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.

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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 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