Week of November 30, 2015

God bless the super senior.


Greatest Post-Fight In-Ring Interview Ever

I almost made this the Video of the Week, but it really deserves so, so much more. When I saw this I texted it to Phil and said: “This is why we started 1-2-3 Sports!” It’s quite possibly my favorite sports video of all-time. Quick background: British boxer Tyson Fury beat long-time Heavyweight champ Wladimir Klitschko last Saturday. It was a HUGE upset. Klitschko had been the champ for 10 years. In the ring after the fight, Tyson Fury (that name is pretty fantastic) took the mic and…just watch:

Tears in my eyes, man. -TOB

PAL: I cannot recommend clicking on this link enough. So absurd and hilarious.


Once Again, Navy’s Uniforms Are So Choice.

A few years ago, Navy unveiled these awesome uniforms for its annual game against Army. Those helmets remain SWEET.

Navy 1Nothing about that is bad. Great job by Nike. Since then, Navy has moved to UnderArmour, and I do not often say this, but UnderArmour has bettered Nike on this one:

Navy 2

Look closely. Those are seven different helmets, with seven different hand-pained Naval ships, with one ship for each position group. Plus:

Navy 3“Damn the Torpedoes” vertical down the leg. They’re gonna be so fired up, they’ll win by 50. Sorry, Army. And thank you to my own mother for sending in this story. We love reader submissions! -TOB

Source: Navy’s Badass Helmets for Army Game Have Hand-Painted Ships, Custom For Each Position Group”, Jason Kirk, SB Nation (11/30/2015)

PAL: “Damn the torpedoes” on the pants is a half-step too far. Everything else about this jersey kicks ass.


The Greatest Season by The Great One

In the 85-86 NHL season, Wayne Gretzky tallied 215 points in 82 games. For some perspective, Gretzky had more assists in that season (163, or just about 2 per game) than the previous NHL scoring record-holder (Phil Esposito) had goals and assists. To be fair, the NHL in the 80s was kind of like the NBA in the 80s – that is to say, high scoring – and I’m trying to figure out what a good comparison would be. Jordan averaging 45ppg? Magic averaging 15 points and 20 assists per game? I don’t know, which is kind of the point of this story. It’s hard to find a comparison to how great Gretzky was, especially in that 85-86 season. – PAL

Source: Assist by the Great One: How Wayne Gretzky redefined scoring in the NHL”, Colin Fleming, Sports Illustrated (12/02/2015)

TOB: I thought about Phil’s challenge for about 30 seconds before Steph Curry’s name popped into my head. And I spent much of the evening trying to formulate how I would make the argument that what Curry is doing as a shooter in basketball is equal to Gretzky’s prime as a scorer in hockey. Curry is shooting so many threes, at such a high rate, that the comparison is apt. But I wanted to find something to really make it stick. While trying to find an article to support my position, I had Sportscenter on in the background and heard Scott Van Pelt start talking about Curry. And he nailed it. I transcribed it, edited a bit for space:

“After our show last night a few of us were sitting in the office when something hit me: We’d done the highlight of the Warriors win, it’s 20 wins in a row to start the season; we’d shown the highlight where Steph scored 40 and we’d shown his latest monotone explanation about being more confident, and whatever else he said. And, here’s where I think we failed: We just acted like this is normal. Because this is what he’s done. Steph Curry has blinded us in short order to the fact that what he does on a nightly basis is completely out of order and outrageous.

An Ethan Strauss article on ESPN.com today began with a Klay Thompson quote: ‘This is normal. This is normal, now.’ Well, yes and no. Yes, this is what Curry does. But no, nothing about this guy is normal. He scored 28 points in a quarter. He had 14 points in the final 1:53 of the quarter on shots averaging almost 30 feet.

Tom Haberstroh had some insane stats on ESPN.com and on Sportscenter that framed the lunacy of Curry so very well. He’s 4 for 10 on shots of 30 feet or more this season. That’s legitimately his range. He’s gonna pull from a dribble over halfcourt sometime soon and I will expect it to go in. It will be effortless and it will be a reasonable shot for him to take. Haberstroh listed 17 NBA teams that have gone a combined 4 of 119 from 30 feet or more this season.

Another gem: Curry is on pace to make more 3’s over the course of last season and this one than Larry Bird had in his entire 13 year career. Larry Friggin Bird. 

Whatever the volume of freakout is on Curry, it is still insufficient and it is not hyperbole. He’s the best shooter I’ve ever seen and it’s really not close. I want to make sure we do a better job of not being as nonchalant as he is about it. Because this is starting to feel like some once in a lifetime stuff, and acknowledging it, and appreciating it, as it happens is what ought to be done. So we will.”

Amen, SVP.


Never Change, KG

Kevin Garnett is very nearly insane, and the stories are so damn entertaining. This is an anecdote by Jackie MacMullan, in a story about how KG is mentoring the young Timberwolves. It is set back in 2009, when KG was still with the Celtics. Coach Doc Rivers asked KG to sit out a practice, to give him some rest. Here’s what happened:

“Garnett, forbidden to take the floor by his own coach, had concocted his revenge: He would track the movements of power forward Leon Powe, the player who had replaced him in the lineup. As Powe pivoted, so did Garnett. As Powe leaped to grab a defensive rebound, Garnett launched himself to corral an imaginary ball. As Powe snapped an outlet pass, Garnett mimicked the motion, then sprinted up his slim sliver of sideline real estate as Powe filled the lane on the break. The players were mirror images: one on the court with a full complement of teammates, the other out of bounds, alone. Two men engaged in a bizarre basketball tango.

“KG,” Rivers barked, “if you keep doing this, I’m canceling practice for the whole team. That will hurt us.”

Garnett’s reverence for coaches was legendary, but still he turned his back on Rivers. He returned to his defensive stance, an isotope of intensity, crouched, palms outstretched, in complete concert with Powe. He was, in fact, becoming so adept at this warped dalliance he’d invented, he actually began to anticipate Powe’s movements, denying the entry pass to his invisible opponent before Powe thought of it.

Finally, an exasperated Rivers blew the whistle. “Go home,” Rivers instructed his team. Then he glared at Garnett. “I hope you’re happy.”

Hilarious. More KG stories, please. -TOB

Source: “Rookie Watch: The Cruel Tutelage of the Wolves’ Kevin Garnett, Jackie MacMullan, ESPN.com (11/25/2015)

PAL: Just to be clear, this is not the endearing type of crazy. KG is crazy crazy, as in “ruin a career crazy”. Also – I know I’m in the minority on this, but I can’t help but think the picture of him sitting in front of Flip Saunders’ parking spot has a pinch of self-aggrandizement. Interesting read, to be sure, but what KG defines as leadership comes off as, well, a teenager’s misguided understanding of the concept.


Flip A Coin: The Sports Tradition Goes Way Back

The coin toss first shows up in a sport’s rulebook in 1774. No surprise here, it appears in a cricket rulebook. Many of us consider it a tradition that now carries little significance to the game it precedes, but this story outlines many instances where that was not the case. Sometimes it led to a rule change (Jerome Bettis, anyone?), and in other cases (the NBA Lottery) it likely changed a franchise’s destiny. Most interesting, however, is how important the coin toss remains in cricket (for now?). Fun read about something we hardly ever think about in sports. – PAL

Source: Coin Toss Retains Its Place in History, if Not in Cricket, Victor Mather, The New York Times (11/30/15)


Bench Celebrations Never Get Old

Monmouth’s basketball team is off to a good start. They got a win at UCLA, then beat #17 ranked Notre Dame and USC. They are 4-2 and were a on my radar a bit after those big wins. But now they’re really on my radar, thanks to this Deadspin article highlighting their bench celebration antics. My favorite has to be this one:

But click the link and watch the rest. These guys are having fun and not afraid to look silly. Isn’t this what college sports should be about? -TOB

Source:Nobody in Sports is Having As Much Fun As the Monmouth Bench”, Patrick Redford, Deadspin (11/29/2015)

PAL: Would it be in poor taste to buy a keg and send it to the residence of where these perfect morons live in New Jersey? 100% love these goofballs.


Video of the Week:

PAL: Do any of our readers know this young lady? Asking for a friend.


PAL Song of the Week: Van Morrison – “Into The Mystic”. Dance with a loved one in the kitchen. Hold them tight, and don’t say a damn word.

Here’s the full playlist of all our picks. It’s all over the place, like you and me. 


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“You thought he was cute? Do you realize when he graduated we were like three years old?”

-Mike

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Week of November 16, 2015

I beg your pardon?


Two of A Kind: John Calipari and Mike Krzyzewski

John Calipari stands for what’s wrong in college basketball, while Mike Krzyzewski represents what’s pure about the game. These seem to be the respective narratives that follow the two best college basketball coaches. They present themselves differently, to be sure, but are they all that different?

“Calipari is the salesman who laughs past the pretense that his players are ostensibly students first; alternatively, he is the false consciousness-lifting truth-teller who plays within bad rules (after years of reportedly flouting them) and thereby exposes the sport’s unfair reality. Krzyzewski is the traditionalist who still believes in developing players; or he is the hypocrite who pretends that player development is his priority, rather than winning.”

Here’s the thing, Duke exploits the absurd NBA rule requiring players to be one year removed from high school before entering the draft just as much as Kentucky. Talent trumps experience in big-time college hoops. Calipari accepts it, Krzyzewski grumbles over it, but they both know it’s true and run their teams accordingly. -PAL

Source: “Kentucky and Duke Are Looking More Alike All the Time”, Marc Tracy, The New York Times (11/17/18)

TOB: I’ll take it a bit further than Phil is willing to: Calipari and Coach K are the same, but Cal is honest and Coach K is full of it. Here’s the thing about “one-and-done” college basketball players: It’s such a farce. To remain eligible, they need only pass classes the Fall semester, then they can focus on basketball in the Spring. Anyone who pays attention understands this, and really it’s fine. But here’s why I can’t stand Coach K: There was a time when Coach K tried to hold himself and his program up as a model for all other college basketball programs to follow. And he resisted the move toward “one-and-done” recruits because, by golly, he had principles. But, Coach K had those principles until Duke stopped winning. Then those principles went right out the window. Now, Coach K freely recruits players he knows will leave after one year – for example, last season he won the national title on the backs of three freshman who did not return to Duke this year: Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow, and Tyus Jones. In my view, Coach K is the guy who looks at the system and pretends to be above the fray, and Coach Cal is a guy who embraces the hand he was dealt.


Fashionable + “Technology” = Nike Air

I’ve been buying the same model of running shoes for a couple years now. Before that, I bought the same running shoe for 5 years. Over the course of 7 years, 14 pairs of running shoes. I find shoes that feel good, and I stick with them, but I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t care what they looked like (the current pair are a god-awful black and green combo). Let’s be honest here, there is a certain level of fashion in our fitness purchases. If we’re going to put in the work, we’re at least going to get the cool gear, right? Damn right. Want to read a great story on marketing? I highly recommend this history of Nike Air. Teaser below. – PAL

“Nike’s mercurial take on technology is a lot like the fashion industry’s relationship to certain recurring trends, like fur or metal. They come and go, without much rhyme or reason. There’s very little science involved in Nike’s constantly-evolving ideas about shoes. Yet for fans, the bullshit seems to be half the fun.”

Source: The Absurd History of Nike Air Technology”, Adam Clark Estes, Gizmodo (11/19/15)

TOB: That last line is perfect.


Video of the Week:

May-may!

Bonus Video of the Week

White Chocolate. Nuff said.


PAL Song of the Week: Charley Pride – “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone

Here’s the full playlist of all our picks. Get fat on turkey, stuffing, and good tunes.


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“You know that Julie chick? Loves you. You want her? Gotta play it cool, you know. You can’t let her know how much you like her, cause if she knows, she’ll dump you like that. Believe me. Like, if she asks you if you want a ride, you say, ‘No, I’ve got my own ride, but maybe I’ll see you later.’ Sounds stupid, doesn’t it? It works.”

-Dawson

Week of September 14, 2015

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It’s Just a Sweet, Sweet Fantasy, Baby…

If you watch sports on TV, you have lately been inundated with commercials for “Daily Fantasy” sports. The Daily Fantasy commercials feature excited people receiving oversized, seven figure checks (longtime 1-2-3 readers may recall this story about a guy making $1M/year in fantasy sports that we featured in one of our very first posts). It all sounds great, and on Monday night, I thought, “Well maybe I should try it.” This, despite the fact that I am a terrible fantasy football player. I am glad that I instead found this story on Tuesday, which made me realize that I would merely be throwing my money away. To wit: “Analysis from Rotogrinders conducted for Bloomberg shows that the top 100 ranked players enter 330 winning lineups per day, and the top 10 players combine to win an average of 873 times daily. The remaining field of approximately 20,000 players tracked by Rotogrinders wins just 13 times per day, on average…Only the top 1.3 percent of players finished in the green during the three months measured by the Sport Business Journal.” Those odds are awful. Don’t get suckered in. Don’t play Daily Fantasy. -TOB

Source: You Aren’t Good Enough to Win Money Playing Daily Fantasy Sports”, Joshua Brustein and Ira Boudway, Bloomberg Businessweek (09/10/2015)

PAL: Hey, my college buddy and sportswriter posted the perfect companion piece! Whereas Brustein and Boudway’s take underscores the odds of winning playing DFL (I will only refer to it as DFL from here on out), Opatz takes a crack at the effect DFL has on how we experience games. In addition to learning about DFL camps in Vegas (for cryin out loud), he nails it when he writes, “Watching sports for fantasy takes the poetry out of it, reducing the subtleties and nuance of sports to simple accounting in a ledger. It turns an epic novel into a spreadsheet. But that didn’t stop me from drafting a fantasy football team this year.”

Source: Fantasy Factory”, Louie Opatz, Litchfield Independent Review (09/10/2015)


Baby, I’ve Got Your Money

If you enjoy college sports, the idea to allow schools to pay players directly is troubling. In a free market system, an already stratified sport would only become worse, and the games would become a farce. Inevitably, many schools who are barely breaking even as is would be forced to cut football. At other schools, profits from football pay for non-revenue sports, including women’s sports. If college football players begin getting paid, available profits for smaller sports will shrink. The Title IX implications are also significant – it is likely that, at least at some schools, every non-revenue male sport would have to be axed in order to comply with Title IX. It seems like a horrible mess and the death of college sports. However, inspired by a Nike commercial tribute to Animal House featuring great Oregon Duck football players of the past, Andrew Sharp proposes a system to pay college football players, without the payments coming directly from the schools themselves. His suggestion: Allow private companies to pay them. Nike, UnderArmour, local car dealers, etc. Just let players trade off their fame. It hurts no one. Hell, it even helps college football. If Johnny Manziel could have traded off his likeness for $10M/year for two more years of college, he’d be a lot better off, and so would college football fans who got to watch him, than he is being battered in the NFL. This idea is not without flaws, as schools like Oregon, with strong ties to Nike will have a strong advantage over other schools. But it’s better than the alternative, and at least the players are getting paid. -TOB

Source: The Pac-12 and the Smartest Way to Pay College Athletes”, Andrew Sharp, Grantland (09/16/2015)


I’ll Give You Summer Teeth. Some’r Here, Some’r There.

As a non-hockey fan, I do enjoy a good hockey fight. I was actually a big hockey fan in the early to mid-90’s, but when you get older you have to prioritize. I watch way less sports in general than I did when I was a kid, and hockey is one of those sports that did not make the cut. One of my favorite things about hockey fights is “jerseying” – when the players fighting attempt to pull their opponents’ jersey over their head. I had no idea, though, that this practice was effectively banned by the NHL in the late-90’s, which is a bummer – it’s such a classic move. This light-hearted article takes a look back at the history of Jerseying with some excellent examples, including an appearance by Terry O’Reilly, who was immortalized in the opening moments of Happy Gilmore. -TOB

Source: It Made Sense at the Time: The Art of Jerseying”, Sean McIndoe, Grantland (09/16/2015)


Discussing the Writing of the Unwritten Rules of Baseball

This is hilarious. First, watch this video:

http://m.mlb.com/video/topic/6479266/v484986883

Ok, who was wrong here? I think it’s Seager. What a punk. For a more thorough and hilarious breakdown, please read Grant Brisbee’s article. -TOB

Source: The Unwritten Rules of Kyle Seager Calling for Time the Wrong Way”, Grant Bisbee, SB Nation (09/17/2015)


Alabama Weak Sauce

By now everyone has heard how nuts Alabama football fans are about their team. They are proud to be certifiable when it comes to the Crimson Tide, so I have to call them out on this weak ass crap. Every year before the home opener, people come together for the “Bear Bryant Namesake Reunion”. I know what you’re thinking – whoa, that’s nuts! Everyone named after Paul “Bear” Bryant come together to celebrate his or her father’s obsession with football that swirled out of control to the point where he named his child after a football coach. Here’s the deal – the rules for being a namesake are weak. Bryant Lambert, Andrew Bryant Madaris, William Bryceton Wooters, Paula Harrison – although technical namesakes, these folks are getting pretty loose with it. Only one kid featured here had the obvious, most bad-ass name: BEAR. That’s commitment to the insanity which should be at the heart of this bonkers tradition. As far as I’m concerned, there are only two people who should get the invite next year: Bear Bryant’s son (Paul, Jr.), and 7 year-old Bear Zeiden. – PAL

Source: Where Bear Meets Bryant, Again and Again“, Mark Tracy, The New York Times (9/14/15)

TOB: This reminds me of a favorite story of mine. In the late-1980s, the father of Isaiah Thomas, the player currently on the Celtics, was a huge Lakers fan. The story goes that his father was friends with a big Pistons fan, and that the two made a bet before the 1989 NBA season. If the Pistons won the title, Thomas’ dad had to name his son Isaiah Thomas, after the Pistons star. The story goes that although Isaiah was born 3 months before the Finals, by that time his dad had warmed to the name and it stuck.


PAL’s Song of the Week: Fleetwood Mac – “What Makes You Think You’re the One”Bullseye Podcast w/ Jesse Thorn

Check out all of our weekly picks here. It’ll make you better looking


Video of the Week

Hitting Cage Bombs with my amigo, Domingo Ayala! If you get a few minutes, check out more of Domingo’s videos. Like this one. And this one.

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“Hi… not you… Hi.”

– Ernie McCracken

1-2-3 Sports! Week of July 20, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 10.09.20 PM

There’s more where this came from at http://straightouttacooperstown.tumblr.com


Can You Spare An All-Star: Why Loaning MLB Players Is An Interesting, Stupid Idea

Deadspin fairly well rebutted this article here, but I wanted to write something anyways. This idea, by Grantland’s Bill Barnwell, sounds sensible at first. Sure, why not allow a bad team to simply loan out a star player to a good team for player compensation, instead of outright trading him. But could you imagine how much this would suck for fans of bad teams? Take for example the case of Tim Lincecum. In 2008 and 2009, Lincecum won the Cy Young Award on bad and ok Giants teams that 72 and 88 wins, respectively. But those two seasons by Tim Lincecum, and to a lesser extent 2010, made Timmy a fan favorite and gave hundreds of thousands of fans a reason to come to the ballpark on days he pitched. Every start was “Tim Lincecum Day” – and every Tim Lincecum Day brought the promise of something special in an otherwise forgettable season. Had the Giants loaned out Lincecum to, say, the Phillies for a couple prospects, that would have been so terrible for Giants fans. Deadspin’s Tom Let puts it well in the article I linked above:

The fan experience isn’t the only thing that matters in sports, but it is the central thing, and sportswriting starts to get cockeyed when fan experience is waved off—purposefully or otherwise—as subsidiary to the questions of how to best maximize projected returns on investments and how best to turn assets into still more assets. Those are means; the end is people having a good time watching sports.” – TOB

Source: Trading Places: MLB Needs a Player Loan System”, Bill Barnwell, Grantland (07/14/2015)

PAL: In a word, dumb. I wish I could add more to this, but Let’s quote pretty much sums it up for me. It is, however, an interesting idea to ponder. I’m curious to hear a soccer fan’s take on this. Fernando Estrada – I’m looking at you. Weigh in on this, dude.


Stop Making Sense: The 2015 Minnesota Twins

It would be one thing to post a story about the surprising success of the Twins (who got mopped by the A’s last weekend when Tommy and I went to watch them, but I’m not chapped about it…not at all), but one Louie Opatz wrote this story. Lou is the Sports Editor for the Litchfield Times back in Minnesota. He is also one of my closest buddies from college and a damn good lefty for our Augustana Viking team back the day. How does Opatz describe the Twins 2015 season (51-44)? With a music reference to the Talking Heads documentary, of course. It’s a wonder we get along. Call it cluster luck, or call it clutch, but the Twins have many more wins than the advanced stats suggest they should. As Opatz points out, all that luck is already in the bank. Luck doesn’t run out. Those games are won, and it makes the chances of a playoff run legit, as they currently hold the second Wild Card spot. -PAL

Source: 2015 Twins Have Stopped Making Sense”, Louie Opatz, Banished To The Pen (7/19/15)

TOB: I’m not terribly interested in the Twins, but it is a testament to this article that I read the whole thing, and I was entertained the whole way. My favorite passage: “…Danny Santana, who’s to fielding what a three-year-old is to painting. Ervin Santana is back from his suspension, which he incurred due to an accidental anabolic steroids binge (it can happen to anyone)…” That’s really good. Also, as Phil mentioned – we went to the A’s/Twins game last Sunday and I got my first ever foul ball! And it was off the bat of Twins’ Centerfielder Aaron Hicks, for whom I shall forever have a soft spot.


Korean Basketball League ISO: Tall Men

Unlike most international basketball leagues that use free agency to distribute American players to its teams, the Korean Basketball League holds an American player draft every year. Players then sign one year contracts, and all American players re-enter the draft each season. The draft takes place in Las Vegas, and it is quirky, to say the least. For example, if you don’t attend the draft, you are not eligible to play in the league that year, even if spots open up during the season. Once players arrive in Korea, the coaches are demanding. But the draft, and the KBL, remain quite popular with American players because it pays well – a few hundred thousand a year, and the paychecks always arrive on time. This is a fascinating look into a strange process in a familiar game, featuring a cameo appearance by former Cal Bear/international rap video star/famed NBDL blogger Rod “Boom Tho” Benson. -TOB

Source: “What Happens In Vegas…the Strange World of the Korean Basketball League Draft”, Les Carpenter, The Guardian (07/23/2015)

PAL: “Starting this year each team must take one player 6ft 4in or under.” So you’re saying there’s a chance. In all seriousness, it still is a bit jarring when I remember that the majority of professional sports are not the NBA, MLB, NFL, NHL, and big-time soccer. I could ask what the draw is to watch less than the best sports teams, but then I think about college sports, high school sports, and – hey – a minor league baseball game is a pretty good time. This story also highlights the financial crapshoot that is a lot of professional teams when it comes to, you know, paying your employees. This is not the case in the KBL, which is why these dudes jump through absurd hoops. Good find, O’Brien!


Have we done too many Pedro stories? I don’t care.

As he awaits entry into the Hall this weekend, here’s a great story of a writer trying to interview Pedro in the Dominican Republic back in 2004 after Martinez was traded to the Mets. It was supposed to be a 24-hour trip. 4 days later, writer Juliet Macur is playing percussion in a band with Moises Alou in tow. – PAL

Source: “Recalling a Few Strikeouts in Pursuit of Pedro Martinez”, Juliet Macur, The New York Times (7/23/15)

TOB: Being a sportswriter does not seem all that fun – and chasing down an interview for four days is one such reason. But if you have to do it, being in the Dominican Republic on someone else’s dime doesn’t seem half bad.


Video of the Week: 

We present to you: Radball.


PAL’s Song of the Week: John Prine, Iris DeMent – “In Spite of Ourselves

Check out all of our weekly picks here (they’re good).


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“I just want my brother to envy my money, but he’s got that hair. Why can’t I have hair and money, and him nothing?”

– George Bluth

 

 

 

Week of July 13, 2015

“How come your dad couldn’t pick you up from practice?”


A Giant Pedigree

1-2-3 favorite Jonah Keri, who inspired me to buy this very cool tie that I am wearing as I write this, wrote about how the Giants managed to put together an all-home grown infield. That infield is presently the best in baseball by WAR: Posey, Belt, Panik, Crawford, and Duffy, three of whom are All-Stars. It’s especially impressive in light of (1) the Giants losing home-grown Pablo Sandoval to free agency in the offseason; and (2) team architect Brian Sabean’s previous reputation as a guy who did not know how to draft and develop position players – a reputation that was pretty well deserved for a long time. When you throw in the fact that the Giants have a possible all home-grown rotation (when everyone is healthy) of Bumgarner, Cain, Lincecum, Vogelsong, and Heston, and you start to see why the Giants have been so successful over the last half decade. -TOB

Source: Grown at Home: How the Giants Built the Best Infield in Baseball”, Jonah Keri, Grantland (07/15/2015)

PAL: Man, did I pick the right time to move to San Francisco or what! All five infielders and five starting pitchers. Damn, that’s cool. This article really underscores what a huge, unexpected surprise Panik and Duffy are this year. Crawford, Belt, Posey – hey – that’s pretty good. But all five? Again, damn.I love this team like the rest of you – and this story only adds to that love, so let me be the fun sponge for a moment. The starting pitching scares the hell out of me. The word “fumes” comes to mind when I think of all they’ve done over the past 5 years. Cain, Timmy, and Vogelsong might well be on career fumes. One more time, guys!


Media: Please Stop Covering Eldrick Woods.

There’s no story here, just a rant: The British Open began yesterday. It’s at St. Andrew’s, a classic links course. I don’t watch much golf, but St. Andrew’s is my favorite when I do. Tiger Woods has won the Open three times, and twice it was at St. Andrew’s. So there seemed to be some interest in how Tiger might fare there this year. After one day, it is official: Tiger is done. DONE. Can we stop covering him? He hasn’t won a major since 2008. 2008!!!! And yet his weekly failures are reported on ESPN’s frontpage as if it is news. Especially in the Majors. He shot a horrible 76 yesterday, tied with old man Tom Watson for 139th of 156 golfers, eleven strokes behind the leader. And Tiger made the ESPN.com frontpage. Sportscenter did a full 5-minutes on him. Enough! He no longer deserves that status. He should be treated like every other golfer: When he is in contention, cover him. When he’s not, don’t. And it’s time to revoke the nickname Tiger. He’s back to Eldrick. “Tiger” is for closers. -TOB

Source: The 2015 British Open Leaderboard

PAL: “Tiger” is for closers. File that under “Favorite Tommy Lines”. I agree with you, but no one outside of the die hards watches golf. A lot of people have at least a passing interest in Eldrick’s story. While there is a certain group of people who relish this extended comeuppance after his salacious downfall, I think the real draw is the fact that a GOAT at the front end of his prime (for his sport) seems to have lost it. As crazy as this sounds, 49% of me thinks this dude still has 2 majors in him. While they weren’t majors, Woods won 5 tournaments as recently as 2013, and few sports allow a competitor to play at or near the highest level for 20 years. That, and I’m still a bit blinded by his dominance now 10 years in the rearview.

TOB: Quick point: You think Tiger is on the front side of his prime? He turns 40 this December, so the PGA Championship next month will be the last major of his 30’s. Even ignoring all his knee trouble, which has been significant, that is old. The average age of a winner of a major is 32. Guess how often players win a major over 40? Since 1986, when Arnold Palmer famously won the Masters at the ripe “old” age of 46 for his first major since the year he turned 40, only 7 players over the age of 40 have won a major. That is about 5%. Eldrick is done.


You Mess With The Bull…

Joe Distler was an ad man in New York living the regular life. Life was routine. Then he picked up The Swords of Spain in a bookstore. Then he went to San Fermin. Then he ran. He’s been running with the bulls ever since, and he’s considered one of the best to do it. I love how his story is a balance of romance (“I feel I am part of the herd”) and instruction (“Rules of The Run”). If nothing else, give this story a chance just to check out the beautiful photographs. At a more fundamental level, this is a story about a regular guy rediscovering a the passion for life that’s all so often inseparable from fear. – PAL

Source: “How To Run On The Horns In Pamplona”, Joe Distler, Tru.ink (2015)


“Dunk of Death”

Although the name doesn’t stick, most of us know Frédéric Weis. He’s the 7-footer Vince Carter jumped over in the 2000 Olympics. It is one of the most popular – and some would say incredible – dunks of all-time. Prior to the Olympics, The Knicks drafted Weis in the first round. Despite the posterization, things were looking up for the big man from France, but everything changed for the worse shortly after the Prior to the “le dunk de la mort” (Dunk of Death). The professional embarrassment at the hands of Carter had nothing to do with it. Here’s a story about the other guy in the sports highlight. – PAL

Source: For Frédéric Weis, Knick’s Infamous Pick, Boos Began a Greater Struggle“, Sam Borden, The New York Times (7/14/15)

TOB: Reminds me a bit of the story on Craig Ehlo we covered a few weeks back. I knew that Weis was the guy that Vince dunked over, but did not know that he was drafted by the Knicks. An interesting tidbit in there is how Weis was treated by Jeff Van Gundy during his one summer with the Knicks: Not well.


Never Change, Marshawn

This one does not require much explanation: Marshawn Lynch was at his youth camp this week and a reporter saw he had chicken wings. Stored in his sock. When the reporter asked why, Marshawn said: “”My auntie fried up some chicken and I had my hands full, and I don’t have no pockets on my shorts, so I just had to use what I had.” So resourceful. As I said: Never change, Marshawn. -TOB

Source: Why Marshawn Lynch Kept Chicken Wings in His Sock”, Jeff Bercovici, Maxim (07/16/2015)

PAL: Man, this would have been great as an “extra” in the Marshawn Lynch biopic (single tear). Hard not to love Lynch, but – come on – this is disgusting.


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GOAL!!!!! Look at him pulling a Steph Curry, celebrating before it even goes in.


PAL Song of the week: Mike Sempert – “Oceans of Rock and Roll” (great song for a solo drive)

Check out all of our weekly picks here (they’re good).


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“There is nothing better than to be shot at and missed.”

– E. Hemingway

Week of April 20, 2015

This is why the Warriors are up 3-0 in the series. God does not reward Anthony Davis fandom of this nature.

Picture Perfect

Monday was Patriots Day in New England, which is something I have to experience firsthand in my life. It’s a recognized holiday, so no school and no work. The Boston Marathon (the longest running marathon in the world) kicks things off, which by all accounts is 26.2 miles of well-wishers cheering on 30K+ runners fulfilling a bucket list accomplishment. That’s followed by a day game at Fenway. All join in the festivities, and the runners represent seemingly all makes and backgrounds. But back in the mid 1960s, this was not the case. “The universal thinking among sports’ male powerbrokers was that women were not physically equipped to endure the rigors of the marathon distance of 26.2 miles. They claimed that the strain would cause women’s uteri to fall out or that they would become musclebound and grow hair on their chests.” Now, I don’t need to tell you that isn’t the case anymore, but I do need to tell you about a series of photographs. Three pictures that capture perhaps the moment when the shift took place for women’s athletics.

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Here’s a story about that moment, the leadup, and the culture shift that followed. To quote Julia Chase-Brand, a running legend, “The iconic photos of this encounter clinched it: American women were not going to be pushed off the roads, and now a sports issue became a feminist issue—which of course it always had been.” – PAL

Source: Behind The Photo That Changed The Boston Marathon Forever”, David Davis, Deadspin (4/20/15)

TOB: A very good article on a story I had never heard about before.


The Closest Thing The NBA’s Got To The Godfather

Great stories are about perspective, which is yet another reason why you all should bookmark The Stacks series on Deadspin. They find the best sportswriting from throughout the years and post them (with author permission). What’s cool is the time between the original publication of the stories and the moment you’re reading them adds yet another layer of enjoyment and and intrigue. This edition sheds light on Pat Riley when he first went to Miami to coach. This is before he won with Shaq and Wade, before he courted Lebron, won 2 more championships, and the subsequent parting of ways. The dapper Riley’s upbringing will surprise you, and the 1995 cultural references will bring a smile. – PAL

Source: What Failure Did To Pat Riley”, Mark Kriegel, Esquire (12/1995); reposted by The Stacks (4/21/15)

TOB: Two passages I really enjoyed:

“I want to treat my players to the best. If I’m having a team party, I want white tablecloths, I want china, and I want silverware. I don’t want fuckin’ plastic plates. And I want a flower arrangement in the middle. And if the towels are hotel white, hey, put some color in there, I don’t give a shit. I want my team to fly first-class, to stay in first-class hotels. I’m gonna ask them to do a lot. So tell me, is that wrong, wanting them to have the best?”

And:

“And the clothes?…They’re really all Armani?”

“Yeah.”

“Why?”

He looks at me with disbelief, even irritation, squinting until the hint of a grin forms at the corners of his mouth. “’Cause it’s good shit, that’s why.”


Stanozolol: The Old-School Steroid Worth The Risk

Until this season, it had been seven years since a MLB player tested positive for using Stanozolol (this is is what sprinter Ben Johnson tested positive for, and what Barry Bonds is accused of taking). This year, three pitchers were suspended 80 games for a positive test. It’s an old school anabolic steroid, and an easily detected one at that. However, during the past six season a whopping 125 minor league players have been busted using the steroid. What gives? Perhaps the risk (80 game suspension or roughly ½ a big league season) is worth the long-term rewards. Four-time olympian Francis Dodoo, who now serves on the World Anti-Doping Agency committee, might sum it up best: “You don’t just dope, get caught and return to where your body started.” I guess some guys just take a short-term risk, and if they get burned, then they still have a better shot at reaping the benefits down the line. – PAL

Source: Persistence of a Steroid Bedevils Baseball”, Juliet Macur, The New York Times (4/21/15)


Interview with Barry Bonds’ Son

An interesting interview by sportswriter Jeff Pearlman, who once wrote a very unflattering book about Barry Bonds, with Bonds’ son Nikolai. Nikolai, a former Giants bat boy and now in his mid-20’s, opens up about growing up as Barry’s son – both the good and the bad. It’s a complex relationship, to say the least. But Nikolai clearly cares about his father, and strongly believes that his father belongs in the Hall of Fame:

“My dad’s job was what exactly? To entertain. That’s it. That’s the first reason. Second is, as you said, he didn’t break any rules of the game. So what did he do wrong? Third, Hank Aaron admitted to greenies. An enhancer. Babe Ruth drank during prohibition. Illegal. Ty Cobb beat a woman during a game. What we are talking about is someone who is enhancing his performance within the rules of the sport he plays to entertain the rest of this world … and he is getting crucified for it.”

But my favorite part is this exchange:

Q: In exactly 33 words, can you make a Hall of Fame case for Jeff Kent?

A: Nope.

Nobody likes Jeff Kent. -TOB

Source: Nikolai Bonds”, Jeff Pearlman, jeffpearlman.com (04/21/2015)

PAL: Is it just me, or did Barry Bonds’ son admit that his dad took PEDs:”…[H]e didn’t break any rules of the game. So what did he do wrong?…Hank Aaron admitted to greenies. An enhancer. Babe Ruth drank during prohibition. Illegal. Ty Cobb beat a woman during a game. What we are talking about is someone who is enhancing his performance within the rules of the sport he plays to entertain the rest of this world…” Also, I don’t believe Barry Bonds’ son was ever homeless as he claims.


Updates:

  • Last week we recommended a story about Barry Bonds working with (and rooting for) Alex Rodriguez. ARod’s off to a surprisingly good start to the season (15 games): 4HR, 11 RBI, .991 OPS
  • Two weeks ago, we posted about Lon Simmons’ passing. On Wednesday night during the Giants-Dodger game, I swear I saw Vin Scully pay tribute during the Giants Wednesday broadcast. Am I making this up? Can someone confirm or deny this, please. – PAL

 Videos of the Week:

(Explicit language, but so worth it)

Steph Curry is the truth.


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“Life is just one crushing defeat after another until you just wish Flanders was dead”

-H. Simpson

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