Week of March 22, 2015

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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

Week of March 2, 2015

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It’s that time of year again, folks. Spring Training is here!

Holding Back A Running Prodigy

According to running guru Alberto Salazar, Mary Cain has “as much talent as any young athlete I’ve ever seen in running in my life.” For now, though, she needs to take it slow. Writer Elizabeth Weil uses Cain as a jump point to examine a variety of subjects, including the physiological dangers in over-training young women, the positive impacts of a more matured Title IX, and how to approach practice when the intention is to peak in six or seven years from now. Thanks for sending this along, Jamie Morganstern. It’s a great read for everyone, but I think runners – especially female runners – will be fascinated. – PAL

Source: “Mary Cain Is Growing Up Fast”, Elizabeth Weil, The New York Times Magazine (3/4/15)

TOB: My grandparents (I think) got us our first subscription to Sports Illustrated when I was a kid. I’ll never forget the first issue we got – Jennifer Capriati’s “And She’s Only 13!” cover story after her run to the finals of a tournament in 1990. I’ll also never forget her fall from grace, culminating in her arrest in 1993. It is refreshing to read about a coach and parent who are not pressuring a young prodigy into too much too soon. I hope to hear Mary Cain’s name at the next Olympics.


“The Winds of Autumn are a Pirate…”

I say this with the knowledge that it is not necessarily a good thing: But I’d put my knowledge of sports trivia up against most. A big part of this is thanks to NFL Films – whose Super Bowl recaps I watched religiously as a kid. In the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, ESPN would show them in chronological order, and I would tune in everyday after school to gobble it up. These days, NFL Films get the winning team’s Super Bowl recap together in a very short amount of time, complete with footage and audio from the game, sideline and huddle – all set to inspiring music. NFL Films is the best in the business. This is an interesting look at how that sausage gets made. -TOB

Source: Monuments Men: Inside the Mad Scramble to Bring You Your Annual NFL Championship DVD”, Katie Baker, Grantland (03/02/2015)

PAL: For the past 7+ years I’ve worked at a company that shoots a lot of music performance videos. One of our biggest events is shooting concerts at the SXSW music festival. It’s a crazy amount of pre-production, man power, logistics, and media management…and that’s just for 15 bands over 3 days. The scale of what NFL Films does is staggering (covering 30 teams), and the efficiency with which they do it is masterful. A fun read on the cultural staple that is NFL Films. Also, please join me in supporting Tommy’s bid to get on Sport Jeopardy.


Game, Blouses

We all know and love the legendary Prince basketball skit from Chappelle Show. Well, here’s some evidence that Prince (5’2”) was a solid player for real, and he argued about playing time with his coach, too. The team photo alone is worth the click here, folks. A side note: while I love Bob Dylan, Prince is actually the musical icon of Minnesota. The dude still lives there, regularly goes to Timberwolves and Vikings games, and records his music right there in Minnesota. True blue Minnesotan. Got to love it. – PAL

Source: “Prince Was An Afro-Rocking, Coach- Hating Schoolboy Basketball Player”, Billy Haisley, Deadspin (3/3/15)


The Cardinals Can’t Stop Talking About Not Talking About Themselves

As far as rants go, Drew Magary dropped the mic on this one. Giants fans will get an additional kick out of this, too. The St. Louis Cardinals self-aggrandizement is insufferable, and writers who drink the punch on this line of B.S. are even worse. A writer from USA Today did a story about how the team lets its play to the talking for them. Naturally, the story is filled with quotes from several players and management talking about how “talk is cheap.”  Maybe I was only halfway into my coffee this morning, but I’m ready to loathe the Cardinals again. Ah, spring must be in the air. – PAL

Source: “Moron USA Today Columnist Thinks The Cardinals Poop Vanilla Sprinkles”, Drew Magary, Deadspin (3/4/15)


Video of the Week:

Bonus:


“About those sit-ups you want me to do. I got it right here in my contract – it says I don’t have to do any calisthenics I don’t feel are necessary. So, what do you think about that?”

– Roger Dorn

 

Week of February 16, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 10.59.21 PMThe 49ers’ terrible management has incurred the wrath of The Bird of Death upon Levi’s Stadium.


The Cat’s in the Cradle

As Tim Lincecum’s pitching deteriorated over the last three years, so did his relationship with his father. His dad built the pitching mechanics that led to two Cy Young Awards, but his critiques were no longer welcome, and the relationship between father and son suffered. But after losing his spot in the rotation and making just one mop-up appearance in the Giants’ run to the World Series, Timmy knew he had to make a change. He went back to his father “with (his) tail between (his) legs” and asked for help. His father’s response? “We’ve done this together. Let’s continue to do this together until I’m not here.” Father and son worked hard in the offseason, and will continue to do so during Spring Training. Reading this story reminded me of Cats in the Cradle by Harry Chapin. On so many levels, I hope the reunion with his pitching coach/father helps Timmy return to form. -TOB

Source: “Tim Lincecum Turns to Father as He Tries to Find Cy Young Form”, Alex Pavlovic, CSNBayArea.com (02/18/2015)

PAL: Going back to his dad is Timmy’s last move. Like everyone in San Francisco, I love and pull for Timmy. The pantry is looking bare, and this is the last idea he has. I’m pulling for him, and I really hope he just lights it up this year.


Curtain of Distraction

1-2-3 Sports! reader Michael Kapp brings us this fascinating story:

As far back as I can remember, basketball fans behind the basket have attempted to distract opposing free throw shooters. They stand, make noise, and wave balloons. In recent years, college student sections have begun printing giant heads of various people – themselves, opposing players, famous people, etc., in the hopes of distracting shooters. It’s unclear that it’s ever been effective. Until now: Last season, Arizona State introduced what they call the “Curtain of Distraction.”Here are some examples:

The novelty of “The Curtain” has garnered a lot of attention. But the strangest thing is that it appears to actually work. Over two seasons, opposing teams are missing around 5-10% more free throws at ASU than in their other games. The New York Times performed a statistical analysis and found that:

“Taken together, the data suggest that something changed to affect the accuracy only of free throws, only by visiting teams, only when those teams were visiting Arizona State, and only after the Curtain of Distraction was introduced. Statistics can never fully prove a causal link, but this case is pretty strong.”

We will undoubtedly see copycats, which will likely reduce the Curtain’s effect. Nonetheless, pretty fascinating. -TOB

Source: “How Arizona State Reinvented Free Throw Distraction”, Justin Wolfers, New York Times (02/13/2015)

PAL: Well, I guess ASU has 3 things to be proud of now – Pat Tillman, John Hughes, and the “Curtain of Distraction” (what a great name). The downside – the players and students still attend ASU. I’m interested to see whether or not this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Too bad they aren’t making the NCAA Tournament (currently 14-12 W/L) and given the national spotlight.


Sympathy for the Devil: Alex Rodriguez

We’ve all read stories about falls from grace. I know, I know – everyone is sick of ARod. I’m sick of ARod. He lied about taking PEDs – yeah – but he’s far from the only one. The PEDs are not why people are sick of him. People are sick of him because he’s not lovable in any way. He comes off as a d-bag time and time again. It’s the $400+ million dollars he’ll earn by the end of his career, the picture of him kissing himself in the mirror at the gym, tanning in Central Park, the Madonna relationship (when she was perhaps most insufferable), the popcorn at Cowboy Stadium with Cameron Diaz, the highlights (hair), the pearl white batting gloves…but most of all it’s that smug gaze reserved only for the super-duper rich, good-looking, touched-by-God athletic, tall dude. That guy messed up – twice – and, boy, do we like watching him fall on his ass. So many steroid/PED stories focus on the fall or the subsequent rise; I was captivated by this story because it examines the quiet absurdity of purgatory for an adult grasping for sense of self. He’s Derrick Zoolander – superficially talented, banished, hated, ill-equipped for anything outside of his absurd profession, and seeking answers in ridiculous places while holding out hope for his “Blue Steel” moment. It’s a long story (absolutely worth the read), so I pulled some of the most captivating and bizarre tidbits below. – PAL

  • Barry Bonds throws ARod batting practice in Marin and talks a lot of sh*t.
  • “[H]is stealth hobby is visiting college campuses, that he’s been to nearly 40 so far, that he almost always takes the campus tour, visits the bookstore and buys a sweatshirt and a backpack”
  • “[T]hroughout his decade-long tenure with the Yankees, he tries to buy three custom-made suits for every rookie who walks into the clubhouse.”
  • “In New York he would routinely befriend young artists, leave them tickets at the box office so they could come see him play, and in exchange they had to let him drop by their studios. He’d sit in the corner of some dingy loft for hours, watching some intense kid paint or sculpt or draw, because it inspired him, sent him back to his own studio, the batting cage, with new dedication.”

Source: “The Education of Alex Rodriguez”, J.R. Moehringer, ESPN the Magazine (02/18/2015)


Albert Belle Was a Baaaaaad Man

I vaguely remember this, but it is awesome. In 1999, Albert Belle was playing for the Baltimore Orioles. In this game against the Angels, he had already hit three monster home runs and was coming up in the 11th inning, looking to win the game with his record-tying 4th. Instead, the pitcher throws one near Belle’s head, hitting him with a fastball in the shoulder. The umpire immediately signals that Belle was hit, and sends him to first. But Albert Belle shakes him off! Skip to the 1:16 mark:

You can read his lips, as he lies, arguing with the umpire, claiming the ball hit his bat. Albert was so sure that he was going to win the game, that he would have rather taken a strike than taken a base. Awesome. -TOB

Source: No Hitter Has Ever Been More Terrifying Than Albert Belle in This Game”, Tom Scocca, Deadspin (02/16/2015)

PAL: I forgot about Albert Belle. Seriously. The name has not occupied space in my brain for some time until I saw this story, which is crazy. While this scene takes place when Belle is on the O’s,  I remember him as a member of the supremely talented Indians of the 90s (Jim Thome, Roberto Alomar, Omar Vizquel, Kenny Lofton, Carlos Baerga, Matt Williams, David Justice, Jose Mesa, Manny Ramirez, Albert Belle…jesus!) Belle was the baddest of the bunch, and he definitely scared me the most out of that group. He was really, really good, and a redass to boot, which is captured perfectly here. The video is pretty incredible, too.


Video of the Week

In honor of Cal announcing a home and home series with Ole Miss, we present you this video of fans tailgating at “The Grove”. 1-2-3 Sports! is already planning an RV trip to Oxford in 2019.


Tweet of the Week


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“Tiger will do more than any other man in history to change the course of humanity.”

-Earl Woods

Week of February 2, 2015

Madbum rocking the Carhartt while slamming suds with Khal Drogo from Game of Thrones. No big deal.

Running & Autism: A Perfect Fit For Mikey Brannigan
Remember those “Faces In The Crowd” pages in the old SI magazines? Well, I’ve just found out they’ve expanded the format for the online version, and – man – it is really cool. Instead of the one paragraph description, SI goes all-in with a full article. This month’s feature is especially impressive – a must-read. Mikey Brannigan was diagnosed with Autism at an early age, and it wasn’t until a chance encounter that the family found the perfect outlet for him: running. The simplicity of the sport, combined with a lot of other factors specific to autism, has allowed Brannigan to do more than compete at the varsity level – he excels. He’s on track to be an Olympic hopeful. How cool is that? – PAL

Source: “High School Athlete of the Month: Mikey Brannigan”, Ali Fenwick, Sports Illustrated (2/4/15)

TOB: Enjoyed reading this, and also enjoyed that it led me to finding this – people featured on Faces in the Crowd who went on to famous athletic careers, including Phil’s favorite (/sarcasm), Joey Mauer.


The Basketball Glass Ceiling Has Been Broken in Russia
WNBA players are not paid very much money. I knew this was true, but even the very best players barely get paid over $100,000 a season. To supplement that income, many WNBA players head overseas in the offseason and play in leagues in Europe and Asia. Amazingly, though, they get paid more overseas. A lot more. Take Diana Taurasi. She was the 2014 WNBA MVP runner-up, and she made just $109,500. But in Russia she made $1.5 million. This has been going on for years. The new twist, though, is that Diana Taurasi’s Russian team, looking to protect its $1.5M investment, is paying Diana Taurasi to sit out the next WNBA season, thus keeping her healthy and fresh for her Russian team. This must be very embarrassing for the WNBA, and worse yet is that apparently foreign teams have been trying to get WNBA stars to do this for years. If more players follow Diana’s lead, the WNBA could be in serious trouble. – TOB
Source: “Diana Taurasi’s Russian Team is Paying Her to Skip the WNBA Season”, Kevin Draper, Deadspin (02/03/15)

PAL: A part of me thinks if some Russian oligarch wants to lose $7 million to fund a women’s basketball team for which no one pays to see play, then that’s on him. A part of me thinks that the US market for a professional female basketball player is somewhere between 50-150k – it’s not even in the stratosphere of the NBA, but – hey – it’s a living, right? And then I think about the LPGA (est. 1950) and the Women’s Tennis Association (est. 1973 by Billie Jean King). While Tommy was right – both tennis and golf are individual sports that derive a large portion of revenue from sponsors, consider the following:

  • According to the LPGA official website, 45 women have earned over $5 million in winnings throughout their career.
  • Look at the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) – 30 women have earned over $10 million in their career
    • The Williams sisters have over $80 million in prize money between them!
    • You know how much Billie Jean King won in her first Wimbledon – what amounts to $857.89.

Women’s professional sports is a longview, social endeavor. It requires support, because it’s more than business. Should I have a daughter, and should she excel in sports, I want to live in a place that allows her dream to become a reality.


10 Steps To Buy A Recruit

Wednesday was National Signing Day for college football, so this story is timely despite its publication date. ESPN televises 17 and 18 year-olds doing their version of LeBron’s “The Decision” on this day – the first day for recruits to officially commit to a college. While the relatively recent glamorization of this day doesn’t sit well with me, the under-the-table work of actually getting player X to sign at school Y is pretty interesting, as this step-by-step, first-person account reveals. We all know that illegal benefits are given to top recruits, but I haven’t seen a story about the system of how to do it been laid out this plainly. This isn’t the story of Nevin Shapiro at Miami – this is the story from the guys who are smart enough to not get caught. One other note – the scroller indicates this story is much, much longer than it actually is. – PAL

Source: “Meet the Bag Man”, Steven Godfrey, SB Nation (4/10/14)


Video of the Week

Vine of the Week


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“I call it the goddamned blessed road. I’ve buried friends. I’ve put friends in rehab. I’ve watched marriages dissolve. There’s a lot of collateral damage in this lifestyle I’ve had for 33 years. I’m going to send myself home safely.”

– Tim Flannery

Week of January 26, 2015

kirby

Kirby Puckett says: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, PHIL. ALWAYS WORK HARD AND RESPECT WOMEN.

A big birthday shoutout this week to my man Phil, who has just entered his Larry Bird year. 33! If you enjoy our blog, thank Phil as it was his idea.


Beast Mode: Back in the Day

Marshawn Lynch’s refusals to talk during media sessions (as he did last year), has quickly become the biggest story of Super Bowl Week. Today, on Day 3 of the stand-off, Marshawn asked the assembled hoard of reporters, “All week, I done told y’all what’s up, and for some reason, y’all continue to come back and do the same thing that y’all did.” Indeed, it is puzzling. It is unclear why they won’t just leave the guy alone. I guess it’s because they don’t have to. But Marshawn has not always been a closed book. He has opened up to reporters, even this week. As he is the biggest story of Super Bowl Week, eclipsing Ballghazi aka Deflategate, there were a LOT of stories about Marshawn this week. But the two best were these – written this week by writers who got to known Marshawn in the past, and are able to shed a little light on to who the guy is, and why he is so reluctant to speak. -TOB

Source: Marshawn Lynch Resists Easy Media Definition”, Ted Miller, ESPN (01/27/15)

Source: The Misunderstood Marshawn Lynch”, Jeffrey Chadiha, ESPN (01/27/15)

PAL Note: The only people who care about Lynch not talking to reporters are reporters, their employers, and the NFL. Oh, also Skittles and Progressive. They get to make funny commercials based off it. Regular people only care when athletes say something profane, stupid, or funny (hopefully all three at the same time). I’ll go back to one of my old standby lines: these are the types of “stories” that a 24-hour news (sports or otherwise) creates.

TOB: Also, please enjoy this video from Conan, with Marshawn and Rob Gronkowski playing Mortal Kombat.

Rob Gronkowski may not be a smart man, but he knows what love is.


Tom Brady: Profile of a Christopher Guest Character

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

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

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


Cleveland Browns WR Josh Gordon Writes an Open Letter Regarding His Most Recent Transgression

You may not be all that familiar with Josh Gordon. He is a super talented wide receiver on the Cleveland Browns who has been repeatedly suspended by the NFL. Some necessary background:

  • In 2013, his second year in the NFL, he was suspended two games due to a violation of the substance abuse policy. He still had the best stats of any WR in the NFL that year.
  • In 2014, he was suspended the entire year (later reduced to 10 games) for (1) a DUI and for a failed marijuana test – and that was quite dubious. For NFL testing, they take two samples, arbitrarily labeled A and B. The A-sample barely hit the suspendable threshold, and that threshold is far lower than any other sports league, including the IOC. The B-sample was then tested and was below the NFL’s already low NFL threshold. Had the B-sample been tested first, Gordon would not have been suspended. But since the A-sample was tested first, and the B-sample had ANY trace of marijuana, the suspension stuck. Stupid.
  • And just last weekend, news broke that Gordon had failed a drug test again and would be suspended for all of 2015. As a person with Josh Gordon on my keeper fantasy league, I was distraught. Distraught!
  • In the aftermath of that news, many former athletes and current media members, including Charles Barkley and Cris Carter (he a recovering alcoholic who almost lost his NFL career before it started because of it) began pontificating that “we” are dealing with a substance abuse problem and that Josh Gordon needs help before he kills himself. The usual.

And then today I found this story, with very little fanfare. I haven’t seen it all over Twitter. Or ESPN. Or Deadspin. Or anywhere else. And I’m not sure why. Josh Gordon, with great eloquence and passion, defended himself and set the record straight about the nature of his “problem” and the facts behind his suspensions. It is quite persuasive. And, in light of the Marshawn Lynch hoopla this week, it reminds me of why some athletes do not trust the media – the media will publish half-truths and poorly-sourced rumors, and the athletes have very little recourse. I’ve heard media members “diagnose” Marshawn Lynch with a social anxiety disorder. The dude doesn’t have a social anxiety disorder. He just doesn’t want to talk to the media! And while Josh Gordon is definitely facing some adversity and needs to mature, Charles Barkley and Cris Carter and Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless are not doctors and they’ve never met Josh Gordon. Why don’t “we” stop trying to diagnose him (or others) with drug and/or alcohol addiction (or anything else)? -TOB

Source: An Open Letter to Charles Barkley & Co.”, by Josh Gordon, Medium.com (01/28/15)

PAL Note: I have three points to make on this story:

  • Josh Gordon is 23. That’s young. I did a lot of dumb stuff between the ages of 20-23. I did not live like an adult. He can figure this out.
  • Stephen A. Smith, Skip Bayless, and Cris Carter can all go jump in a lake. Also, who watches Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless anymore? Didn’t their schtick give everyone else a migraine years ago?
  • Whether or not it’s fair, Josh Gordon needs to stay away from weed and booze if he wants to make a career in the NFL. His talent will win out if he can do that. It’s not the severity of the incidents, but rather the sum of the incidents that is problematic.

Jay Cutler Has Had It Up to HERE With These Damn Kids

As a new dad, I get the sentiment. I’ve never threatened to leave my child unattended while my wife is out, but on at least two occasions when she has texted to ask how things are going, I responded by simply sending a voice text of our screaming baby. She did return the favor once, though. -TOB

Source: Jay Cutler Is One Fed Up Dad”, Tom Ley, Deadspin (01/26/15)

PAL Note: I feel uncomfortable liking Jay Cutler just a little bit after reading this.


Video of the Week

This week’s video is a fully-serious, not-at-all tongue-in-cheek, six-minute video of some of the greatest archery you’ll ever see. He pulls a Robin Hood! He even catches an arrow and shoots it back at his assailant. Rollerblades make an appearance! Enjoy.


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“I didn’t make that! It fell out of your hair that way!”

– Ethan