Russell Westbrook Can Help Defeat Trumpism

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I’ve been trying to think of how American athletes can help defeat Trump and the shithole that he brings to the American presidency. There’s been a lot of positive stuff happening, and especially coming from the NBA. That’s the most progressive sports league right now, and that’s where our anti-Trump movement can come from.

There’s one guy who can turn a lot of eloquent statements into something massive. It’s Russell Westbrook.

The reason is that he is the biggest singular star who plays for an NBA team in a city that voted for Trump. If you think about it, there aren’t many cities that voted for Trump. Lots of teams from red states, but not red cities. OKC is one of the very few.

Think of the impact if Westbrook said he wanted to be traded. That he can’t continue playing in front of Trump supporters. (Caveat alert here: even though most cities are Democrat, I don’t doubt that a lot of the NBA season ticket holders are from the suburbs of hateful Trump voters. Like… Cleveland? But not Boston, and not Oakland.)

I support democracy. The minority of Americans have spoken, and they have (through an anti-majoritarian institution called the electoral college) elected Donald Trump as president. OK. It is also democratic for individuals to protest, non-violently, as they wish. NBA players can make a statement by letting the people of OKC know that they aren’t supporting racial bigots and misogynists. And fascists. NBA players can make a statement against fascism too.

Unfortunately, Enes Kantor isn’t important enough to be that guy. Russell Westbrook is the one to make the statement. He can kill the franchise. He can tell the Trump supporters that there are costs to being hateful. We aren’t going to spend our money in Trump neighborhoods, and we aren’t going to compete wearing their jerseys.

I have other great ideas like this for taking on Trump… stay tuned.

Boo Trump, But Yay Aroldis?

On the day that Donald Trump’s open misogyny  is rightfully the talk of the nation, it was a little ironic to see all the beloved Cubs fans rooting for Aroldis Chapman, a guy who started the year suspended for domestic abuse. The Cubs went from lovable to ‘win at all costs’ when they traded for Chapman, and honestly, I don’t get how they dodge this topic so easily. They should be ashamed of themselves, and it taints all the hugging by Bill Murray, Eddie Vedder, and the rest of the otherwise seemingly sympathetic bunch. This is the guy who will most likely be on the mound if the Cubs go on to win the World Series. Yay Cubs! Yay baseball! Where’s the sarcasm emoji?

The baseball playoffs are the one time a year I realize that FOX Sports1 exists. And they have both Alex Rodriguez and Pete Rose on the set? Weird. Both aren’t going to the hall of fame because of major mistakes they made. Neither was involved in domestic violence. Yay baseball! I’m still looking for the sarcasm emoji.

 

 

 

 

Top Ten Most Improbable Stars of Giants Playoff Success

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Today’s very unexpected, some would just say lucky, performance by Ty Blach, an uninspiring, unhyped, and largely unsuccessful rookie who had never won a major league game before beating Clayton Kershaw in one of the most important games of the year, is just the latest in crazy moments in Giants playoff success during this decade. It made me try and think of the craziest….

Clutch play from a clutch, but otherwise inconsistent, player:

Juan Uribe (2010): At least two big homers, one to beat the Phillies and one to beat the Rangers. Not totally crazy, but not expected.

Pablo Sandoval (2012): As the Red Sox have found out, this guy is only good in the playoffs. And he hit three(!) homers off Justin Verlander in Game One of the World Series.

Edgar Renteria (2010): A guy with a history of big game performances, but a total suck for the Giants at the end of his career, and who had long lost his starting job, hits series winner off of Cliff Lee.

Brandon Crawford (2014): Grand slam to break a tie in the wild card game against the Pirates.

Hot for basically the only time in his life:

Cody Ross (2010): A journey-man outfielder, he hits two homers off Roy Halladay in Game One against the Phillies. Hadn’t Halladay pitched a no-hitter in his previous start?

Juan Perez (2014): I don’t remember the details, just that a guy who has played no significant role in major league baseball, had both big hits and defensive plays throughout the playoffs.

Yusmeiro Petit (2014): Six plus no-hit innings against the Nationals in relief.

Travis Ishikawa (2014): Absolutely mind-boggling improbable. Barely ever played before the playoffs, then gets thrown in left field (which he can’t play), then hits the homer that wins the Giants the pennant.

 

Just Weird:

Hunter Pence’s huge single that hit his shattered bat three times and drove in 3 runs.

Only in SF’s land of hallucinogenic drugs:

Barry Zito (2012): Game 5 of the NL playoffs, down 3 games to 1 against the Cardinals, in St. Louis, and the long downtrodden and unsuccessful Zito pitched the game of his SF Giants life, making everyone forgive the more than hundred million dollars of wasted money the Giants paid him. He beat Verlander in the WS, too.

 

Giants Are Still Dangerous

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As bad as the Giants have looked for nearly two months, and as bad as they looked today, I still think they can be successful in the playoffs. The series they just lost to the Cubs shows how. Four straight one run games, all of which were the types of games the Giants have won repeatedly in the playoffs. If they can lineup Bumgarner and Cueto to each start twice in the series, they can beat anyone.

One big problem with two problematic scenarios. They don’t currently have a closer that can be counted on. Santiago Casilla is not terrible, but he’s not the kind of lock down guy the Giants rely on. They need a lock down bullpen because this team never has any room for error. And Casilla is the error.

So, that’s the first problematic scenario: that Casilla can’t close. The second is that it’s looking increasingly likely that their playoff participation–if it happens, and the Mets are coming fast–is going to be as a wild card team. That means, most likely, that Bumgarner has to pitch the wild card game. Even if they win, that means they play the Cubs without being able to use their ace more than once. Yeah…they are pretty fucked.

To avoid being fucked, they need to start thinking about other closers. They’ve got 2-3 that could work instead of Casilla. All have their own problems, but all have potential. How about trying them all out and seeing who gets hot? Or closer by committee?

There are 27 games left. 17 are against sub-500 teams. Of the remaining 10, six are against the Dodgers, including the final three of the season at home. It’s still there for the Giants to do this, but they are pretty much out of opportunities to mess up.

 

 

Do We Need the National Anthem at Sporting Events?

 

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Colin Kaepernick is a brave man. He’s taking on the third rail of sports:  standing for the National Anthem. The sporting world can be both provocatively progressive and angrily conservative. When it comes to topics like America, its a lot more Trump than Obama. Don’t let all the nostalgic remembrances of Ali fool you. The sporting world is typically unforgiving when it comes to challenging the status quo on the subject of patriotism. When Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf refused to stand for the Anthem two decades ago, his NBA career never recovered. Like Abdul-Rauf, Kaepernick is doing it for commendable, thoughtful reasons. Like Abdul-Rauf, he’s hearing the haters really loud right now.

But things have changed. Especially in sports, and especially among African American athletes in this moment of #blacklivesmatter. Kaepernick is following an increasing number of vocal black athletes speaking up against the horribly oppressive reality of current day racial inequality. I don’t think Kaepernick’s sports community is going to be as quiet as they were when Abdul-Rauf was left alone in protest. Already, we are hearing a debate about the Anthem, its historic links to slavery and black colonization, its current links to a national community that is currently reeling from the most racially charged presidential election in modern times. Current polls are showing only one percent of African American voters are supporting Donald Trump! Current polls are also showing that a majority of white voters are supporting the racist hate monger! (Let that sink in: a majority of whites in America support Trump.)

Kaepernick has been thoughtful in his defense, and he has a social movement mobilized to defend his acts, both inside and outside the sports world. It’s great that the sports world is becoming engaged. (Speaking of the opposite, I’m watching Kim Kardashian vacuously introduce Brittney Spears on the MTV music awards as I type). This isn’t going to go away so quietly as it has in the past.

Regardless of what I think about Kaepernick’s political statement, can we get rid of the national anthem before most sporting events? I’m willing to allow it for certain big games, like the Super Bowl, which have become patriotic ‘American’ events. But why do I need to hear it before an exhibition football game, or the 103rd game of the MLB season? We don’t hear it before movies, before class, before work, before primetime television. TV (except for FOX) cuts away to commercial while it’s being sung. An increasingly large portion of athletes are not Americans. And very few people are listening thoughtfully to the anthem while standing in the beer line. It’s also followed by–at least in the NBA–with very loud music and someone yelling “MAKE SOME NOISE!!!”

Let’s reserve our anthem for moments that are supposed to be thoughtfully patriotic. Play it on July 4th and at the Super Bowl. But let’s stop pretending it’s a bigger deal than it is. We don’t need to take time to reflect on our national service three minutes before watching a game.