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

 

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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

Week of July 7, 2014

 

By popular demand, we’ve got a new feature this week – The 123 Q&A. Keep reading, and submit your questions to 123sportslist@gmail.com or on twitter @123sportsnews


The Boys of Section 220

Sometimes, when life gets stressful, I think back to one of the happiest times in my life – the summer during college. I moved back home, as did all my friends. We had zero worries. We played rec-league basketball on Sunday nights, followed by pizza and beer at the local pizza joint (wuddup Steve’s Pizza!). We had weekly poker games, even though none of us were any good. And whenever anyone felt like it, usually thought up late the night before – we drove into Sacramento to see the Rivercats – AAA baseball. We’d sit in the cheap lawn seats in the outfield. We’d drink beer and heckle the opposing team. It was awesome. This experience is hardly unique, and this story is about a group of friends, during the summer after high school, who had season tickets to their local semi-pro baseball team. They went every day. And loved every moment of it.  As the author writes, “This is a story about friendship. This is a story about growing up, and being on the cusp of growing old. This is a story about last chances. This is a story about baseball.” -TOB

Source“Closing Time”, by Ryan Winfield, Deadspin (06/23/14)


The Most Honest Sports Story Ever Written

Toward the end of his brilliant career, Floyd Patterson (the original “Pretty Boy Floyd”) began to lose – badly – like all boxers eventually do (except, apparently, Bernard Hopkins). The two-time Heavyweight Champion of the World was knocked out by Sonny Liston in the first round in consecutive fights in 1962 and 1963, at the age of just 28. The following year, Esquire published this excellent article – a look into the mind of an athlete coming to grips with the end of his career. This story is different than many of this nature, however, because Floyd reveals truths about himself not often seen in sports – especially the ultimate macho sport of boxing –  including this excerpt on why he continued to fight. -TOB

“First of all, I love boxing. Boxing has been good to me. And I might just as well ask you the question: ‘Why do you write?’ Or, ‘Do you retire from writing every time you write a bad story?’ And as to whether I should have become a fighter in the first place, well . . . when you’re hungry, you’re not choosy, and so I chose the thing that was closest to me. That was boxing. One day I just wandered into a gymnasium and boxed a boy. And I beat him. Then I boxed another boy. I beat him, too. Then I kept boxing. And winning. And I said, ‘Here, finally, is something I can do!’ And what were the requirements? Sacrifice. That’s all. To anybody who comes from the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, sacrifice comes easy. And so I kept fighting, and one day I became heavyweight champion, and I got to know people like you. And you wonder how I can sacrifice, how I can deprive myself so much? You just don’t realize where I’ve come from. You don’t understand where I was when it began for me.”

Source: “The Loser”, by Gay Talese, originally published in the March 1964 issue of Esquire, re-printed by Deadspin with the Author’s permission (07/18/13)


How 14 Football Players Helped Integrate the Mormon Church

In 1969, 14 football players at the University of Wyoming (“The Black 14”) tried to take a stand against the Mormon church’s refusal to allow African-Americans to be priests. On the eve of their game against BYU, they went to talk to their coach about a possible organized statement against the racist policy. Instead of a discussion, they were immediately kicked off the team. The story garnered much national interest – and pretty much destroyed what had been a surprisingly successful Wyoming football program for good. But more importantly, what those 14 young men went through helped usher real change – by 1979, the Mormon church changed their policy and opened their priesthood to African-Americans. -TOB

Source: “The Black 14: Race, Politics, Religion, and Wyoming Football”, by Phil White, Wyohistory.org (09/17/13)


A Blueprint for a U.S. World Cup Title in 2030

The U.S. made the round of 16 in this year’s World Cup. No small feat. But it is the third time in four World Cups that we’ve made it that far, without advancing farther – and it doesn’t seem like we are any closer to doing so. Although young talents like DeAndre Yedlin and Julian Green provided hope for 2018, what the U.S. would really need to do to become a true world soccer power, is start from the ground up. I first read this article at the start of the 2010 World Cup, but it’s worth revisiting. It details how Dutch soccer club Ajax long ago created what has become the blueprint for youth soccer development worldwide. It is a fascinating read – looking at where the U.S. falls short (mainly, too much focus on games and winning, not nearly enough focus on developing skills), and what we might need to do if we ever expect to seriously contend for a World Cup title. -TOB

Source: “How a Soccer Star is Made”, by Michael Sokolove, New York Times Magazine (06/02/10)


123 Q&A

Q: Ryan R., San Francisco: “The Oakland A’s wear white cleats whether their jerseys are home OR away; thoughts?”

 A (TOB): Presently, the A’s are the only team in baseball that wears white cleats both home and away. Before I offer my thoughts, I figured I should answer: Why? So I did a little research. Charlie Finley owned the A’s from 1960 to 1980. In that time, he had a lot of interesting ideas on how to improve baseball. Some were good (night games!); some were awful (monochromatic gold uniforms – the A’s were the Oregon Ducks 40 years before the Ducks were the Ducks); some were ridiculous (he wanted to change baseballs from white to orange); and some were controversial but terrible if you have half a brain (the Designated Hitter). But another idea he had was to change his team’s shoes to white – his reasoning was apparently based on PR – Joe Namath had begun wearing white cleats for New York Jets and gaining a lot of attention for it. Finley hoped to follow suit. Apparently it worked. A lot of people made fun of the white cleats at the time (as they do now), but ultimately many teams copied the look. Eventually the 70’s ended and white cleats went the way of leisure suits – except for the A’s. They have stubbornly stuck with it. In a way, I kind of admire that. It looks terrible, but they don’t care. The A’s do the A’s. -TOB
Counterpoint (PAL): White cleats are disgusting. 15-20 year-olds think they are cool. Cake-eater youth teams wear white cleats. It’s a fact. They are awful. Just awful. White cleats are so bad that they are worse than the following:
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The rope necklace

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The protective hat

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The blinker (back pocket out)

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A.J. Pierzynski

-PAL
TOB: NOTHING is worse than AJ Pierzynski.

Video of the Week:

Mrs. Fields of Mrs. Fields Cookies started out as an A’s ballgirl…and she was (Is? Is.) hot. What the hell?

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“You’re killing me, Smalls.”

– Hamilton “Ham” Porter