Week of January 12, 2015

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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

 

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Week of December 15, 2014

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Redemption Lost

Tommy Gaines III was a high school basketball star in Georgia in the 1980’s. He never “made it”, or even came close, because he became addicted to crack. In an SAT analogy, redemption stories are to sportswriting as pratfalls are to comedy. The supply is seemingly endless, and it’s a little cheap, but it will always get the intended reaction. I’ve read (or watched) countless stories about former star athletes who lost it all (usually due to drugs), but have fought back as they’ve aged to provide a lesson to those who are now coming up. This is not one of those stories. Tommy Gaines is now in his late-40’s and is still dealing with his addiction to crack, losing the battle, trying to resurrect, and self-destructing again. Heartbreaking. -TOB

Source: The Sad Saga of Tommy Gaines”, Jordan Ritter Conn, Grantland (12/11/14)

PAL Note: I’m blaming my reaction to this story on VH1’s Behind The Music. I’ve become a bit “numb” to stories in which drugs or alcohol incite the downfall of someone with exceptional talent. Tommy’s correct – it’s a heartbreaking story that stands out for its lack of redemption, but it also stands out as heavy-handed prose on Ritter Conn’s part.


All Is Fair In Love & Twitter: Sports Reporting In The Time of “Now”

Do you care about journalistic standards when it comes to sports writing? Honestly – I don’t mean that in a pithy way. I didn’t really think about it before reading this article about NBA scoop monster Adrian Wojnarowski, but the piece is a really interesting reference point from which to consider the role reporting has in an instant news landscape, especially when it pertains to sports (as opposed to politics, world events…you know, real news).  Wojnarowski has become the go-to NBA writer when it comes to breaking news, but his methods and track record are shady at best. Writer Kevin Draper sums it up this way: “[C]ompromising your objectivity to score scoops is not great reporting. Relentlessly attacking a key subject and reporting incorrectly on him is not great journalism. Hating a rival so much it clouds your analysis of events is not great reporting. By Wojnarowski’s own standards, he is failing.” -PAL

Source: “Basketball’s Biggest Reporter Is Waging War on ESPN – And He’ll Do Anything to Win”, Kevin Draper, New Republic (12/16/14)

TOB Note: I follow Wojarnowski on Twitter and he does break a ton of news. But after reading this, I will be following with a sharper eye.


How the NFL Pissed Off a Lot of TV Execs

As you may have seen, someone hacked Sony and released e-mails (and plenty more), which the internet has found quite amusing (note: I wrote this before the controversy arose surrounding the non-release of “The Interview”. Now people don’t find this so funny. I still find it rather amusing). This story, about how the NFL’s deal to air some Thursday Night games this year on CBS really pissed off Sony executives in charge of Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!, is only tangentially related to sports, but is still quite interesting. -TOB

Source: How CBS and the NFL Teamed Up to Screw Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!, Timothy Burke, Deadspin (12/12/14)

PAL Note: I, too, have thoroughly enjoyed reading all of the Sony hack emails over the past couple of weeks. While that makes me a bad person, I’m infatuated by what a person’s email style says about them. A lot of high-level execs really don’t care about spelling or grammar, and there’s no “I hope this finds you well” opening crap that I’ve leaned on for 10 years. This one is funny because we’ve all been a part of a similar email chain – partial information from the onset leading to mass confusion coming to a head and someone being offended. And if Jamie Morganstern has taught me anything, you don’t f with someone’s Jeopardy! routine. Love this story.


Show That Watt Who’s Boss

Most kids send their heroes a letter asking for an autograph; this duder took a different approach. The only thing better than the kid sending his autographed jersey to J.J. Watt is the letter that came with it. Boss move, pipsqueak. Boss move. – PAL

Source: “Little Badass Sends Autographed Jersey To J.J. Watt”, Tom Ley, Deadspin (12/16/14)

TOB Note: I think three different people sent this to me. I must be the only person in America who didn’t find it that cool. This 7-year old sounds like a real prick.


Jordan (Still) Rules.

You may have heard that Kobe Bryant passed Michael Jordan for third place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list over the weekend. Laker fans the world over rejoiced, as they see it as another feather in Kobe’s cap, and another data point in the only-in-their-heads argument about whether Kobe is better than Jordan. No non-Laker fan who saw them both play thinks this argument is close, and fivethirtyeight.com does a great job of viciously, yet succinctly, laying waste to any claim that Kobe is superior. Long live His Airness. -TOB

Source: Once and For All: Michael Jordan Was Way Better Than Kobe Bryant”, Neil Payne, fivethirtyeight.com (12/12/14)

PAL Note: Here’s my idea/challenge to our readers. Have a friend or family member who’s a Lakers fan read this article, then record the video of his or her reaction/rebuttal. We’ll all get a kick out of it, and for the first 3 people to post the video with a link to 1-2-3 blog I will arrange for a 6-pack of good beer to be in your possession no later than January 15, 2015.


The Gordon Bombay of U.S. Soccer

Chris Wondolowski was a late bloomer. After college, Wondo worked his way up from the lowest rungs of professional soccer all the way to playing for the U.S. this year’s World Cup. It’s a pretty remarkable if it ended there, uneventfully. And then he nearly put the U.S. through to just its third World Cup Quarterfinal ever. In the 92nd minute of the U.S.’ Round of 16 match against Belgium, he found himself free in front of the net, and the ball came to his feet. This is what Wondo had spent his life preparing for – the whole reason he was on the team was because of his knack for finishing goals like this. But then…Wondo missed. A quarter of an inch in the other direction, and he’s a national hero. But he missed. The U.S. went on to lose in extra time, and people were angry. This is a great look at how a down to Earth athlete deals with failure, and the public blowback that results because of that failure. -TOB

Source: After the Miss“, by Jordan Ritter Conn, Grantland (12/17/14)


Video of the Week


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“You’re not wrong, Walter, you’re just an asshole.”

-The Dude

Week of September 8, 2014

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Snot Guilty.


Ray Rice and Domestic Violence

As you can imagine, we read a lot about Ray Rice this week, and the NFL’s horrible handling of this mess from the beginning. A lot. Deadspin, particularly, was all over the NFL – pointing out the hypocrisy, lies, laziness, and general awfulness of how this was handled. There is so much to hate about everything that has happened with this, from the act of violence itself, to the mishandling by the NFL, to idiotic comments that people have made this week (especially those blaming the victim), but the fact that it took this long to release him is what burns me the most. When the video broke and the Ravens released Rice, my initial thought was, “If this is your reaction to seeing the video, then why wasn’t he released months ago? What did you THINK the video would show?” I understand that the visual of the video is jarring, but so was the first video – of Rice dragging an unconscious woman from an elevator like a sack of potatoes. It was disgusting. And Rice told them exactly what was on the video. What did the Ravens do? They stood by Rice and talked about how he’s a great guy who made a mistake. What did the NFL do? As we covered back in July, they brought in the victim and asked her questions with her batterer sitting right next to her, and then essentially said that the event was mutual combat and gave him a FAR lighter suspension than a dude who smoked marijuana. The NFL is despicable. I have disliked Roger Goodell from the very beginning of his tenure as commissioner. He uses the PR-garbage phrase, “Protect the Shield” like it is something noble. Instead of doing the right thing, he is concerned with how things appear. He has handled this mess like an incompetent asshole. Here’s hoping this gets him fired, as Keith Olbermann calls for here. -TOB

Note: Here’s my initial thoughts from our post on July 28: “As for Goodell, he couldn’t have handled this any worse. What about the Baltimore Ravens (the team for which Rice plays)? They could simply make him inactive and impose a larger punishment. They didn’t. Also, you can shove your apology up your ass when you knock out a woman. Don’t tell me, ‘That’s not who I am,’ Ray Rice. It is who you are, because you did it. And here’s what I have to say today: if you take issue with domestic violence, if you have a problem with how the NFL handles domestic violence, if how the perpetrator’s company handled this doesn’t sit well with you, then you can do something very simple: don’t watch the games. I don’t mean this as an insult; I mean it as a call to action. I love sports, and I enjoy watching NFL games, but neither mean enough to me to make this decision a hard one, and – guess what – the NFL doesn’t matter that much to you either. It matters if you post about it on social media. It matters that you talk about it at the water cooler. One more step will make an even bigger difference – take a few weeks off and let the NFL know how BS this whole thing is. If for no other reason, let us remind ourselves that we have a backbone. It’s simple: something is wrong, so don’t support it. Also, let’s hold those who made horse s*&T statements accountable by at least keeping them in check. -PAL


Cespedes for the Rest of Us

On the morning of July 31st, the Oakland A’s were sitting pretty. They had the best record in baseball (66-41) and had just traded for two top of the rotation starters (Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammell). They seemed poised for a deep playoff run. But that day, trade deadline day, Billy Beane decided that he was tired of losing in the playoffs and pushed all his chips to the middle of the table. He dealt fan favorite and back-to-back Home Run Derby champ Yoenis Cespedes (still on a cheap deal through the end of 2015) for Red Sox ace Jon Lester on a 2-month rental. The rest of the AL West was terrified. The Angels were 2 games back, and the Mariners were 10.5 back. But since then, the A’s have sunk like an anchor. Their previous league best offense has been putrid. The A’s are now 81-65 (15-24 since the trade) and trail the Angels by 9.5 games. They are only a half game away from missing the playoffs altogether. Many A’s fans are lamenting the Cespedes trade. But 123 favorite Jonah Keri explains why the losing Cespedes is not the cause of the swoon. -TOB

Source: “A Clockwork Oakland: What the Heck Happened to the Once Great A’s?”, Jonah Keri, Grantland (09/10/14)


Hunter on 9/11 (from 9/12/2001)

Hunter S. Thompson on the ramifications of 9/11, written the day after the attacks. Read it, because it’s important that you do so. 13 years later, and his accuracy is sobering. – PAL

Source: “Fear and Loathing in America“, Hunter S. Thompson, ESPN’s Page 2 (09/12/2001)


Apparently, the NFL Has Some Good People in It, Too 

Devon Still plays for the Bengals. Entering his third year in the league, injuries have hampered his NFL career. His daughter is battling stage 4 pediatric cancer. Instead of cutting him, the Bengals first put him on the practice squad, then moved him up to the 53-man roster. Why does this matter? Health insurance, for one. Not only that, the team is donating all the proceeds from Devon Still jersey sales. There are a bunch of stories about this, but moreover it’s good to know there’s someone in the NFL (with the Bengals) that did the right thing in the week of the Ray Rice debacle. – PAL

Source: “Still Ready to give Bengals his all”, Corley Harvey, ESPN (9/11/14)


VIDEO OF THE WEEK


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“It’s living history, Ellen. But if you’d rather see your cousins. Personally I’d rather see a pile of mud than Eddie.”

– Clark Griswold