#Hashtaggingforjustice

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I was wrong. MJ does care about people other than MJ. 

#icebucketchallenge is brilliant. It plays on our own egocentric narcissistic tendencies to self promote and that works every single fucking time

If only #bringbackourgirls had thought of this.

More Naiveté

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Another nice gesture from the sports world in response to politics. Is it totally naive to think such things have any impact? What will the Rams do when they play next? 

On the one hand, of course. Racism is structural and deeply embedded in our society. No gestures from anyone is going to change that. Moreover, sports has its own racial hierarchies and biases that impact hiring, firing, perceptions, you name it. 

But on the other hand, in our current world of polarization, can athletes uniquely wade into politics with some amount of trust crossing racial lines? I don’t know. My guess is that the further one wades, the more haters will start to hate. Popular athletes will lose popularity when they take a stand (Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf), or they will retain popularity on singularly athletic grounds if they do (Mohammed Ali)? I at least hope the Rams try. The African Americans on the team are likely the only African Americans many St. Louis whites know and at least nominally respect. It’s worth a shot.

What Could Have Been

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Back when there were book stores, I used to love to stand in the sports biography aisle and read about athletes. The books, whether they were ‘autobiographies’ (meaning, written with a journalist) or just written by the journalist, were always light, fast reads, and I could get most of the necessary details within about 30-45 minutes. Jose Canseco had a good one. Of course, Drive: The Story of My Life by Larry Bird was unforgettable for a few hours. Bad as I Wanna Be was not as bad as I wanted it to be.

Anyway, I remember reading one by Jack Tatum, the Oakland Raiders linebacker who paralyzed Darryl Stingley, a wide receiver for the New England Patriots, in an exhibition game. And what I remember from it was that he said the hit and the subsequent injury didn’t bother him. Wasn’t something he thought about, and he didn’t reach out to Stingley after. (If I’m getting the exact facts of what he said wrong, welcome to this blog.)

I thought of this while reading all the tweets of love and support for Paul George this weekend. The NBA is such a happy family these days. Its really nice to see. I feel horrible for what happened.

But not so horrible that I couldn’t start now thinking about ‘what if’s’ and the last lovable guys who never tweeted support for any player not on their team and couldn’t even be bothered to shake hands after losing a series. Yes, KG, Paul, and Rajon, with a bit of help from Kendrick and the other side nasty characters of the Celtics. Not Jesus because he left too early, and he was never mean enough to really fit in with this shady cast of characters.

The ‘what if’s’ involve where the Celtics would be right now if they hadn’t started rebuilding. I mean, Indiana is out of it. The Heat are only ok. The Cavaliers are still a Kevin Love trade away. Maybe the Bulls are ready for prime time. But wouldn’t the Celtics be looking like contenders for the eastern conference championship at this moment? Rondo would be trying harder, KG would be looking into better supplements, and the rest of characters would have the Celtics ready to be in the thick of things. Then, because they are in the thick of things, they get in the running for Kevin Love…(Ok, I know they wouldn’t be in the running for Love because they wouldn’t have the draft picks…)…or Pau Gasol or even Chris Bosh.

The point is, teams break up too fast, and Danny blew this one. That’s always the point, and its the point here. The Spurs are one example of why it works when you stay together–you never know when a young pup is going to emerge that will re-energize the veterans. And the Celtics are now the other example. They wouldn’t have won this past year, but they’d be in the running this year and we’d have another year of sell-outs, thrilling playoff series, and KG and the Truth throwback moments. Next year, we could finally build around Green, Rondo, and Fab Melo (or did he go to Brazil or something?). These moments are short and they are sacred, and Danny unnecessarily shortened them so that we can have a decade of 35 to 45 win seasons. Thanks, Danny!

 

 

 

Is Brian Sabean a Good General Manager? (Hmm) Does Barry Bonds belong in the hall of fame?

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This weekend the Giants lost 3 straight to the Dodgers and the Hall of Fame inducted people without Barry Bonds. I care to comment.

Sabean. He’s won 2 World Series rings and kept the Giants in contention for 17 years, turning around and stabilizing and bringing glory to San Francisco after decades of bad crabs.

And yet, he pisses Giants fans off like no one else. He makes so many bad decisions. He pays so many over-the-hill veterans too much money (too many to mention), signs flash in the pan free agents to long term deals (Rowland, Huff), pays other free agents past their prime way too much money (Zito), and never is willing to trade for bats. This last thing especially pissed me off in the Barry Bonds era, in that he never gave Barry a suitable bat to hit behind him (with the brief exception of Ellis Burks). Every time Benito Santiago bounced into a double play after a Bonds intentional walk, I yelled of my pure hatred of Sabes. And he never changed. He kept signing shit free agents who were washed up.

And yet…. We know the “and yet.” One of those shit free agents, Edgar Renteria, ends up the MVP of the World Series. Aubrey Huff amazingly gave them a good year. Juan Uribe (or Juan Urine as my autocorrect prefers to refer to him) and Cody Ross. Barry Zito made all the overpaying worth it with a singular performance to never be forgotten, followed by a second singular performance (all the more impressive when he showed us the following season that he hadn’t turned any corners.)

Quick aside: what’s the most amazing performance you’ve ever seen given the player’s capabilities at the time? Bill Simmons, this is for you to ask with your massive research staff. But off the top of my head, Barry Zito’s two games in the fall of 2012 can hardly be matched. Also off the top of my head, maybe Pablo Sandoval’s 3 home runs off of Verlander, but that’s not close. Eli Manning’s two Super Bowl performances? Not comparable to Zito. Mike Miller’s three point barrage in the NBA finals? No, because I don’t like him, and shooting wide open threes while 4 guys guard LeBron isn’t as hard as what Zito did. Ok, enough with the aside. I’m out of ideas.

Mike Rowland never did anything and cost them tons of dollars, but Sabean rode Lincecum, Cain, and Bumgarner to brilliance. Does he deserve the credit, or did he just have some good scouts?

Assessment on Sabean: I remember vowing to never say a negative word about him again at least twice in the last five years. I’ll stick to it.

Bonds. I don’t care how many PEDs Bonds did (although, admittedly, picking a picture of him from the web reminded me of the sheer size of that head of his….its like young and old Elvis, which do you want to remember…and in this case, old Barry with his big head hit a lot of big homers, so that’s what I want to and will remember). Bonds walked 232 times in 2004–don’t just keep reading. Pause and think about it. 232 walks in one season. In fact, he hit 258 home runs in 5 years while walking 872 times in 716 games. Phenomenal. Watching him play in game after game, he’d get one to two pitches a game to swing at. Sometimes not even that. He was walked intentionally with the bases loaded. [Damn you Sabean--wait, no, not criticizing Sabean]. And when he got the one pitch of the day, he unloaded with that quick swing and juiced biceps so squarely on the ball so as to smash it like a laser into the water. I loved it. I’ll never forget it. Cue Witney Houston’s, “I will always love you.”

Everyone rehashes why or why not Bonds belongs in the HOF. But its simple. He was so singularly dominant in every way. He was by far the best player before ‘roids and he become super human with them. He no doubt benefitted from them, but he also faced huge obstacles—like all the walks and a horrible baseball park. Hank Aaron played in a homer field fiesta. If Bonds played in Atlanta with his big head, he’d have hit 1000 home runs. At the very least, shouldn’t he go to the HOF as the best cheater of all-time? A lot of people cheated and many are in the HOF, but only one player did all these phenomenal things.

Still think its unfair to give a cheater an honor like the hall of fame? Compare it to what the University of California, Berkeley did: they just gave a prestigious endowed chair to a war criminal, John Yoo. Bonds just swelled his head and everyone screams bloody murder. Yoo literally promoted screaming and bloody murder and a university gives him one of its highest honors. I realize the inanity of even comparing these two things, which makes the Yoo scandal all the more revolting. And puts Bonds and his quite sizable head in just perspective.

The Pace is the Trick

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Mark likes the hardcore sports. Basketball and football are great. WWF is even better.

He’s less enamored with baseball and soccer. There’s less immediately gratifying action, not as much violence (though I think I’ve seen him wearing a Suarez jersey in recent weeks), and a lot more activity that leads to nothing. He wants convincing that these sports are worth watching.

Tonight was a great audition for baseball. Dodgers-Pirates had violence, home runs, and lots of swagger. Then the Giants one upped them with Buster Posey homering to tie the game in the 9th, and Big Time Timmy Jim Lincecum coming in to get his first major league save in the 14th inning. Giants go one game up on the Dodgers. Lincecum becomes one of the very few pitchers in major league history to get both a save and pitch a no hitter in the same season.

And while the World Cup was the obvious entree to soccer, the MLS is suddenly emerging too. Sports are all about different paces and the way to enjoy any sport is to settle in and accept the pace its providing. Boxing is not soccer; football is not baseball. And if you are watching football, it can be jarring to adapt to the pace of a baseball game. But I’d argue it’s equally jarring to go the other way. If I’m watching soccer, its hard to adjust to the NFL–all of a sudden, the lack of fluidity is acute, the helmets and pads constitute obstructions, the constant substitutions a drag. This weekend, I watched a lot of MLS. Seattle showed it can play with Tottenham. Sporting Kansas City showed it can totally dominate the pace of a game while leading, for most of it, just 1-0. Yeah, the Revolution were pretty dull, but any team in any sport that’s on a long losing streak is dull. Would you rather watch the Revolution lose or the Sixers lose or the Jaguars lose?  The MLS is starting to find its rhythm, and its thriving off smaller cities with real crowds and blue collar players. And now, for the first time, its got a bit of star quality–not in the bloated past their prime Beckhams but in the Dempseys and Zusis.

Back to Lincecum real quick. He just turned 30, and he’s coming off more than 2 years as arguably the worst full-time starting pitcher in all of baseball. And I think he’s on a trajectory to make the Hall of Fame. Few players have been as exciting, as quirky, as human, and as a guy that everyone wants to watch than Tim Lincecum. And now with his seeming reinvention as a pitcher as opposed to a flame thrower, a mustache as opposed to long hair, he’s starting to rack up the kind of things that eventuate in the HOF. Two Cy Youngs, two championships, two no hitters; a no hitter and a save in a matter of weeks. If the Giants get a third championship, if Lincecum reinvents himself as Dennis Eckersley or just keeps doing what he’s doing, he’s there.

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Either Danny Ainge is throwing a major pity party and taking it out on Celtics fans, or he really wants us to hate him, or he has something up his sleeve. I really hope he has something up his sleeve. But it sure doesn’t appear to be Kevin Love, and the latest reports out of summer league is that Smart can’t shoot and that the guy drafted right after him by the Lakers appears to be the real athlete of the draft.

Ok. No problem. The Celtics just need a guard or forward or center who could shoot or maybe rebound.

Enter Evan Turner.

Evan Turner. Just one more letter than Kevin Love, minus the shooting, rebounding, and sweet outlet passes. He’s another ‘tweener who can sort of score, but can’t really shoot, can’t really defend. I’m really looking forward to a lineup with Smart, Thornton, Turner, Young, and Green. It’d really confuse the defense because they’d all be guarding the same guy.

Danny, please tell me this isn’t some sick revenge fantasy your casting on Celtics fans because we never really accepted you as one of the big 5 (Bird, McHale, Parish, DJ, Walton/Maxwell). Please tell me you aren’t going after Cody Zeller’s other brother and one more veteran ‘tweener who once averaged 18 for a lottery team. Please tell me you aren’t wooing Ricky Davis out of retirement. (Ok, I’d be happy to hear you are wooing Antwan, “I’d like to shoot 4s if they’d let me” Walker out of retirement).

Please tell me you are setting up the big deal that brings it all together. Where we all exclaim, ‘genius!’ Please. I’m ready to be wowed.

Am I being too harsh with what we’ve got now? Lets go upside. Rondo returns to elite PG, Smart becomes a young D.Wade, Young becomes a young Kobe, Green becomes old Sugar K Leonard, Sully, Olynyk, and the brother of Cody Zeller that we already have all clog the middle, Bradley comes off the bench for defensive energy and keeps emerging as the former best high schooler in America, while Turner, the Wallace not related to Rasheed, and Bass add depth. El Hombre truly becomes Indestructable.

I’m feeling better. I’m ignoring the obvious and fun ways to attack this trade from the likes of Deadspin and Kirk Goldsberry. I’m envisioning a lot of balance. Not a lot of boards, not too many shots outside of 12 feet or inside 3 feet, but a lot of shots, a lot of energy, a different tweener leading the team in scoring every night with a bunch of fast break dunks.

Unrepentant homer, right?

 

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