Week of December 6, 2015


It’s Time to Talk About the Warriors

I have been hesitant to write about the Warriors until, you know, they actually lose a game. But it’s time. What the Warriors are doing right now, 23-0 at the time of publication, is likely the most incredible thing I’ve seen in my life as a sports fan. Most of those 23 games haven’t even been particularly close. There are not enough superlatives for this. The Dubs have the whole league feeling like Kemba Walker does here:

 Unfortunately, in the closing seconds of a win over the Pacers on Tuesday, Klay Thompson sprained his ankle. I hope it isn’t too bad, because they will need him in order to do something historical. How historical? Before their 23rd win on Tuesday, FiveThirtyEight’s projection system has them with a 44% chance of setting the all-time NBA record with 73 wins a season, surpassing the 72 wins recorded by the 1995-96 Bulls (and a 25% chance of winning an insane 75 games). In this brief article, Kyle Wagner breaks down the various projection systems’ predictions for the Warriors’ final record.

Source: It’s Time to Take the Warriors’ Chances of Going 73-9 Seriously”, Kyle Wagner, FiveThirtyEight.com (12/08/2015)

PAL: The Warriors are absurd, and oh-so-fun to watch. Solid article, but I liked the other FiveThirtyEight article, which focused on trying to contextualize Steph Curry’s shooting. How about this nugget: “Curry shoots threes about as well with a defender 2 to 4 feet away (classified as “tight” by NBA.com) as an average NBA shooter does with the nearest defender 12 feet away.”


Scott Weiland’s Letter to Charlie Weis. Wait, What?

Back in 2005, in the first year of his original deal and after very little success, Notre Dame handed head football coach Charlie Weis a massive, 10-year contract extension. They quickly lived to regret that, and ended up having to pay him a buyout of $19 million. Notre Dame made their final annual payment on that contract this month. In other news, Stone Temple Pilots singer Scott Weiland died last week at the age of 48. Weiland had struggled for years with drugs and alcohol. These two stories are seemingly unrelated. So why do I bring them up together? As it turns out, Weiland was a huge Notre Dame football fan. He grew up in the midwest and his father went to Notre Dame. Weiland was such a big Notre Dame fan that in 2007 when Weis was rumored to be considering taking the New York Giants head coaching job, Weiland wrote Weis a fervent open letter, literally begging Weis not to leave Notre Dame. A sampling:

But LEAVING NOTRE DAME, your Alma Mater, without having achieved really anything of monolithic proportions like you’ve promised us is absurd and unfair. So at this point, I will get on my knees and beg. Don’t do it Coach. Don’t do it! Stay and do what you promised; your team, your school, the fans, the legacy deserves to be taken to the Promised Land.

The whole letter is pretty amusing, as Weiland writes like a 12-year old throughout. What a weird story. -TOB

Source: Dead STP Frontman Scott Weiland’s Impassioned Letter Begging Charlie Weis to Stay at Notre Dame”, Troy Machir, Sporting News (12/04/2015)

PAL: I never would’ve guessed this. It’s strange to read the words of a rock star that come off like such a dorky Notre Dame guy – impassioned and hyperbolic with the blinders firmly affixed. Also, Jimmy Clausen was a thing.


Vicarious Abuse

In Minnesota, the “Hockey dad” is a thing, as I’m certain it’s “Football dad,” in Texas, “Tennis dad” in some faux “academy” in Florida and so forth, especially in places where a sport and location are nearly one and the same. Watching a parent lose control at youth sports game is surreal and disturbing. The lack of awareness needed in order to, say, threaten violence on an umpire, referee, or – worst of all – your kid  in a public setting at a meaningless sporting event is unsettling.

Untitled 2

O’Sullivan’s dad was beating him by the time this picture was taken.

Patrick O’Sullivan’s story of enduring years of physical abuse is horrible, yet familiar. We’ve heard this story before. However, his perspective on it is refreshing and needed, especially  in an era when younger and younger kids are specializing in a sports at the insistence of coaches and parents. O’Sullivan’s take on the single-mindedness of it hits home, especially for a dude that grew up in a hockey-crazed community:

“Once you get to the pro level and you witness how fast the game moves, you finally realize that no amount of running or weight lifting or private lessons is going to change one simple question: Do you understand hockey? Do you really understand the game? Do you know where that puck is going next?”

O’Sullivan’s dad is a pathetic failure. – PAL

Source: Black & Blue”, Patrick O’Sullivan”, The Players’ Tribune (12/09/2015), ℅ 1-2-3 reader Pat O’Brien

TOB: This was a really disturbing, but also necessary, read. It helps that O’Sullivan is a little removed from the game – he is 30 years old, but has been retired since 2012. This perspective allows O’Sullivan to note two important truths about his horrible story: (1) the worst part of it all is that O’Sullivan’s NHL success undoubtedly makes his awful father believe he did the right thing; that O’Sullivan owes his success to his dad beating the hell out of him, day after day, for over a decade; and (2) that there were people, grown adults, who saw O’Sullivan’s father abusing him after games and did absolutely nothing. O’Sullivan’s story could have been a woe is me memoir – but instead he makes an important point: parents abuse their children, and it is not acceptable. But the least acceptable thing is for other adults to witness the abuse, look the other way, and do nothing. As O’Sullivan closes his story:

“I’m writing it for the people in the parking lot. Yes, if you say something, you may ruin the relationship you have with that person. You may get embarrassed in front of the other hockey parents. You may have to go through the awkwardness of filing a police report.

I can understand why a lot of people worry, “But what if I’m wrong?”

If you are wrong, that’s the absolute best case scenario. The alternative is that child is a prisoner in his own home. What you’re seeing in the parking lot or outside the locker room — whether it’s a kid getting grabbed and screamed at, or shoved up against a car — could just be the tip of the iceberg.

It’s so ironic, because the hockey community loves to talk about toughness and courage. In that world, courage is supposed to mean standing in front of a slap shot without flinching, or taking your lumps in a fight.

But that’s easy. That’s not real courage. Anybody can do that. I guarantee you there’s hundreds of kids across North America who will get dressed for hockey this weekend with their stomach turning, thinking the same thing I did as a kid: “I better play really good there, or tonight is going to be really bad.” It just takes one person to act on their instinct and stand up for that child. That’s real courage. The kind we don’t always glorify in the hockey world.”


Video of the Week:

Wait for it…

Baseball players are so lovably dumb.


Tweet of the Week

-Former teammate of Marshawn’s at Cal, who went on to play quite a few years in the NFL.


PAL Song of the Week: A Tribe Called Quest – “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo

Check out the playlist here. Consider it your holiday bonus.


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Can I refill your eggnog for you? Get you something to eat? Drive you out to the middle of nowhere and leave you for dead?

– Clark Griswold

 

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Week of June 8, 2015

You just suck so hard, Skip.


David Lee, Draymond Green & Harrison Barnes for Kevin Love?

This was an actual thing. So was Klay Thompson for Love. With an injured Love for the Finals, it’s even harder to imagine, but these were hot button topics on local sports radio last summer. In this article,  Zach Lowe looks beyond Love’s injury and the “what-ifs” that dot every barstool sports debate. Trends in the NBA are evolving at an unprecedented rate, and Kevin Love – widely considered a top-1o player less than a year ago – now seems like an afterthought. The new hot button question is whether or not the Cavs are better without Love on the floor. “By not playing, [Kevin] Love has become the league’s most confusing and polarizing player.” And let’s not forget the real prize – Andrew Wiggins – now in Minnesota. Considering what LeBron is doing with a depleted roster, would keeping Wiggins on a team in the weak Eastern Conference have prevented the Cavs from getting to where they are now? As Lowe puts it, “ LeBron is winning with this Love-less crew of misfits, and there exists a reality in which the Cavaliers could have kept Wiggins, gained cap flexibility, and snagged Thaddeus Young to serve as Love Lite by simply cutting Minnesota out of the three-way deal that ended up sending Love to Cleveland.” Potential trades are always fun to talk about in the future tense, but Lowe’s article looks back on a non-trade and its impact on the Finals. – PAL

Source: What’s Next for Kevin Love”, Zach Lowe, Grantland (6/9/15)

TOB: There exists no reality in which the Warriors regret their decision. I have long been anti-Kevin Love, despite his numbers. I don’t really care what you do on the offensive end if you are a complete sieve on defense. The best point in that article was about Warriors officials having nightmares about Curry and Love defending the pick and roll. Terrifying. Vaguely related, after Game 2 of the Finals, I posited that the Cavs might be better off without Love and Kyrie, because neither of them plays a lick of defense, and the guys that stepped up in their place were busting their asses on that end. But after Game 4…I’m not so sure. LeBron is the best player since Jordan, but not even Jordan could have won a title with zero offensive help. LeBron needs someone to help shoulder the load, and that help is not coming. After Kyrie went down in Game 1, Phil asked me if LeBron was able to take this Cavs team to the title, would it be the greatest Finals performance of all-time? Instinctively, I said no. I mentioned Jordan’s 1993 Finals (41 points, 8.5 rebounds, 6.3 assists per game) vs the Suns. I assumed LeBron had no chance to touch those numbers, and no chance to win the title. But he kind of is, and he definitely does. Does he have two more amazing performances in him? Probably. Will it be enough? I don’t know. Should be a great finish.


Serena Williams Keeps on Truckin

I don’t know a lot about tennis, but who doesn’t love Serena Williams? I will leave you with this, because this is some great writing:

“During her run at Roland Garros, she wasn’t light or uncertain. She was exhausted and clinical, struggling through a flu that left her, in her semifinal match against Timea Bacsinszky, hunched over and panting on her racket. When she saw an opening, she annihilated the ball, and when she didn’t see one, when a drop shot looked a little too far away or an angle a little too acute, she let the point go. It was, in other words, a win enabled by supreme experience, a master class in high-stakes resource management by a player who’s won 20 of her 24 Grand Slam tournament finals and who’s lost only once since November. And when she took the microphone after the final, she didn’t stammer or blink. She addressed the crowd in confident French, a worldly, sophisticated woman who spends much of each year in Paris.” -TOB

Source: “Like It’s 1999: On Serena Williams’s Dominance and the Passage of Time“, Brian Phillips, Grantland (06/08/2015)

PAL: “It’s so rare, in tennis, to watch a player really grow up. I don’t mean ‘mellow out’ or ‘stop partying’ or whatever grow up usually means in sports; I mean develop a fully adult self, distinct from the kind of prolonged high-stress adolescence that most stars, for obvious reasons, inhabit throughout their twenties.” The Williams sisters, who started as teenagers, took a sport and completely changed its face and attitude. Hell yeah. You know an athlete is transcendent when you take his or her greatness for granted. Serena won her first Grand Slam at 17. She’s now 33 and has 20 Grand Slams to her name. Can you name 5 other athletes who were at the top of there game for 16 years? Can you even name 2?


All Hail American Pharaoh

Last weekend a horse won the fabled Triple Crown for the first time in my life. It had been 37 years since Affirmed won the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont in 1978 (Affirmed’s win was the 3rd in 6 years, but before 1973 there had been none since 1948). American Pharaoh ended the drought in dominating fashion. I’ve enjoyed horse racing since I was a teenager. The first horse to capture my attention was Cigar, who tied Citation’s record of 16 consecutive victories in 1995. As soon as I knew what the Triple Crown was, I had wanted to see it accomplished. But no horse came close from 1989 until 1997, when Silver Charm won the first two legs. That began a string of near-misses – 1998, 1999, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2014 all saw horses win the first two legs. I had begun to believe it would never happen. Normally, if a horse has a shot at winning the Triple Crown, I do not miss it if I can help it. But on Saturday I was at a family party and didn’t get a chance to watch. My uncle had recorded the race, so late in the evening, the entire family gathered around the TV and watched. A couple of us had gotten wind of the result, but it didn’t make American Pharaoh’s win any less dramatic. Though the race had been over for hours, the entire party was transfixed – cheering American Pharaoh on. He led wire to wire, and when he opened up that huge lead on the homestretch, everyone went crazy. After the race, I heard multiple people remark that they had thought they’d never see a Triple Crown. I don’t know what it is about horse racing that has the ability to capture the nation’s attention for just a few minutes a year, but when it does it is quite the experience, as Charles P. Pierce experienced first-hand. -TOB

Source: King for a Day: American Pharaoh and the First Triple Crown in Generations”, Charles P. Pierce, Grantland (06/08/2015)

PAL: I just don’t care. This is counterintuitive. It’s a beautiful thing to see an animal do what it’s bred to do. Watching a dog on point while hunting pheasants jolts you, reminds you that it serves a purpose beyond playing fetch at the park. Seeing – er, watching on Discovery Channel –  a cheetah stalk and chase down a gazelle is beautiful. And yet, I don’t care about the Triple Crown. Perhaps it’s because seemingly every year a horse wins the first two races, which is then followed by talk radio and Sports Networks filling a sport season gap (pre-NBA Finals, early in the baseball season, NFL offseason, pre-Stanley Cup, no college sports of consequence). They tell me why the Triple Crown matters, which is followed by it never happening. Horse racing and boxing were once the biggest sports in America, so I’m told. That was 8 gazillion years ago. I just don’t care, and neither does anyone else besides writer Charles P. Pierce – an old fart with an old fart name. Oh, and Tommy. Tommy and old farts with old fart names who wear fedoras care about horse racing.

TOB Rebuttal: 

Total Attendance of the Triple Crown Races, 2015: 392,193 (and that’s with a first ever no-infield admission to the Belmont, with a cap of 90,000 attendance)

Total Viewers of the Triple Crown Races: Approx. 33,000,000 including over 14,000,000 for the Belmont.

There sure are a lot of old farts out there.


Follow the Bouncing Ball…

This is a fascinating story about NBA basketballs – starting with the tannery where the leather is made and ending with what happens to them after they get to NBA arenas, including some great stuff on how certain players like basketballs to be, and how the basketball has evolved over the last 40 years. In the old days, players liked a well-used basketball, sometimes using the same ball for all 41 home games. Today, they don’t have much choice, as the NBA won’t use a basketball for more than 3 or 4 games, for aesthetic purposes. Which is lame, really.  I have used an NBA game ball before, and you’d be shocked at how hard and slick it is. I am one of those players who is very sensitive to a basketball. If it’s too slippery, it doesn’t come off my fingers right and I will shoot poorly. Others don’t care about how it feels, and when they hear people like me complain about it, they think we’re making excuses. Maybe so. But I can tell you that I can pick up a basketball and know immediately if I’m going to shoot poorly with that ball. This article about how some NBA players are similarly sensitive, vindicates me. -TOB

Source: A Game Ball’s Road to the NBA Finals”, Baxter Holmes, ESPN (06/07/2015)


Video of the Week


Tweet of the Week Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 9.55.57 PM

Update from last week: Steve Kerr is still the best.


PAL’s song of the week: Nina Simone – “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free“. Check out all of our weekly picks here (they’re super good).


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“I figure, I have two press conferences on the day of the game. I’m asked a lot of strategic questions; so, my options were tell the truth, […] and telling the truth is the equivalent of knocking on [Cavaliers coach] David Blatt’s door and saying ‘hey, this is what we’re going to do.’ I could evade the question, which would start this Twitter phenomenon: ‘Who’s gonna start for the Warriors?’ Or I could lie. So I lied. Sorry. I don’t think they hand you a trophy based on morality, they give it to you if you win. So, sorry about that.”

– Steve Kerr

Week of January 12, 2015

charles-barkley-fedora

Chucky, wassup?


Yes, EVEN MORE on the Ray Rice/NFL Story. But This Is Important.

The Robert Mueller “independent” report on the NFL’s response to the Ray Rice “scandal” came out last week. This story is so tiresome. We are tired of reading about it. We are tired of writing about it, and in fact I think this is like the fifth time that 123 Sports has said something to the effect of, “We are tired of writing about this story, but…” And so it is with some reluctance that we bring you this story. HOWEVER. As Michael Rosenberg writes, “In fact, this whole report is supposed to be part of the lie, which is ongoing and will probably not end until you forget this incident, or simply get tired of it.” He’s right. This is important. The Mueller report is Grade-A b.s., intended to divert our attention away from the real issues. Goodell asked Mueller to answer the wrong questions, so that Goodell could get the answers he wanted. And he did. Please read this story. Goodell is a horrible human. -TOB

Source: Mueller Report Underscores Roger Goodell’s Deceit In Ray Rice Case”, Michael Rosenberg (01/08/15)

PAL: The argument for Goodell keeping his job as NFL Commissioner is, to my understanding, as follows: (1) he takes the bullets so the owners don’t have to, and (2) the NFL is  wiping its butt with cash under his leadership (TV deals, launching the NFL network, involvement in negotiating the current collective bargaining agreement). Someone needs to explain to me why another qualified executive wouldn’t be able to perform those tasks just as well as Goodell without the PR nightmare he’s bolted to following the handling of Ray Rice. Also, why aren’t people going after the owners on this? Goodell works for them, after all.

TOB: I want to add – Deadspin’s Drew Magary made an excellent argument for the NFL’s long term popularity problem in an article this week: Kids today care more about games/social interaction on their phones/tablets over watching four-hour sporting events.  And the problem for football, is that it, more than any other American sport , takes time and patience – there are a lot of rules you need to learn to understand the game, and that takes a lot of football watching to gain. Drew wonders if kids today will ever put in the time to understand football. I recommend you read it. Here.


How Does One Come Back From the Loss of Two Children? You Just Do.

This story is not an easy read. Most baseball fans will remember Hirschbeck as the ump who Roberto Alomar spit on back in 1996. What this story will tell you about is the unfair amount of tragedy Hirschbeck has had to deal with in his life. He had two sons diagnosed with a rare and deadly disease – ALD. In 1993, his oldest son died in his parents’ arms. He was 8 years old. His youngest son fought the odds and survived childhood – only to die last April from a seizure related to ALD. His parents were asleep in the house when he died. In between those tragic events, Hirschbeck twice fought off cancer. You might think someone who has survived such heartache would be bitter. But not Hirschbeck:

“Believe me,” Hirschbeck says, “if someone had told me when I was a young dad like you that this is what’s going to happen, I’d say, ‘Give me a gun! I’m out! I’m shooting myself right now!’ But when you’re faced with something, you just say, ‘Why not me? Why should it be anybody else? What makes me different?’ You have to realize that. Otherwise, you’re going to cry for yourself forever.”

We can all only hope to be that strong in the face of such pain. -TOB

Source: “John Hirschbeck’s Survival Guide”, Anthony Castrovince, Sports on Earth (01/13/15)

PAL: Hirschbeck is tough, and not in the b.s. stoic way. He’s crushed by these tragedies, but still moves forward with some aspects of his life. That’s toughness. This is one of those stories I read and really doubt whether I could take what Hirschbeck, his wife, and two daughters have gone through. Best of everything to the Hirschbecks.


Kurt Busch’s Ex Is A WHAT (allegedly)?

Nascar is dumb, but this story is fun. Fun > Dumb. Kurt Busch makes left turns for a living, and allegedly got into a physical altercation with his girlfriend. They’re in court right now, and part of Busch’s defense is that he didn’t do it because Patricia Driscoll could kill him…because she’s an assassin. Here is a thorough back story on Driscoll that makes it at least appear that the Busch’s claim isn’t that out of left field. The accompanying profile video on Driscoll is hilarious, too. – PAL

Source: “Testimony: Kurt Busch Ex Terrible At Keeping Assassin Gig On The Downlow”, Stef Schrader, Jalopnik (1/14/15)

TOB: This is great writing. When I read the headline I thought, “This is going to be the dumbest thing I read all week.” But…as Phil suggests… somehow it makes sense! She’s totally an assassin! I’m all in on this and I can’t wait for the resolution.


Locker Room Butts.

There’s nothing groundbreaking about this article. It’s a fairly short look at the history of cigarette smokers in the NBA. I’m a non-smoker. A never-smoker. I hate smoking. But this cracked me up, especially this quote from Celtic Hall of Famer Bob Cousy:

“I was a nonsmoker. I eventually smoked cigars for 20 years. One of the many bad habits I picked up from Arnold [“Red”] Auerbach. He and I used to go to Europe together, so I had to protect myself and start smoking those damn things myself. Otherwise I’d inhale his smoke. But I never smoked cigarettes. When we were kids we didn’t have money to buy anything. Damn cigarettes were too expensive. Other than drinking a lot of beer, which we picked up in college — that was the extent of our vices. We did like girls, I think. Although it being so long, I can’t rely on my memory for that either.”

*ba dum tsh!*. Also, big ups to my boy Vlade Divac, who stars in this article, and whose honor I once defended so hard that I “c-walked” through a window. True story. I got witnesses. -TOB

Source: Smoking in the Boys Room”, Amos Barshad, Grantland (01/14/15)


It’s Not Me; It’s You: Mark Jackson Calls A Warriors Game

Quick recap: Mark Jackson coached the Warriors to the team’s first back-to-back playoff appearances in 20 years. He was fired. Steve Kerr takes over as coach. The team is 31-5 and a legit contender. A week ago, Jackson called the nationally televised game between the Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The scenario is fascinating. Guy who gets fired from a good team he helped turn around gets to call their game for a national audience. They now look like a great team under new coach, which forces the question of whether Jackson was a good coach who got a franchise over a hump, or if he underachieved with a great roster. Jackson handles the situation like a teenager and pretty much talks crap about his ex on TV. Class, class, class. – PAL

Source: “Mark Jackson Returned To Oracle Arena And Threw Shade: An Explainer”, Kevin Draper, Deadspin (1/14/15)

TOB: Ugh, Mark Jackson is such a tool. Also, I like Jeff Van Gundy a lot – but what a load of bull he was trying to sell. As Draper points out, Steve Kerr has taken almost exactly the same roster and has them at 31-5 – on pace for SEVENTY ONE wins. The NBA record is 72, set by the 1996 Chicago Bulls. Last year, under Mark Jackson, the Warriors won just 51, and were sixth in the Western Conference. So, no, Jeff, this isn’t about an improved roster. It’s about a coach who can spout more than empty platitudes and catchphrases, and who knows how to coach a team – both schematically and in terms of managing personalities.


Video of the Week

Click here.

1) Bill Walton trying to give his announcing partner, Bill Pasch, a copy of Charles Darwin’s “The Origin of Species” as a present.

2) Pasch “outing” himself as a creationist.

3) Jay Bilas touting the greatness of Sactown’s own Cake.

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“One plus one is two, all day long, and it’s never gonna change. And that’s factorial.”

-Stephon Marbury