Week of September 22, 2014


Defending the Indefensible?

Considering Phil and I love sports so much that we spend hours each week creating this sports blog, that we don’t even get paid for, this is a difficult read. It’s hard to argue with most of the points because the amount of public money spent on stadiums is at once staggering and sad. NFL stadiums are used for football around ten times per year. And yet we build them these stadiums, and lease them to the NFL owners at ludicrously low prices. The owners are practically printing their own money at this point. Between player health, public funding, and the general buffoonery of Roger Goodell, it is difficult to defend the decision to watch the NFL. And yet. I still watch. So I won’t try to defend it. It is indefensible. This is an excerpt from Steve Almond’s book, referenced here back on September 1, 2014. -TOB

Source: Why Being a Football Fan is Indefensible”, by Steve Almond, excerpted from his book “Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto”, published 08/26/2014

Note: Professional sports teams should build their own stadiums. Franchise valuations are jumping over the the $1 billion mark. I will never vote to support a tax increase for a publicly funded stadium. Here’s the other thing, there aren’t that many cities in the U.S. that can support a professional franchise. Guess how many cities have a population over 600,000? 30. Most of them already have teams, which is why L.A. not having a football team is such a great negotiating chip for current owners. In other words, they need us as much as we want them. So – yeah – they can pay their way. – PAL

How Many Points Did You Score for Stevie Johnson’s Fantasy Workplace Team Today?

In lighter news, this is great. Likely annoyed at fans tweeting him to complain about his fantasy football performance so far this season, Stevie Johnson joked that he had drafted many of “us” for his workplace fantasy team. He asked us not to let him down. The ensuing back and forth with fans is really amusing. -TOB

Source: Stevie Johnson Drafted a Really Great Fantasy You Team”, Barry Petchesky, Deadspin (09/25/2014)

Note: God, I effing love this so much. Highlights: changing a diaper is worth 10 points in the Fantasy Work League. – PAL

Yeah Jeets!

Derek Jeter played the last home game of his career last night. I watched the first inning. At Yankee Stadium in the Top of the 1st, the crowd chants each player’s name until they acknowledge it. They did every player, and they got to Jeter. As soon as they begin chanting his name, the Orioles Nick Markakis hit a home run. It was hilarious and awkward. Of course, Jeter ended the game with a tie-breaking, walk-off single in the bottom of the 9th. Rather fitting. Good timing, zero power. There has been a lot written about Derek Jeter over the years, and over the last week. I think Jeter is a good player, a Hall of Famer, but I also think that if he hadn’t played for New York, he’d be Craig Biggio. He’s not the greatest Yankee or the greatest shortstop of all-time. And he’s always been a terrible defender, despite what announcers/talking heads might have you believe. But his being overrated by the media doesn’t mean he was not great, either. In the first article, Jonah Keri takes a look at Jeter’s career and attempts to find his place historically. It’s a good read. And if you’re curious about what Jeter, the opaque Brand that he is, is really like, New York Magazine profiles him. Interestingly, he’s so image conscious that he comes off a bit poorly here, if you ask me. -TOB

Sources: Goodbye, Mr. November: Taking Stock of Derek Jeter’s Divisive Legacy, by Jonah Keri, Grantland (09/24/2014); Derek Jeter Opens the Door, by Chris Smith, New York Magazine (09/21/2014)

Note: Who has ever made the argument Derek Jeter is the greatest Yankee? Who has ever called him the greatest shortstop of all-time? Nobody, which is why Keith Olbermann’s rant was so stupid (seriously, who enjoys watching this guy get off on his own pontifications?) He was a very good player on a dynasty that won it all 4 out 5 years in (1996, 1998, 1999, 2000).  Tack on another championship in 2009, and that’s a career worth celebrating. As for the “if he hadn’t played in New York” angle – well, he did play in New York, and we all know that is different. It just is. Of course the Yankees are going to make a big deal about this, and of course it will get overblown; it’s 2014 – the age of hyperbole. He had his shortcoming as a player, and I hated him growing up to be sure, but he gets a thumbs up on this day. To be honest, all I ever wanted was to never hear Tim McCarver announce another baseball game, so it’s all been gravy to me since then. -PAL

Persistence, Personified

13 years, 4,095 games. Guilder Rodriguez played in the minors for 13 years before being called up to the Rangers. He was drafted when I was a freshman in college (2001). It’s a hard and beautiful thing when a guy keeps a dream alive for 13 years before it’s realized. You have a MLB stat line now, Mr. Rodriguez. The stories for this didn’t do it for me, so instead take 5 minutes and check out this guy’s stats on Baseball-Reference. Think about all the things that have happened to you over the last 13 years while keeping in mind he was just plugging along down there. -PAL

Source: Guilder Rodriguez Minor League Stats, Major League Stats


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“I don’t give a frog’s fat ass who went through what. We need money! Hey, Russ, wanna look through Aunt Edna’s purse?”

– Clark W. Griswold

Week of September 1, 2014


Checkmate of the Month

Right now, the world’s best Chess players have converged in St. Louis, of all places, for a tournament. And the best of the bunch is a 23 year old Norwegian – Magnus Carlsen. Carlsen is the reigning world chess champion. Unlike most top Chess players, Carlsen doesn’t train with computers and has a more organic style. This gives him an advantage over the other players, because they are all trained the same way and expect a player to respond in a certain way. Carlsen doesn’t do that. And… ok, look. When we started this blog, I never thought I’d be writing about chess, either. But I’m telling you – this is a good read! It actually made me think, “It would be pretty cool if a chess champion took the world by storm like Bobby Fisher did.” Man, the 1970’s were weird. -TOB

Source: The Most Compelling Athlete In America Right Now Is Here To Play Chess“, by Dave McKenna, Deadspin (09/02/14)

Should I Stop Watching Football?

While reading this story, I couldn’t stop nodding my head in agreement, and shaking my head in shame. Over the last few years, we’ve learned a lot more about what the game of football does to the men who play, and it is not good. I used to love football. I still kind of do. I mean, I watch, but I feel guilty about it, and as I watch, I am constantly grimacing at the crushing hits. I’m not alone. Author Steve Almond just wrote a book entitled, “Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto.” Almond was a decades long football fan who this offseason decided his conscience couldn’t allow him to keep watching football. This is an interview with Mr. Almond, exploring the reasons why he “quit” football, and why he wrote the book. If you like football, and consider yourself a moral person, it is a good read. If you are interested in the subject, I’ve listed a couple related articles I enjoyed this week. -TOB

Source: Interference: One Man Questions Everything Football Has to Offer”, by Patrick Sauer, Biographile (09/03/14); Companion pieces: “People vs. The NFL“, by Matt Ufford, SB Nation (09/04/14); “The League That Never Sleeps“, by Bill Simmons, Grantland (09/04/14)

Does Defense Still Win Championships?

Offenses in college football have exploded. It seems like every offense is running a spread variation, and most are running no-huddle hurry-ups to put maximum pressure on the defense, prevent them from substituting, and eventually wear them down. And it sure seems to work. So, does the old adage still hold? Do defenses still win championships? Well, Mark Dantonio, head coach of the defending Rose Bowl Champion Michigan State Spartans, sure thinks so. There’s a bit of “chalk talk” here, but mostly it’s an interesting look at a coach who has learned to adapt to a changing game. -TOB

Source: A Defense to Match: Appreciating the Stingy Spartans in the Offensive Age“, by Chris B. Brown, Grantland (09/02/14)

Ichiro Es Muy Gracioso. Y El Mejor.

Ichiro is just the best. His career is winding down, and amusing stories keep leaking out. This is the latest – Ichiro did his best to pick up some Spanish and use it to talk trash to his opponents. Of course, the Latino players love him for it. -TOB

Source: “Ichiro Suzuki Uncensored, en Español“, by Brad LeftonWall Street Journal (08/29/14)

Note: This makes so much sense – foreign players (regardless of country) feeling a bond – and yet it’s a notion I’ve never considered. My favorite quote from the article: “I feel a bond with them…We’re all foreigners in a strange land…And besides, we don’t really have curse words in Japanese, so I like the fact that the Western languages allow me to say things that I otherwise can’t.” -PAL

He’s Just ‘Bout That Action, Boss

Marshawn Lynch was a freshman at Cal just as I was graduating. In his first career game, he did this. Against Stanford that season, he did this. A couple years later, after almost single handedly dragging an underachieving Cal team to an overtime victory against Washington, he celebrated by stealing the injury cart and mobbing all over the field. He said after the game that he wanted to ghostride it, but he was afraid he’d hurt someone. He invented the nickname “Beast Mode” – which has been stolen and completely overused by everyone else. His house in Oakland was once shot up in a drive-by – and the perpetrators later came by to pay their respects and apologize because they got the wrong house and wanted Marshawn to know they meant no harm. That is boss. Needless to say, I was a huge fan when he entered the NFL. I was annoyed when the Niners passed on him, but they did take Patrick Willis one spot before the Bills took Marshawn, so that worked out. And he had a pretty good rookie season…but then things kinda fizzled. He had a few run-ins with the law and his career seemed to be sputtering. Now, of course, he’s one of the best running backs in the NFL. But, he’s a different kind of dude, and this is an interesting look at how Marshawn has tried to balance his many sides.

Source: “Dr. Marshawn and Mr. Lynch“, by Kevin Fixler, SB Nation (09/04/14)

Local Flavor: St. Paul, Minnesota

Here’s how my mornings would go back in Minnesota when I was a kid: Wake up and shuffle down stairs, find a box of cereal that had more than half a bowl’s worth of the goods, pull the sports page out of the Pioneer Press, and see if “Shooter” had an article that day. Charley Walters is a sports gossip (way ahead of his time, I suppose). As a kid, I took it as the real inside scoop, especially when one of his paragraphs started with – I shit you not – “a little birdie told me”. He plays favorites (I’m sure he has a Joe Mauer tramp stamp) and doesn’t care. Now, I love his articles for their comedic qualities, intended or otherwise. I mean, this guy is reporting on washed up basketball players from local D3 schools signing to play in some German league. I love it. I’m asking Tommy to feature a story from his hometown paper next week, and we would love suggestions from you, our 12 readers. Tweet us your favorite hometown sports stories/writers @123sportsnews. Tommy will buy a beer for everyone who’s story gets featured in our next issue. – PAL

Source: “Charley Walters: Adrian Peterson has good years ahead, Foreman says”, by Charley Walters, The Pioneer Press (8/30/14)


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“It was one of those nights. You know the kind. Like day, but darker.”

– Eric Matthews