Week of March 22, 2015

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Christian Laettner thinks this NCAA Tournament is heating up.

The Media is Public Enemy No. 1 in the Thunder Locker Room. Why?

The Oklahoma City Thunder are stacked with talent. They have two of the top five players in the NBA in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. But something is amiss in Oklahoma City. There is a growing divide between the Thunder players and the local media that covers the team. Things have gotten overtly hostile at times. Grantland’s Bryan Curtis dives deep – attempting to figure out what is going on and why. -TOB

Source: “Distant Thunder: What Did Oklahoma City’s Media Do to Piss Off Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant?”, Bryan Curtis, Grantland (3/20/15)

PAL: Fascinating read. What role do beat reporters play in today’s sports world? Athletes can communicate directly with fans or followers and have exponentially more reach than that of local newspapers. Regional cable sports affiliates (think CSN Bay Area) – business partners with the teams – have sideline reporters and bloggers (hardly objective), and the the team’s PR folks hover like chaperones at a Middle School dance during the post-game “scrum”. We all get shortchanged as a result. As Thunder beat reporter Berry Tramel puts it with regards to Westbrook, “I’m just going to be writing about how great he is. I’m never going to be writing about who he is.”


Steve Nash’s Legacy

The NCAA basketball tournament and the NFL free agency madness might have muted the retirement of an all-timer. Steve Nash, back-to-back MVP and the prototype of the modern point guard (Steph Curry, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook all have a pinch of Nash in their games) finally called it quits. Writer Lee Jenkins nails this summary of what Nash meant to his country (he’s a Canadian kid) and to the way the point guard position is played. Here’s a guy who received one D-1 scholarship offer from Santa Clara, and who was third string in Phoenix behind – get this – Kevin Johnson and Jason Kidd. He’s given back to his community (his charity has granted nearly $5 million for child welfare) and has mentored the Lakers young draft picks while battling back and leg issues over the past couple years. What’s more, he’s established credibility to Canadian basketball. In fact, he’s the General Manager for the national team up there. Remember, the last two number 1 draft picks are from our neighbors to the north. All in all, he was a great shooter who also seems like a straight shooter. He was a pleasure to watch. – PAL

Source: “The Overflowing Legacy Of Steve Nash”, Lee Jenkins, Sports Illustrated (3/21/15)

TOB: I’ve been a Steve Nash fan since his college days in the mid-90’s, when he helped lead my parents’ law school alma mater (later mine, as well) to some classic tourney upsets. He is impossible to dislike – he made watching basketball more fun. He seems intelligent. He has a good head on his shoulders. This retirement announcement was a formality, as Nash has effectively been retired for a couple years now. But it’s a good opportunity to thank him for years of entertainment. And for a lot of NBA players, perhaps a time to thank him for their huge paychecks (I’m looking at you, Tim Thomas and Channing Frye). Nash, more than any player in my lifetime, made everyone around him better. That’s about the best thing you can say about an athlete, especially a point guard.


Old Man Does Not Trust Lady in iPhone

Thanks to 1-2-3 Sports! reader Michael Kapp for sending in this short but amusing story about New York Giants’ coach Tom Coughlin and his negative experience receiving driving directions from Siri. Choice quote:

“I don’t trust the lady in GPS, I don’t trust her, because they don’t send you the right way. I hit the button and I go ‘Park Ridge, New Jersey.’ And she comes back on, she’s giving me directions. So now I figure out where I am. I hit the thing and I said, ‘Thank you very much, I know exactly where I am now.’ And she comes back and says, ‘You don’t have to thank me.’ I swear to God that’s what she said. And then I couldn’t get her to shut up. Every turn. ‘Take a right here.’ I know where I am. I know where I am. I’m a block away from my house and she’s telling me where to go. I said, ‘I know where I’m going.’

He is definitely a grandpa (no offense, dad). -TOB

Source: Tom Coughlin Battles Siri”, Tom Rock, Newsday (03/25/2015)

PAL: Wait, this isn’t a story about my dad? There’s nothing more dangerous than a grandpa behind the wheel of a car with a smartphone in his hand. Nothing.


A Lesson In Class

We wrote and posted about Dean Smith following his death in February, but this little nugget was too good to pass up. A quick story worth your time about Smith’s final gift to every letterwinner at UNC (he coached for 36 years). I didn’t know much about Smith while he was alive, but now I understand what the fuss was about. He was a legitimate educator and community leader to the point where, if he hadn’t excelled at coaching college basketball (879 wins, two national championships, 11 Final Fours, 13 ACC Tournament championships, Olympic Gold Medal coach), his life would’ve still been extraordinary. – PAL

Source: “Dean Smith Used His Will To Buy Every One Of His Lettermen A Nice Dinner”, Samer Kalaf, Deadspin (3/26/15)


A World Series Game 7 “What If?”

Game 7 of the 2014 World Series was a classic, but it almost had one of the most bizarre and exciting endings in World Series history. With two outs in the 9th, the Royals’ Alex Gordon hit a line drive that skipped under Giants’ centerfielder Gregor Blanco’s glove, and rolled all the way to the wall. Gordon made it to third, but many wondered what would have happened if he had scored. Everyone involved (especially Royals manager Ned Yost, who says that Gordon would have been out by 40 feet) agrees that it would have been a huge mistake to send Gordon. But Tim Kurkjian still put together a great article – interviewing all the people involved in the play and using math to determine definitively what would have happened had the Royals sent Gordon. -TOB

Source: The Penultimate Play”, Tim Kurkjian, ESPN (03/25/2015)

PAL: Like Tommy, I dig the oral history approach to analyzing this play. As dominant as Bumgarner was, it is more likely that Brandon Crawford and Buster Posey would’ve executed a throw and catch from 120 feet apart than it was for something to go badly (for the Giants) during the next at bat. With Gordon on third, any hit, passed ball, or error ties the game. As odd as it sounds, Kansas City had more positive options facing Bumgarner than it did taking a chance with sending Gordon.


Video of the Week

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Week of March 9, 2015

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Hanging with chef Guy Fieri

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Sports Bucket List: The Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament

I’m sentimental about this. Every year growing up I would skip school and head down to the Civic Center in St. Paul to watch the Thursday session of the State Tournament with my grandpa. Two afternoon games, lunch at Cosseta or McGovern’s, then back to the arena for two night games. While we both looked forward to sharing the day, I know we both loved the event – separate from the fact that we were there together – which of course made it even more enjoyable. Iron Range teams (up north) like Bemidji, Cloquet, Duluth East, and International Falls would come down to the big city (bringing the entire hometown with them) and face off with metro powerhouses like Hill-Murray, Edina, and Bloomington Jefferson. Nearly 130k fans attended the four-day event this year, and to this day there is no sport more universally loved in Minnesota than high school hockey. Here’s a collection of the best of 2015 – PAL

  • Best goals of the tourney – ℅ CBS Sports
  • This article reminded me of my late grandpa – ℅ Andy Greder (St. Paul Pioneer Press)
  • And of course, the annual All Hockey Hair Team, ℅ PulltabProductions:

TOB: Doesn’t Phil’s memory of skipping school and heading to the State hockey tournament with his Grandpa sound awesome? With the NCAA tournament starting next week, it makes me want to skip work and have a 1-2-3 Sports! March Madness viewing party. I don’t think it’s gonna happen this year, but a guy can dream, can’t he? Also, if you like fun, watch the All Hockey Hair Team video. It does not disappoint.


“The Slow Destruction of Pete Reiser, the Greatest Player Who Never Was”

W.C. Heinz is generally considered one of the greatest sports writers of all-time. This is a Heinz story from 1958 about a former baseball player named Pete Reiser. Reiser had talent many compared to Mantle and Mays, but his penchant for crashing into outfield walls and getting beaned in the head left him in the hospital almost as much as he played. Heinz’ story on Reiser, from a collection of his best sportswriting, Top of His Game, was reprinted in Deadspin this week. It is funny and sad, and an interesting look into an athlete who gave too much of himself. At one point, later in his career, a reporter asks Reiser where he thinks he’ll finish the season. The reporter means in the standings, but Reiser replies: “In Peck Memorial Hospital.” He was only half-kidding. -TOB

Source: “The Rocky Road of Pistol Pete“, W.C. Heinz (1958), reprinted in Deadspin (03/10/2015) 

PAL: This reads like a novel. Aside from the stories – which come off like folk tales – the writing is simple, classic, and a pleasure to read. One of my favorite lines: “On the way back to New York I kept thinking how right Pete was. To tell a man who is this true that there is another way for him to do it is to speak a lie.” Morgan Freeman was meant to do the voice over on to this story.


Coming Back From the Brink

The Ravens signed running back Justin Forsett to a 3-year, $9 million deal on Thursday. The signing didn’t make too many headlines, and most probably didn’t take note. But…Forsett went to Cal and is one of my favorite all-time Bears. He was always humble and hard working. He was the backup to Marshawn Lynch, and when Lynch was out, the offense did not miss a beat. Forsett bounced around the NFL for the better part of a decade, never catching the break he deserved, despite performing well in limited playing time. Until this year. The Ray Rice debacle gave Forsett his chance – and he ran with it, literally. Forsett led the NFL in yards per carry, made the Pro Bowl, and earned his payday. After signing, Forsett wrote this great piece for NFL.com about life on the fringes of the NFL, how close he came to retiring after the 2013 season, how he was preparing for life after football, and how it felt to flourish when he got his shot. -TOB

Source: What I Wanted Most in Free Agency, and Why I Stayed a Raven”, Justin Forsett, NFL.com (03/12/2015)


Scouting vs Statistics

There is a cold war in baseball – between the “scout” and “stats” teams. Some teams are “old school” and rely on what they observe – from personnel decisions to on-field tactics. Other teams use statistics and try to play to the averages. Meanwhile, the Giants have won 3 of the last 5 World Series. How have they done it? As Christina Kahrl writes, part of the reason the Giants have been so successful is by finding a happy medium between the two approaches. For example, that huge catch by Juan Perez off of Nori Aoki to preserve the Giants’ lead in Game 7 of the World Series. Normally, when defending against a left-handed batter, the left fielder would be damn-near to center field. But the Giants used a combination of statistics and instincts to put Perez in an otherwise strange position – defending the left field line (click the thumbnail to go to the video):

 

And it paid off in a big way. -TOB

Source: “How the Giants Use Metrics on D”, Christina Kahrl, ESPN.com (03/11/2015); Companion Reading: Giants Defensive Positioning a Big Assist in Game 7 Victory”, John DeWan, Bill James Online (11/06/2014);Giants’ Aoki Could Have Been a World Series Hero”, Andrew Baggarly, San Jose Mercury-News (02/25/2010)


Hilarious First Person Accounts Of Getting Dunked On

The headline says it all. Here are several accounts of regular dudes getting slammed on by future pros, top prospects, and otherwise absurd athletes from other sports. After reading, I now know not to attempt taking the charge when a future NBA player is bearing down on you with a full head of steam. You might get a ball (or balls) slammed in your face. Most of them are hilarious, but my favorite ends with the following: “It was the most aggressive teabagging I’ve ever seen and I just walked off the court and didn’t come back. Ever.” – PAL

Source: “Your Best Stories About Getting Dunked On Like The Losers You Are”, Samer Kalaf, Deadspin (03/09/2015)

TOB: Quite happy I could not have contributed to this. I am always smart enough to get out of the way.


What Makes an NBA Coach Successful?

How do we measure the value of a coach? For years, it has been wins and losses (and championships), counter-balanced with the perceived talent the coach has to work with. But in basketball, we often see an individual player’s performance wax and wane depending on the system he is in. Grantland’s Kirk Goldsberry uses the very different performances of first-time head coaches Terry Stotts in Atlanta (a Popovich disciple) and the recently-fired Brian Shaw in Denver (a Phil Jackson disciple) to theorize that the rise in importance of the three-point shot in the NBA will give a clearer picture as to which coaches are the best. Goldsberry makes a strong case that how the coach creates open looks for his players, thus maximizing their ability to make shots, will go a long way in evaluating a coach’s worth. -TOB

Source: The Sons of Pop and the Zen Master: It’s Time to Properly Measure the Value of NBA Coaches”, Kirk Goldsberry, Grantland (03/06/2015)


Video of the Week

Let’s be real. This week’s video of the week is the Hockey Hair video above. But we’ll leave you with this:

That is steak sauce.


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“If you’re rich you don’t have to be smart. That’s the whole beauty of this country.”

-Joey from Little Big League. Also, Jed York