Week of April 13, 2015

IMG_7733

When it’s your birthday, Helmet Nachos are acceptable.


Why Charles Barkley Once Gained 19 Pounds in 2 Days (On Purpose)

Unrelated to the above photo, this is a great story about Charles Barkley. We’ll get out of the way and let Charles tell it:

“Back in my day we had a hard salary cap so you could not go over the salary cap like you can today and the Sixers had the No. 5 pick in the draft. I left college after three years and in fairness, I was fat in college. I played at 300 pounds. The Sixers called me a month before the draft and said, “We want you to get down to 285 pounds and come in before the draft.” So I get down to 283 and the night before we fly into Philly my agent said, “You do know if the Sixers draft you they are going to give you $75,000,  right?”  I said, “Dude, I didn’t leave college for $75,000. We have a problem.” He said, “You weigh about 283 now. What do you want to do? You beat their weight limit.” I said, “Let’s go out.”

So we went to Dennys and I had like two Grand Slam breakfasts. We went to lunch and I had like two big barbeque sandwiches. That night we went to a big steakhouse. The next morning I had two more Grand Slam breakfasts and when we flew to Philly, I weighed 302. I was like, Thank goodness, the Sixers are not going to draft me. So when you look at my face when commissioner [David] Stern says ‘With the fifth pick in the draft, the Philadelphia 76ers select Charles Barkley,’ I was like, ‘Oh, sh–.’ When people go back and look at me walking, and they see that awful burgundy suit, everybody else is happy and Charles isn’t happy. But it worked out great. The most important person in my basketball career was Moses Malone and he got me down to under 250 pounds and the rest is history.”

Classic Chuck. -TOB

PAL: If for nothing else, read through Barkley’s transcript to see a dude who can get onto a tangent faster than a dog gets on a dropped piece of steak. In response as to whether he will accept an invitation to the Sloan Conference (an advanced metrics gathering), he said the following:

“They just charge you more calling them analytics but they are just stats. It’s kind of like, if you are black, you are a cook and if you are white, you are a chef. The chef gets paid a lot more than the cook (laughs). But my big rule is if people should be able to take a joke … Everyone knows Muhammad Ali is a hero of mine. So is Dr. Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. I did some research on Abe Lincoln when that movie came out. There are a lot of great men. But when they asked me for some great Americans, I said Colonel Sanders.”

Source: Charles Barkley Talks Fame, Social Media, at SXSW”, Richard Deitsch, Sports Illustrated (04/12/2015)


Curt Schilling Message to Himself at 16: Don’t Chew Tobacco

I’m not a fan of Curt Schilling. He’s a blowhard. But this should be mandatory reading for all people who chew tobacco, and all teenagers and their parents. Curt Schilling chewed tobacco for decades. It gave him cancer. He is still here, but there’s no way to know if the cancer will come back. Here, Curt writes a letter to his 16-year old self, urging himself to never start the habit. It’s a very powerful essay, written by someone who has stared his own mortality in the face. -TOB

Source: Letter to My Younger Self”, Curt Schilling, The Players’ Tribune (04/11/2015)


Bonds on A-Rod…But Really on Himself.

I have always liked Barry Bonds. I have never liked Alex Rodriguez. This makes their new-found friendship a conundrum for me. Barry helped A-Rod during his hiatus and is supportive of A-Rod’s pursuit of home run milestones. So how do I reconcile this? I have mostly ignored it. My dislike of A-Rod has nothing to do with steroids (as I’ve said here before, I don’t care about that). But in reading this article about Barry and his feelings on A-Rod’s return – it’s striking how Barry’s plea to give Alex a chance is really a plea to give Barry a chance. For example: “Why the hate? Why hate on something you’re paying to see? I don’t understand it. He’s entertaining us…I wish life wasn’t like that…This guy is not running for president of the United States. He’s not running for commissioner. We’re not running for political office. We’re just ballplayers. We’re not God. We’re imperfect people. We’re human beings.” Poor Barry. Just elect the greatest hitter of all-time to the damn Hall of Fame, will ya? -TOB

Source: “Barry Bonds on A-Rod: ‘I can’t wait until he hits 660’”, Bob Nightengale, USA Today (04/13/2015)

PAL: First off, I think TOB and I need to have a good ol’ debate about the Hall of Fame (I don’t think Bonds, ARod, Pete Rose, Sosa, Palmerio, etc. should be in). Secondly, I agree with TOB in that Bonds’ support for ARod is a plea for himself. I would also add that Bonds’ support is conditional, in that he knows ARod will never challenge his home run record.


Matt Barnes: Future Sacramento Mayor?

Well, that’s his life goal, anyways. I nearly fell out of my chair laughing when I read that. I’ve never liked Matt Barnes. He’s a punk. He was a punk in high school, and college, and in the NBA. But I read this story, and I’m glad I did. It gives a lot of insight into an athlete that has many layers and wears his emotions on his sleeve. For example:

“We get paid a lot of money to play basketball. But what I want to let people know is that we’re still human. We’re still going through day to day struggles that everybody else goes through, but for two and a half hours, when you see us on TV, we have to act like we have the most amazing life in the world.” He pauses. “A lot of people don’t give a s— and I get that. They’re paying a lot of money to come see us play and we get a lot of money, so f— your human side.”

Matt Barnes may never be the mayor of Sacramento, but I understand him a bit more after reading this. -TOB

Source: The Clippers Polarizing Pariah Who Tells It Like It Really Is”, Chris Ballard, Sports Illustrated (04/10/2015)

PAL: “And being an a–hole, he knows, is what’s kept him in the league.” Matt Barnes is a goon, and I mean that as a compliment. Every great hockey player has had a goon by his side. Teams in any sport need an enforcer, someone to keep the edge sharp. You don’t like these guys, and — guess what — you’re not supposed to like them, but they serve an important purpose. It’s a bonus that he seems to have his priorities straight when it comes to his kids, too. His job in the NBA isn’t glamorous, but it’s a necessity for a team to be great.


It’s Not Yet an Ending, And It’s Not Exactly Happy – But This is Great

As you may recall, Bryan Stow is the Giants fan who was beaten nearly to death, in front of his children, four years ago after an Opening Day Dodgers-Giants game at Dodger Stadium. He suffered traumatic brain injuries as a result. Stow has had a long road to recovery. It’s not over, but this week he provided quite the moving moment. On Thursday, Stow threw out the first pitch at the San Jose Giants’ (the San Francisco Giants’ minor league affiliate) game. Stow needed a walker to get out on the field, and he can no longer throw overhand, but damn if he didn’t get it to the catcher’s glove. Great job, Bryan – and good luck in your continued rehabilitation. -TOB

Source: Stow Tosses First Pitch For San Jose Giants Home Opener”, Jimmy Durkin, San Jose Mercury-News (04/16/2015)

PAL: You know what really sucks about this? Bryan Stow is known by millions as the guy that was beaten into a coma in some pointless, drunken brawl outside a baseball game. No one deserves to be defined by what has happened to him or her. I wish him all the best, and I commend the Giants for sticking by him all these years (especially Tim Flannery), but it pisses me off that he’s known for what happened to him.


Video of the Week

Well, that was ridiculous.


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Before we get to the quote of the week, I want to thank Tommy for being a great friend, a pain in the ass in a debate, and a well of inspiration. This guy is a friend who always shows up, a doting father, and a husband who’s ridiculously in love with his wife. He’s doing it right, and I’m lucky to call him my friend. Happy birthday, buddy!

“Damn you people. Go back to your shanties.”

-Shooter McGavin

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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

Week of January 5, 2015


Ownage: Mickey Morandini > Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz

Who? That’s the point. Second baseman Mickey Morandini hit .352 off of Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz over his career (Smoltz and Pedro were voted into the Hall of Fame this week). I’m not talking about 10 ABs either. He faced these two over 100 times in his career. While a .344 average against Smoltz is impressive, let’s focus on the real feat: the “dandy little gloveman” hit .370 against Pedro. Can you imagine what Smoltz and Pedro must’ve been thinking when this guy walked up to the plate? I’d bet money it included Joe Pesci’s preferred adjective ending in -ing, bookended by “this” and “guy”. This is a fun read that highlights the seemingly illogical nature of 1-on-1 matchups in baseball that’s hard to imagine in other sports. It doesn’t exactly translate, but can you fathom Jared Dudley owning LeBron James 1-on-1? And, yes, Pedro was as good of a pitcher as LeBron James is a basketball player. – PAL

Source: “Aces’ Obstacle on Way to Hall: A Modest Hitter”, Tyler Kepner, The New York Times (1/5/14)

TOB: As Phil notes, this article reminds me of why baseball is so weird. I checked – here are some other big name pitchers that Morandini killed: Maddux (.361), Andy Benes (.424), Tom Glavine (.293), Dwight Gooden (.359), Roger Clemens (.667 – but just 3 at bats). Wild. I also like wondering how the reporter stumbled upon this story – did someone tip him off to it? Is it some weird bit of trivia he came across years ago, and held onto for this day, when Smoltz and Pedro would be elected to the Hall? Or was he simply perusing baseball-reference.com for hitters who did well against the three electees when he noticed Morandini’s name at the top of two of the lists?


Ugh. The Maloofs Won’t Go Away
Oh, just die already. -TOB
Source: “Former Sacramento Kings Owners Maloofs Looking to Get Back Into Sports Business”, Dale Kasler, San Jose Mercury-News (12/25/14)

PAL: Owning a stake in a team is a great gig if you can get it. Frank McCourt runs the Dodgers into the ground, the team files for bankruptcy, then he sells the team for $2 billion (according to NBC sports, he walked away with $1.278 billion). Owners threaten to move teams if they don’t get state funding to build stadiums (my all-time WTF in sports, see: the Rams, Twins, Vikings, Saints, Marlins, etc.). So now the Maloofs are getting into the NHL as potential minority owners for a Las Vegas hockey team. Let them. Any team in Las Vegas will see a 2-year spike, then die, just like everything does in Las Vegas.


To Quote George Costanza, “You’re Superman,” Tommy Caldwell
This story has everything. Kidnapping by extremists: check. Saw accident: check. Sleeping in a tent on the face of El Capitan: check. I’m getting old. I’ve become drawn to simplicity in the world of sports. I scarfed down Christopher McDougall’s book, Born To Run, which looks to figure out why a forgotten tribe in Mexico is home to some of the best endurance runners the world’s ever known. I’m captivated by free solo climber Alex Honnold (high walls, no ropes). I’m fascinated by the objective of a pursuit being singular, instantly understood, and yet extremely difficult. Climb the wall. Run from here to there as fast as you can. All of this, topped off with a little nudge from Jamie Morganstern, led me to this story about Tommy Caldwell. He’s currently on El Capitan about to do something no one has ever done – solo climb the whole damn thing (ropes, but only to catch you if you fall). Simple objective, right? His route to this day is anything but simple. He lost the top of his finger in a saw. Oh, and he was taken hostage by extremist while climbing in Kyrgyzstan (he and the other climbers escaped by pushing a captor off of a cliff). This guy is fueled by simple, yet incredibly difficult challenges, and I dig that. – PAL

Source: “Abduction. Lost Finger. Now, a Rock Climber’s Tallest Hurdle.”, John Branch, The New York Times (1/7/15)


Long Live the Rex
A look back at the always entertaining Rex Ryan era, as presented by Matt Taibbi, one of the best writers/journalists of our generation. I am really, really hopeful that the 49ers hire Rex. He’s amazing. I’ll never forget this speech he gave on Hard Knocks in 2010 (language NSFW):

That speech was inspiring, ridiculous, and funny as hell. And that was the night before a PRESEASON game. I remember watching the show – first, I laughed at the “9:00 SNACK” on the whiteboard at the beginning. That still kills me. Then my now-wife and I kept rewinding and re-watching the end over and over again, laughing our heads off. “Let’s go and eat a god damn snack!” Man, I really hope he comes to the Niners. -TOB
Source: “Rex’s Last Stand”, Matt Taibbi, Grantland (01/06/15)

PAL: Taibbi can write a hell of a story – no doubt – but I’m confused. Do you want Ryan to be the 49ers coach because he’s entertaining, because he’s a good coach, or even both? He had two winning seasons during his six years as the Jets’ coach. He’s refreshing, especially in the context of Jim Harbaugh, but isn’t he entertaining from distance where we can separate the comedy from, you know, the lack of wins?

TOB: Both. How many wins can anyone get with Mark Sanchez as your QB? Chip Kelly learned all too well this year.


VIDEOS OF THE WEEK

Moms everywhere – do not throw the baseball cards away:

High School Dunk 1:

High School Dunk 2:


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“I don’t care. Anything. I would rather… I would rather watch “Beautician and the Beast”. I would rather listen to Fran Drescher for eight hours than have to listen to Michael McDonald. Nothing against him, but if I hear “Yah Mo B There” one more time, I’m going to “Yah Mo” burn this place to the ground.”

– David

 

Week of September 29, 2014

That's how you celebrate.

That’s how you celebrate.

The Friends We’ve Never Met: Mike Krukow & Duane Kuiper

Earlier this season, San Francisco Giants’ color commentator Mike Krukow revealed that he is suffering from a rare muscle disease – inclusion body myositis (“IBM”). Although IBM is not directly life-threatening, it features slow and progressive weakening of muscles, especially those in the legs and hands. This loss of muscle strength can cause sufferers to fall over, which can of course cause life-threatening injuries. Krukow, along with his broadcast partner Duane Kuiper, is the rare announcing team that you wish you could sit and watch a game with. They provide great insight into the game, while being hilarious and fun. Hell, I wish Kruk and Kuip were my real-life friends (and I oddly feel like they actually are, though I’ve never met them). Kruk and Kuip are universally beloved by Giants fans, and the news of Kruk’s disease was met with sadness. Steve Fainaru brings us a rare look into the world of Kruk and Kuip – a true and lasting friendship, and how the two of them are dealing with Kruk’s condition, both in and out of the broadcasting booth. -TOB

Source: A Giant Friendship”, by Steve Fainaru, ESPN (09/30/2014)

Note: One of the true pleasures of living in San Francisco is listening to these two friends talk baseball over the course of 162 games. It seems Kruk and Kuip genuinely love what they do and love that they get to do it together. They are the best, and Krukow has an army of Giants fans supporting him. -PAL


Hooligan Revolutionaries

The fact of the matter is we have no idea what it’s like to fight a war on U.S. soil. Our understanding of war is removed. It is something we follow, keep tabs on, discuss; most of us don’t live it and understand its impact on, among other things, culture. That’s why this story on soccer in Ukraine is so fascinating to me. The byline: “Vice Sports contributor R.J. Rico spent two weeks in Ukraine reporting on the role of soccer and soccer fans in the nation’s conflict, and how that conflict has affected the sport.” -PAL

Source: “Soccer and Revolution in Ukraine”, R.J. Rico, Vice Sports (09/26/2014)


Jim Harbaugh is a Fascinating Lunatic: A Profile of a Complicated Weirdo

Intensity is in most cases a strength, and the pursuit of success doesn’t necessarily feel good. There is no Rocky montage in real life. When I read this profile on Harbaugh – brilliantly and humorously structured around a game of catch between the coach and the writer – I am reminded of the least common denominator. If there is a person out there so one-dimensional in his focus on winning everything – from a conversation to a football game – then how does that impact the chances of success for any well-adjusted human? I’m also reminded that sport is perfect for these types of people (and why we as fans love it so much as a reprieve) – everything is objective at the end of the day. One team wins, and one team loses. There is no gray. -PAL

Source: “Jim Harbaugh comfortable in chaos”, by Seth Wickersham, ESPN The Magazine (10/2/2014)


More Than a Routine

Sergio Romo catches the ceremonial first pitch before every Giants home game. Most of us aren’t even in our seats yet, and – let’s be honest – we’re kind of hoping for a catastrophe. After all, there’s something fair in a b-list celebrity who doesn’t know how to throw bouncing one in there for us to laugh at, right? Well, that’s not always the case. Here’s a story of that meaningless first pitch changing lives. -PAL

Source: “Giants’ Sergio Romo inspired a teen girl to keep fighting”, Daniel Brown, San Jose Mercury News (09/26/2014)


Video of the week:

 

Quote of the week:

“You and your mom are hillbillies. This is a house of learned doctors.”

– Dale Dobak