Best of 2015, Part 1


On this, the day of the Rose Bowl, a.k.a, “The Granddaddy of Them All”, we bring you Part 1 of 123’s Grandaddy of Them All – the Best of 2015. Today’s post features our 6 favorite stories we shared with you throughout 2015. Take some time and read even one of these stories. They are all fascinating. Tomorrow, Part 2 will feature the 6 funniest stories and our favorite videos from 2015. This AP photo of Harry Caray was our favorite that we came across. Are you sensing a superlative theme here?

In all seriousness, we love sharing these stories with you, our friends and family. If you love 123 Sports, or even like it sometimes, then we would so very, very much appreciate you spreading the word this weekend. While our readership is the best, it’s quite small. We’d like to change that, and we need your help in order to do so. Send the link to a friend and tell them it’s worth 10 minutes every week. – TOB & PAL

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Mark Davis Doesn’t Give a Damn What You Think

This is an amazing piece of journalism, by one of my longtime favorite sportswriters, Tim Keown. Keown profiles Raiders owner Mark Davis, who took over the team when his dad, Al Davis, died in 2011. That guy above? That’s Mark. Do you see that haircut? Mark has been rocking that awful hairdo for years, and people have been mocking it for just as long. But Mark Davis doesn’t just like that haircut. He travels 500 miles to Palm Springs to go to the same barber to get that haircut. Does he know people laugh at it? Yep. Does he care? Nope. The dude is worth $500 million and he does not care what you think. Check out the opening paragraph to the story:

Most days start the same — behind the wheel of a white 1997 Dodge Caravan SE outfitted with a bubble-top Mark III conversion kit, a VHS player mounted to the roof inside and a r8hers personalized plate. Mark Davis pilots this machine from his East Bay home to the nearest P.F. Chang’s, where he sits at the left end of the bar, same spot every time, puts his white fanny pack on the counter, orders an iced tea and unfolds the day’s newspapers. Beside him on the bar, next to the papers, is his 2003 Nokia push-button phone with full texting capability. When someone calls and asks him where he is, he says, “I’m in my office,” and sends a knowing nod to the bartenders. It gets ’em every time.

I have read that five times and I laugh every time. If that doesn’t make you click this story to read the rest, I give up. -TOB

Source: Just Live Up to Your Dad’s Name and Solve the NFL’s L.A. Problem, Baby!”, Tim Keown, ESPN the Magazine (10/01/2015)

PAL: The next time someone tells you “I don’t care what other people think,” you can call bulls*&t. Simply pull out your phone, have them read this story. Mark Davis doesn’t care what other people think, and he’s the only one. Hilarious story. Great find. Also, the man is worth $500 million and he drives a conversion van with a vanity plate. Can we get the Mark Davis biopic movie into pre-produciton already?


Twins.com

This is one of the funniest stories I’ve ever read. Durland and Darvin are twins. In 1995 they registered for the URL twins.com. In the 20 years since, all but 3 URLs for MLB baseball teams have been secured by the MLB. The holdouts: The Giants (football team got that one), the Rays (a restaurant in Seattle has that one), and the Twins. While the Giants and Rays situations make sense, the Twins URL makes for a great, absurd, hilarious story. I don’t want to spoil too many tidbits about these brothers – remember, their names are Durland and Darvin – but here are a couple teasers:

  • Aside from living together, at one point they had complementary black and white humvees. 
  • They were in a successful San Francisco band…a “copy” band of course, and nearly made the finals of a national Battle of the Bands in the early 80s against eventual winner…Bon Jovi.

I want a 30 for 30 doc on these brothers, and I want it now. – PAL

Source: “The Website MLB Couldn’t Buy”, Ben Lindbergh, Grantland (8/27/15)

TOB: I cannot recommend this story highly enough. It is completely absurd and I laughed out loud at least a half dozen times.


Before He Was A Cub, Harry Caray Was A Trailblazer

“The Stacks” collection is one of the best series featured on Deadspin, and this week’s story will have you smiling all the way through. Read how Harry Caray (the legendary Cubs announcer and perhaps Will Ferrell’s best impersonation) got his break into calling games for the Cardinals, how he changed the way baseball was announced, his odd but powerful relationship with “Gussie” Busch (Budweiser), and how his “call it as I see it” approach enraged players and coaches alike. Some people loathed him, but the fans sitting by the radios throughout the country loved him. In his own words:

“I like to think that if I’ve accomplished anything, well, I’ve tried to develop the feeling in the little man, the man we call the fan, that I have his interest at heart. In the baseball business I’m the last of the nonconformists. I feel that eventually, in this day and age, my kind of guy’s gotta get fired.”

Fantastic read that got me ready for the baseball season to kick off! – PAL

Source: “When Harry Caray Was A Rebel With A Microphone,” Myron Cope, Sports Illustrated, October 1968 (℅ Deadspin, 4/1/15)

TOB: Like many baseball fans of my age, I grew up watching Cubs games on nationally-aired WGN, announced by Harry Caray. He was like a lovable grandpa – loud and funny, maybe a little drunk. He loved baseball and he made you love it, too. But this article has me rethinking my understanding of Harry Caray. While I will always appreciate the enthusiasm with which he called a game – and his concerns about play by play announcers becoming mellow and boring was prophetic – e.g., Joe Buck, Dave Flemming (yes, I said it) – this article sure does mention a lot of people that worked with Harry that did not like him. He sounds like the kind of guy who stepped on a lot of people to get to the top. There are multiple facets to every person, but this does paint a picture of a Harry as someone whose public persona was more contrived than I had previously thought. Still, I can’t help but agree with this poem, taken from the story: “If you lack the tickets to see the Cards, you can listen in your own backyards, and the greatest show, no ifs or buts, is to hear Harry Caray going nuts.”


OH, HELL YEAH: A STORY ON HUMAN CANNONBALLS

Yeah, I went full caps lock. That’s how excited I am to share this story. It doesn’t disappoint. How are the cannons made? No one knows. How far down the barrel is the human projectile? No one knows. How many people have died doing this? Not exactly sure. Why don’t we know the answers to any of these questions? Because the human cannonball is like a magic trick in that no one who practices the art divulges any information on how it is done and it’s not like there’s a circus version of Baseball Reference out there to keep records such as fatalities for a stunt that’s been going on for hundreds of years. Also, good luck if your dream is to become a human cannonball. It’s a family affair, in large part to protect the aforementioned trade secrets. One overachiever from – where else? – Minnesota has found her way into a club that some estimate is less than 10 active members. Gemma “The Jet” Kirby gives writer Robbie Gonzalez a partial peek into the guarded world of the Human Cannonball. – PAL

Source: A Glimpse Inside The Secretive World Of Human Cannonballs”, Robbie Gonzalez, io9 (4/30/15)

TOB: Wow. This is fascinating on many levels. I recall the first time I saw a person shot out of a cannon. The details are incredibly vivid to me. I was at Disneyland, probably about 6 years old. We were headed toward Tom Sawyer’s Island (yes, I know the name has changed). A crowd was gathered and my parents told me that someone was about to be shot out of a cannon. What in the world!  We were quite close to the cannon – I remember him tucking inside. He was dressed a bit like Evel Knievel. There was incredible anticipation in the crowd. Then an explosion! And holy hell if the guy didn’t fly halfway to Tomorrowland! Looking back, he probably flew only to the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. But it was far! Far enough that I couldn’t see him land. My dad assured me he was ok. But in reading this article, and about how dangerous this job is, how could he have been so sure? Maybe the guy broke his neck? Thanks for letting me see a guy break his neck, Mom and Dad. Also: Drug dealers use cannons to shoot drugs across the border from Mexico??? This story has it all. Finally, am I imagining this story at Disneyland? Was it a dream? Mom and Dad, you are invited to chime in on this topic.


Tom Brady: Profile of a Christopher Guest Character

Tom Brady is successful, and, according to the writer, “anything but a bonehead football player.” Yet, he comes off like a, well, a bimbo in this story. Like the best characters from all of the Christopher Guest movies, he seems to lack self-awareness outside the realm of the football field. I’ll let one quote do the heavy lifting for me: ‘He marched me back into the house, through the kitchen and past a shelf that displayed a large glass menorah. “We’re not Jewish,” Brady said when I asked him about this. “But I think we’re into everything. . . . I don’t know what I believe. I think there’s a belief system, I’m just not sure what it is.”’ There are two types of people that can say something like this and get away with it – really attractive women and Tom Brady. And – yes – of course he is a spokesman for Stetson cologne. – PAL

Source: “Tom Brady Cannot Stop”Mark Leibovich, The New York Times Magazine (1/26/15)

TOB: If you’re looking for some laughs, read this story. Phil and I had a great time copy/pasting the best Tom Brady lines to each other as we read. Find a buddy and do the same.


Steve Kerr: Good Dude

Steve Kerr is a five-time NBA champion as a player, and his Golden State Warriors are presently up 1-0 in the NBA Finals in his first year as an NBA coach. He is quite possibly my favorite person in sports – earnest, honest, unflappable, a great father, and above all else he seems kind, which is a rarity in his world. But there was a time when Steve Kerr was just a scared, lonely, 18-year old kid, just weeks into college, when he received news that his father, a university president in Beirut, had been assassinated by a terrorist organization. Kerr’s family was scattered throughout the world at that point. He could have packed it in and left college. I don’t think too many people would have faulted him. Instead, he marched on. As his college teammate Bruce Fraser says, “It feels strange to say this, but…I think the death of his father helped Steve as a basketball player, because he realized it was just basketball.” I am sure that if given the choice, Kerr would take his dad over his basketball career, but it does give some insight into how he has become such a truly decent person, when so many people in sports are not. Kerr understands – this is a game, it is not life, and he is lucky to have created such a great life by playing a game. -TOB

Source: The Assassination of Steve Kerr’s Father and the Unlikely Story of a Champion”, Chris Korman, USA Today (06/03/2015)

PAL: I wish this focused less on Kerr’s biography following his dad’s death and more about how he struggled and/or dealt with the tragedy. That wish isn’t likely to come true. By all accounts, Kerr doesn’t talk about it much, and his friends follow his lead. I understand. I’ve heard Kerr on a couple podcasts and on his weekly interviews with Tom Tolbert, and this guy comes off like the real deal. Sincere, funny, and – judging by this story – a hard-ass competitor. There’s not a lot of bluster to him, and I like that. I was just talking to TOB, and we agreed – we’d like to be more like Kerr than, say, a Tom Thibodeau if we were coaches (we’re talking about coaching a Little League team to greatness next year). Kerr seems like a good dude who’s succeeded following a horrible tragedy, and though that storyline might seem cliché on the surface, his version of it is unique in sports. With that said, I don’t understand how he remained at school instead of going to Beirut for the services after his dad’s death.


Video of the Week: Wait for the Best of 2015, Part 2 tomorrow! We’re posting the best videos/vines of the year in addition to the funniest stories of the year.


Song of the Year: No, this is not a song released in 2015, but a song discovered in 2015. For me, it was a clear choice: Fleetwood Mac – “What Makes You Think You’re The One”.

Check out all of our Songs of the Week in this here playlist.


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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

 

 

 

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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