is this exchange:

Q: In exactly 33 words, can you make a Hall of Fame case for Jeff Kent?

A: Nope.

Nobody likes Jeff Kent. -TOB

Source: Nikolai Bonds”, Jeff Pearlman, jeffpearlman.com (04/21/2015)

PAL: Is it just me, or did Barry Bonds’ son admit that his dad took PEDs:”…[H]e didn’t break any rules of the game. So what did he do wrong?…Hank Aaron admitted to greenies. An enhancer. Babe Ruth drank during prohibition. Illegal. Ty Cobb beat a woman during a game. What we are talking about is someone who is enhancing his performance within the rules of the sport he plays to entertain the rest of this world…” Also, I don’t believe Barry Bonds’ son was ever homeless as he claims.


Updates:

  • Last week we recommended a story about Barry Bonds working with (and rooting for) Alex Rodriguez. ARod’s off to a surprisingly good start to the season (15 games): 4HR, 11 RBI, .991 OPS
  • Two weeks ago, we posted about Lon Simmons’ passing. On Wednesday night during the Giants-Dodger game, I swear I saw Vin Scully pay tribute during the Giants Wednesday broadcast. Am I making this up? Can someone confirm or deny this, please. – PAL

 Videos of the Week:

(Explicit language, but so worth it)

Steph Curry is the truth.


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“Life is just one crushing defeat after another until you just wish Flanders was dead”

-H. Simpson

Week of March 22, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 9.26.30 AM

Christian Laettner thinks this NCAA Tournament is heating up.

The Media is Public Enemy No. 1 in the Thunder Locker Room. Why?

The Oklahoma City Thunder are stacked with talent. They have two of the top five players in the NBA in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. But something is amiss in Oklahoma City. There is a growing divide between the Thunder players and the local media that covers the team. Things have gotten overtly hostile at times. Grantland’s Bryan Curtis dives deep – attempting to figure out what is going on and why. -TOB

Source: “Distant Thunder: What Did Oklahoma City’s Media Do to Piss Off Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant?”, Bryan Curtis, Grantland (3/20/15)

PAL: Fascinating read. What role do beat reporters play in today’s sports world? Athletes can communicate directly with fans or followers and have exponentially more reach than that of local newspapers. Regional cable sports affiliates (think CSN Bay Area) – business partners with the teams – have sideline reporters and bloggers (hardly objective), and the the team’s PR folks hover like chaperones at a Middle School dance during the post-game “scrum”. We all get shortchanged as a result. As Thunder beat reporter Berry Tramel puts it with regards to Westbrook, “I’m just going to be writing about how great he is. I’m never going to be writing about who he is.”


Steve Nash’s Legacy

The NCAA basketball tournament and the NFL free agency madness might have muted the retirement of an all-timer. Steve Nash, back-to-back MVP and the prototype of the modern point guard (Steph Curry, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook all have a pinch of Nash in their games) finally called it quits. Writer Lee Jenkins nails this summary of what Nash meant to his country (he’s a Canadian kid) and to the way the point guard position is played. Here’s a guy who received one D-1 scholarship offer from Santa Clara, and who was third string in Phoenix behind – get this – Kevin Johnson and Jason Kidd. He’s given back to his community (his charity has granted nearly $5 million for child welfare) and has mentored the Lakers young draft picks while battling back and leg issues over the past couple years. What’s more, he’s established credibility to Canadian basketball. In fact, he’s the General Manager for the national team up there. Remember, the last two number 1 draft picks are from our neighbors to the north. All in all, he was a great shooter who also seems like a straight shooter. He was a pleasure to watch. – PAL

Source: “The Overflowing Legacy Of Steve Nash”, Lee Jenkins, Sports Illustrated (3/21/15)

TOB: I’ve been a Steve Nash fan since his college days in the mid-90’s, when he helped lead my parents’ law school alma mater (later mine, as well) to some classic tourney upsets. He is impossible to dislike – he made watching basketball more fun. He seems intelligent. He has a good head on his shoulders. This retirement announcement was a formality, as Nash has effectively been retired for a couple years now. But it’s a good opportunity to thank him for years of entertainment. And for a lot of NBA players, perhaps a time to thank him for their huge paychecks (I’m looking at you, Tim Thomas and Channing Frye). Nash, more than any player in my lifetime, made everyone around him better. That’s about the best thing you can say about an athlete, especially a point guard.


Old Man Does Not Trust Lady in iPhone

Thanks to 1-2-3 Sports! reader Michael Kapp for sending in this short but amusing story about New York Giants’ coach Tom Coughlin and his negative experience receiving driving directions from Siri. Choice quote:

“I don’t trust the lady in GPS, I don’t trust her, because they don’t send you the right way. I hit the button and I go ‘Park Ridge, New Jersey.’ And she comes back on, she’s giving me directions. So now I figure out where I am. I hit the thing and I said, ‘Thank you very much, I know exactly where I am now.’ And she comes back and says, ‘You don’t have to thank me.’ I swear to God that’s what she said. And then I couldn’t get her to shut up. Every turn. ‘Take a right here.’ I know where I am. I know where I am. I’m a block away from my house and she’s telling me where to go. I said, ‘I know where I’m going.’

He is definitely a grandpa (no offense, dad). -TOB

Source: Tom Coughlin Battles Siri”, Tom Rock, Newsday (03/25/2015)

PAL: Wait, this isn’t a story about my dad? There’s nothing more dangerous than a grandpa behind the wheel of a car with a smartphone in his hand. Nothing.


A Lesson In Class

We wrote and posted about Dean Smith following his death in February, but this little nugget was too good to pass up. A quick story worth your time about Smith’s final gift to every letterwinner at UNC (he coached for 36 years). I didn’t know much about Smith while he was alive, but now I understand what the fuss was about. He was a legitimate educator and community leader to the point where, if he hadn’t excelled at coaching college basketball (879 wins, two national championships, 11 Final Fours, 13 ACC Tournament championships, Olympic Gold Medal coach), his life would’ve still been extraordinary. – PAL

Source: “Dean Smith Used His Will To Buy Every One Of His Lettermen A Nice Dinner”, Samer Kalaf, Deadspin (3/26/15)


A World Series Game 7 “What If?”

Game 7 of the 2014 World Series was a classic, but it almost had one of the most bizarre and exciting endings in World Series history. With two outs in the 9th, the Royals’ Alex Gordon hit a line drive that skipped under Giants’ centerfielder Gregor Blanco’s glove, and rolled all the way to the wall. Gordon made it to third, but many wondered what would have happened if he had scored. Everyone involved (especially Royals manager Ned Yost, who says that Gordon would have been out by 40 feet) agrees that it would have been a huge mistake to send Gordon. But Tim Kurkjian still put together a great article – interviewing all the people involved in the play and using math to determine definitively what would have happened had the Royals sent Gordon. -TOB

Source: The Penultimate Play”, Tim Kurkjian, ESPN (03/25/2015)

PAL: Like Tommy, I dig the oral history approach to analyzing this play. As dominant as Bumgarner was, it is more likely that Brandon Crawford and Buster Posey would’ve executed a throw and catch from 120 feet apart than it was for something to go badly (for the Giants) during the next at bat. With Gordon on third, any hit, passed ball, or error ties the game. As odd as it sounds, Kansas City had more positive options facing Bumgarner than it did taking a chance with sending Gordon.


Video of the Week

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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 March 9, 2015

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Hanging with chef Guy Fieri

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Sports Bucket List: The Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament

I’m sentimental about this. Every year growing up I would skip school and head down to the Civic Center in St. Paul to watch the Thursday session of the State Tournament with my grandpa. Two afternoon games, lunch at Cosseta or McGovern’s, then back to the arena for two night games. While we both looked forward to sharing the day, I know we both loved the event – separate from the fact that we were there together – which of course made it even more enjoyable. Iron Range teams (up north) like Bemidji, Cloquet, Duluth East, and International Falls would come down to the big city (bringing the entire hometown with them) and face off with metro powerhouses like Hill-Murray, Edina, and Bloomington Jefferson. Nearly 130k fans attended the four-day event this year, and to this day there is no sport more universally loved in Minnesota than high school hockey. Here’s a collection of the best of 2015 – PAL

  • Best goals of the tourney – ℅ CBS Sports
  • This article reminded me of my late grandpa – ℅ Andy Greder (St. Paul Pioneer Press)
  • And of course, the annual All Hockey Hair Team, ℅ PulltabProductions:

TOB: Doesn’t Phil’s memory of skipping school and heading to the State hockey tournament with his Grandpa sound awesome? With the NCAA tournament starting next week, it makes me want to skip work and have a 1-2-3 Sports! March Madness viewing party. I don’t think it’s gonna happen this year, but a guy can dream, can’t he? Also, if you like fun, watch the All Hockey Hair Team video. It does not disappoint.


“The Slow Destruction of Pete Reiser, the Greatest Player Who Never Was”

W.C. Heinz is generally considered one of the greatest sports writers of all-time. This is a Heinz story from 1958 about a former baseball player named Pete Reiser. Reiser had talent many compared to Mantle and Mays, but his penchant for crashing into outfield walls and getting beaned in the head left him in the hospital almost as much as he played. Heinz’ story on Reiser, from a collection of his best sportswriting, Top of His Game, was reprinted in Deadspin this week. It is funny and sad, and an interesting look into an athlete who gave too much of himself. At one point, later in his career, a reporter asks Reiser where he thinks he’ll finish the season. The reporter means in the standings, but Reiser replies: “In Peck Memorial Hospital.” He was only half-kidding. -TOB

Source: “The Rocky Road of Pistol Pete“, W.C. Heinz (1958), reprinted in Deadspin (03/10/2015) 

PAL: This reads like a novel. Aside from the stories – which come off like folk tales – the writing is simple, classic, and a pleasure to read. One of my favorite lines: “On the way back to New York I kept thinking how right Pete was. To tell a man who is this true that there is another way for him to do it is to speak a lie.” Morgan Freeman was meant to do the voice over on to this story.


Coming Back From the Brink

The Ravens signed running back Justin Forsett to a 3-year, $9 million deal on Thursday. The signing didn’t make too many headlines, and most probably didn’t take note. But…Forsett went to Cal and is one of my favorite all-time Bears. He was always humble and hard working. He was the backup to Marshawn Lynch, and when Lynch was out, the offense did not miss a beat. Forsett bounced around the NFL for the better part of a decade, never catching the break he deserved, despite performing well in limited playing time. Until this year. The Ray Rice debacle gave Forsett his chance – and he ran with it, literally. Forsett led the NFL in yards per carry, made the Pro Bowl, and earned his payday. After signing, Forsett wrote this great piece for NFL.com about life on the fringes of the NFL, how close he came to retiring after the 2013 season, how he was preparing for life after football, and how it felt to flourish when he got his shot. -TOB

Source: What I Wanted Most in Free Agency, and Why I Stayed a Raven”, Justin Forsett, NFL.com (03/12/2015)


Scouting vs Statistics

There is a cold war in baseball – between the “scout” and “stats” teams. Some teams are “old school” and rely on what they observe – from personnel decisions to on-field tactics. Other teams use statistics and try to play to the averages. Meanwhile, the Giants have won 3 of the last 5 World Series. How have they done it? As Christina Kahrl writes, part of the reason the Giants have been so successful is by finding a happy medium between the two approaches. For example, that huge catch by Juan Perez off of Nori Aoki to preserve the Giants’ lead in Game 7 of the World Series. Normally, when defending against a left-handed batter, the left fielder would be damn-near to center field. But the Giants used a combination of statistics and instincts to put Perez in an otherwise strange position – defending the left field line (click the thumbnail to go to the video):

 

And it paid off in a big way. -TOB

Source: “How the Giants Use Metrics on D”, Christina Kahrl, ESPN.com (03/11/2015); Companion Reading: Giants Defensive Positioning a Big Assist in Game 7 Victory”, John DeWan, Bill James Online (11/06/2014);Giants’ Aoki Could Have Been a World Series Hero”, Andrew Baggarly, San Jose Mercury-News (02/25/2010)


Hilarious First Person Accounts Of Getting Dunked On

The headline says it all. Here are several accounts of regular dudes getting slammed on by future pros, top prospects, and otherwise absurd athletes from other sports. After reading, I now know not to attempt taking the charge when a future NBA player is bearing down on you with a full head of steam. You might get a ball (or balls) slammed in your face. Most of them are hilarious, but my favorite ends with the following: “It was the most aggressive teabagging I’ve ever seen and I just walked off the court and didn’t come back. Ever.” – PAL

Source: “Your Best Stories About Getting Dunked On Like The Losers You Are”, Samer Kalaf, Deadspin (03/09/2015)

TOB: Quite happy I could not have contributed to this. I am always smart enough to get out of the way.


What Makes an NBA Coach Successful?

How do we measure the value of a coach? For years, it has been wins and losses (and championships), counter-balanced with the perceived talent the coach has to work with. But in basketball, we often see an individual player’s performance wax and wane depending on the system he is in. Grantland’s Kirk Goldsberry uses the very different performances of first-time head coaches Terry Stotts in Atlanta (a Popovich disciple) and the recently-fired Brian Shaw in Denver (a Phil Jackson disciple) to theorize that the rise in importance of the three-point shot in the NBA will give a clearer picture as to which coaches are the best. Goldsberry makes a strong case that how the coach creates open looks for his players, thus maximizing their ability to make shots, will go a long way in evaluating a coach’s worth. -TOB

Source: The Sons of Pop and the Zen Master: It’s Time to Properly Measure the Value of NBA Coaches”, Kirk Goldsberry, Grantland (03/06/2015)


Video of the Week

Let’s be real. This week’s video of the week is the Hockey Hair video above. But we’ll leave you with this:

That is steak sauce.


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“If you’re rich you don’t have to be smart. That’s the whole beauty of this country.”

-Joey from Little Big League. Also, Jed York