Week of May 4, 2015

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1 year of 1-2-3 Sport! No sweat, says Draymond and Steph.


Happy First Birthday to 1-2-3 Sports!

The idea was hatched at a bar, as many good ones are. Our original goal was to make it six months. And to be honest, that seemed like a stretch. Before we found our groove, Thursdays were very late nights for us – reading, writing, editing. A few weeks after we started, my baby boy was born, making things even worse. But we powered through and here we are. We missed only one week – New Year’s Day – and in my mind that’s a hell of an accomplishment. We have had a lot of fun – there’s a lot of time and energy that goes into this weekly digest, but we have taken something we both really enjoy and tried to share that with our family and friends. The feedback we receive, whether online or in person, is rewarding – it’s nice to know that people enjoy our efforts and the product.

We will continue to do our best to bring you our favorite sports writing, with our own take – hopefully in an entertaining fashion. Please do continue to give us feedback as it is always appreciated. And if you really enjoy a particular week’s post, you can always share it with your friends and family, too. -TOB

Tommy likes sports. Phil likes sports. Here are our favorite stories of the week. That summary is at the top of every post we share, and that remains the goal: Hunt down the best sports-related stories, explain why we think they are worth your time, and link to the story. Simple. Tommy’s doing the heavy lifting with regards to eloquence and gratitude here. I’m going to ask you for something. On this, our first anniversary, I ask you to write an email to a few friends who like sports, add https://123sportsnews.wordpress.com into the email with the subject line “A Sports Blog Worth Your Time,” and write one sentence on why you like it. We appreciate you, and we need more of you! -PAL


Bill Simmons Is A Free Agent

ESPN will not renew Bill Simmons’ contract in September, 2015. The biggest name in sports blogs was a bartender when he started a website called BostonSportsGuy.com in 1997. At first, his column was only available on AOL. He started with ESPN in 2001, helped create the 30 for 30 documentary franchise, hosts the most popular sports podcast, and generally speaking has built a nice little empire for himself, all stemming from a sports blog. I don’t love his writing, but it will be interesting to see what he does next. Grantland will continue without Simmons at the helm-PAL

Source: Bill Simmons and ESPN Are Parting Ways, Richard Sandomir, The New York Times (5/8/15)

TOB Note: I saw this news on Twitter this morning while sitting on the toilet, which seems appropriate, given Simmons’ habit of encouraging readers to print his long columns at work and read them in the bathroom. Simmons has not been the entertaining Simmons he used to be for quite some time – probably since he moved from Boston to L.A. and began splitting his time with ESPN and the Jimmy Kimmel Show as a writer. He got to Hollywood, he started hobnobbing with celebrities, and he lost his fastball as a writer. It wasn’t all downhill, though. As Phil mentioned, Simmons helped create the 30 for 30 series, which isn’t perfect but has put out some damn good movies, and he created Grantland, which is also hit-and-miss. I am curious about what happens to Grantland. Despite Skipper’s statement that this won’t affect Grantland – how can it not? He is Grantland. He handpicked his staff. Wherever he goes, he has a stable of writers who may or may not want to follow. As Jerry Maguire once said, “Who’s coming with me?”


Baseball’s Renaissance Man

Michael Burke was a soldier and a spy. He ran the circus, worked in Hollywood, and had a butler deliver his juice to him while he served as a CBS executive. He was President and part-owner of the Yankees, drinking buddies with Ernest Hemingway, and he drove a Delorean. I don’t know what else I could tell you that would better convince you to read his story. – PAL

Source: Yankee, Executive, Soldier, Spy”, Robert Weintraub, Grantland (5/6/15)


There Was No Joy in Manila, Mighty Manny Had Struck Out

If you enjoyed the Mayweather/Pacquiao fight, you are probably a boxing fan – Mayweather put on an absolute clinic and made one of the most exciting boxers of his generation, Manny Pacquiao, an absolute bore. That is the sign of a great boxer, and Floyd (for all his personal failings), has been doing that for his entire career. If you thought the fight was boring, you probably watch one or two fights a year, when you hear that a buddy is ordering the fight. If the fight left you dejected, though, then you are a huge Manny fan (or Floyd hater) and have an idea what the fight was like in Manny’s home country of the Philippines. Grantland’s Rafe Bartholomew was in the Philippines, watching the fight at a medium-sized public gathering with the people. His description of the scene as the fight unfolded is great:

“The Mandaluyong crowd, however, seemed unperturbed by Mayweather’s defensive clinic. Perhaps this was because many average Filipinos, with help from the partisan local media, haven’t been privy to the thorny, complicated history of why this fight took five years to be made. For them, the story is simple: It didn’t happen because Mayweather was afraid of Pacquiao. In Manila, the dominant fight-week narrative wasn’t Mayweather’s history of violence against women, but how Pacquiao would finally get a chance to shut up loudmouth “Money” Mayweather. So even though Mayweather was flummoxing Pacquiao early, the fans around me remained mostly untroubled because Mayweather wasn’t landing many telling blows of his own. Every time Mayweather jumped away from a Pacquiao blow or hugged him to squelch his combinations, the crowd hooted and laughed. They saw what they already believed: an opponent who feared the power behind their countryman’s fists.” -TOB

Source: Mayweather-Pacquiao: A Sad Morning in Manila”, Rafe Bartholomew, Grantland (05/04/2015)

PAL: I’m out on boxing. Has anyone talked about this fight after lunchtime on Monday? I like the idea of it, but I’m an amatuer watcher. The clinic that Mayweather put on Manny did nothing for me. I don’t know enough, and I don’t care enough. I do love the hype though. Leading up to the fight, I was getting excited. I like the slo-mo documentaries and the training montages, but from what I saw nothing happened in the fight. Because the fight stunk, my interest in the ancillary stories like this one fall a bit empty. So this is how the rest of you feel when you watch a baseball game, eh?


Del Boca Vista: Barry Bonds & Life After Baseball (and BALCO)

By most accounts Barry Bonds is a dick who was the best at his profession, which is why a story showing him experiencing humility is a good read. Bonds – a man whose connection to PEDs and doping are recorded ad nauseam – has donated over $100K to a women’s cycling team. The fact that a man famous for his skills in a sport forever linked to doping is backing a cycling team – the only other sport that rivals baseball in doping infamy – is interesting on the surface. What’s more interesting about this story is the unique situation Bonds found himself in following his retirement. What does someone who is the very best at his/her thing do when they can no longer do his/her thing? Barry Bonds was not only the most gifted hitter most of us have ever seen, but he was/is also a genius when it comes to hitting technique and the chess match between pitcher and hitter. In other words, he knew more about his craft than just about anyone breathing. So take that expert and put him on a bike – something he knows nothing about – at a time when he’s in court, hated by most everyone outside of the 415 area code, and going through his second divorce. A hyper-competitive, talented athlete exploring a sport and skill he knows nothing about at a time when he’s on an island. Instead of making adjustments at the most microscopic level, he’s learning the fundamentals. Here’s a fresh perspective on a master in the beginner class.  Thanks for sending this along, Jamie Morganstern. -PAL

Source: Barry Bonds Is Shifting Gears”, Bonnie D. Ford, ESPN the Magazine (5/6/15)

TOB: I didn’t love this story – there is far too much discussion about Bonds’ connections to steroids and cycling’s doping problem – but one thing I really like about it is that it shows Bonds has more depth than the baseball media portrayed during his career. It reminds me of the article we featured last week ahead of the Mayweather/Pacquaio fight – how the sports media paints with a broad brush on who is “good” and “bad”. Bonds was “bad” because he wasn’t polite to the writers who covered him, and that is how most sports fans knew him. But as with everyone, there are shades of gray. Bonds has done a lot of great things that don’t get a lot of attention, like offering to pay for Bryan Stow’s children’s college education, and now supporting this women’s cycling team. I’ve always liked Bonds and thought he got a bad rap – it’s nice to see him get some positive attention, even if it’s 20 years late.


Manny Being Too Manly?

Pedro Martinez released an autobiography this week. He’s been making the media rounds, telling some stories; this one, about the 2004 Red Sox, is especially great. They called themselves “The Idiots” – and, really, it was hard to argue. But the team also was a lot of fun. Pedro writes that before playoff games the players would take a shot, suggested by a different player each game. When it was Manny’s turn, he suggested a shot of “Mama Juana” – gin, honey, wine, and medicine root. But Manny added his own twist – Viagra. Ellis Burks, who was on the team but not active, decided to give it a shot. As Pedro tells it:

“I say, ‘You know, this Mama Juana, if you drink it, you might get turned on.’ He said, ‘Oh, I’ll try it. I’ll try it. I’m not playing anyway.’ So he took it, it seemed like it worked. So everybody was coming up to him for a little shot.”

Watch Pedro tell it himself here.- TOB

Source: Manny Ramirez Gave Ellis Burks a Boner”, Barry Petchesky, Deadspin (05/06/2015)

PAL: Two things: (1) Pedro Martinez, a head-hunter loathed by many (and one of the best 10 pitchers in the history of the game), is going to age very gracefully and become MLB’s cool uncle who’s full of wisdom. His stock will only go up in retirement, and he’ll become baseball’s better version of Charles Barkley. (2) Baseball players are a bunch of grown-ass men acting like fifteen year-olds, and sometime that’s really funny. This is one of those times.


Video of the Week:


PAL’s song of the week: Hey Now Baby” – Professor Longhair. The version on Alligator has the crackly recording, and the vocals are perfect.

Also, with permission from Ryan Rowe Productions, here is the “Walk Up Songs” playlist you’ve been waiting for. What song would want playing when you walk up to home plate to hit a home run?


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

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“I got laid off when they closed that asbestos factory, and wouldn’t you know it, the army cuts my disability pension because they said that the plate in my head wasn’t big enough.”

– Cousin Eddie

 

 

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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