18. Watch more TV. Yeah, you heard right, Little Kareem. It's great that you always have your nose in history books. That's made you more knowledgeable about your past and it has put the present in context. But pop culture is history in the making and watching some of the popular shows of each era reveals a lot about the average person, while history books often dwell on the powerful people.
Loyalty to my team is the real reason I didn't come out sooner. When I signed a free-agent contract with Boston last July, I decided to commit myself to the Celtics and not let my personal life become a distraction. When I was traded to the Wizards, the political significance of coming out sunk in. I was ready to open up to the press, but I had to wait until the season was over.
A college classmate tried to persuade me to come out then and there. But I couldn't yet. My one small gesture of solidarity was to wear jersey number 98 with the Celtics and then the Wizards. The number has great significance to the gay community. One of the most notorious antigay hate crimes occurred in 1998. Matthew Shepard, a University of Wyoming student, was kidnapped, tortured and lashed to a prairie fence. He died five days after he was finally found. That same year the Trevor Project was founded. This amazing organization provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention to kids struggling with their sexual identity. Trust me, I know that struggle. I've struggled with some insane logic. When I put on my jersey I was making a statement to myself, my family and my friends.
The strain of hiding my sexuality became almost unbearable in March, when the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments for and against same-sex marriage. Less then three miles from my apartment, nine jurists argued about my happiness and my future. Here was my chance to be heard, and I couldn't say a thing. I didn't want to answer questions and draw attention to myself. Not while I was still playing.
One of the most formidable tools in a pro baseball pitcher's arsenal is the consistency of pitching motion when throwing different kinds of pitches. If your delivery looks the same to an opposing batter when throwing a 95-mph fastball, a 80-mph curve, and a 85-mph change-up, well, you've really got something there. Texas pitcher Yu Darvish is ripping up the AL this year with a 4-1 record, 1.65 ERA, and 49 strikeouts, which prompted Drew Sheppard to layer five of Darvish's pitches on top of one another in an animated GIF:
All the Darvishes use the same delivery but the five balls end up crossing the plate at very different times and locations. A perfect use of time merge media to illustrate just how difficult it must be stand in there against the controlled athleticism of a pitcher at the top of his game. "The Mona Lisa of GIFs" indeed. (via @djacobs)
Update: Here's a video demonstrating similar consistency in Roger Federer's serve:
I remember NBC using this technique at various points during the last couple of Olympics as well. (via @agonde)
Buried in this column about the 2013 NBA playoffs is an astounding statistic:
Dwight Howard missed more free throws this season (366) than Lakers teammate Steve Nash has missed in his 17-year NBA career (322). Howard: 355 for 721 this season, 49.2 percent; Nash: 3,038 for 3,360 from 1996-97 through 2012-13, 90.4 percent.
Now, Howard takes more than double (and sometimes triple) the amount of free throws than Nash does, partially because center/forwards get fouled more than point guards. But Howard also gets intentionally fouled because he's such a bad free throw shooter whereas a reach-in foul on Nash is almost as good as a basket and so players almost never do it, unless they want to find their asses on the bench.
One question I always had about the card was: why did Gretzky ever sell it? The Wagner might just have been an investment for him, but if you're rich and a huge sports guy and you own the most pristine copy of the world's rarest and most valuable sports card, why would you ever sell it? One possible answer: you suspected (or discovered) that the card had been doctored and got rid of the damn thing before the truth came out. That Gretzky, always skating to where the puck is going to be.
Abel Rodríguez waxes floors for a living in Los Angeles and takes two weeks of vacation a year to work gratis for Real Madrid when the European football club trains in Los Angeles every summer. He had always dreamed of seeing Real Madrid playing their Spanish rivals Barcelona in Madrid, so his family persuaded him to go. He went. With no hotel or ticket to the game, he sat outside the club's training complex for hours until manager José Mourinho spotted him as he was leaving..."Stop! It's the guy from Los Angeles." Thus began Abel Rodríguez's magical journey.
You never know when karma will come back and reward you for something. For seven summers Rodriguez worked for free for Real Madrid, even when the club was willing to pay him for his efforts in Los Angeles. Now he was about to experience the thrill of a lifetime.
His versatility amazes other runners, including Jurek, who today is a friend. Jornet has been able to run the very short mountain races like a vertical kilometer race that's over in a couple of hours, Jurek says -- and then, he adds, Jornet can turn around and win the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run in California's Sierra mountains, arguably the world's most prestigious ultrarun. (Jurek himself won the Western States seven consecutive times between 1999 and 2005.) It's a little like an Olympic-champion sprinter winning the Boston Marathon.
How is Jornet able to do these things? In part because of his upbringing in the mountains:
Even among top athletes, Jornet is an outlier. Take his VO2 max, a measure of a person's ability to consume oxygen and a factor in determining aerobic endurance. An average male's VO2 max is 45 to 55 ml/kg/min. A college-level 10,000-meter runner's max is typically 60 to 70. Jornet's VO2 max is 89.5 -- one of the highest recorded, according to Daniel Brotons Cuixart, a sports specialist at the University of Barcelona who tested Jornet last fall. Jornet simply has more men in the engine room, shoveling coal. "I've not seen any athletes higher than the low 80s, and we've tested some elite athletes," says Edward Coyle, director of the Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin, who has studied the limits of human exercise performance for three decades.
He also seems at one with nature and the mountains more than most people:
Observers and competitors describe him as someone who draws endurance and vitality, Samson-like, from being among high peaks. Runners who have served as pacesetters for him have told me with amazement how, when he was midrace at Lake Tahoe, Jornet didn't run with his head down in focused misery but instead brushed the hairgrass and corn lily that grew along the trail with his fingertips and brought the smell to his nose, as if he were feeding off the scenery. Sometimes in his all-day solitary runs, stopping only to eat berries, he can seem half-feral, more mountain goat than human. He likes to move fast and touch rock and feel wild, he told me; he feels most at ease and performs best when wrapped by the silence and beauty of the mountains. He can't abide cities for more than a few hours. The sea -- its unrelenting horizontality -- scares him. Leading long races like Western States, he's been known to stop and exclaim at a sunrise, or wait for friends to catch up so he can enjoy the mountains with them instead of furthering his lead. "It's almost insulting," Krupicka told me. But it's just Kilian being Kilian, Krupicka said. "He's not rubbing it in anyone's face. He's truly enjoying being out there in the mountains, and he's expressing that."
This story by Kevin Guilfoile about his aging father (who worked for the Pirates and the Baseball Hall of Fame) and the mystery of what happened to the bat that Roberto Clemente got his 3,000th hit with is one of my favorite things that I've read over the past few months.
[My father's] personality is present, if his memories are a jumble. He is still funny, and surprisingly quick with one-liners to crack up the staff at the facility where he lives. He is exceedingly polite, same as he ever was. He is good at faking a casual conversation, especially on the phone. But if you sit and talk with him for a long time, he gets very anxious. He starts tapping his forehead with his fingers. "Shouldn't we be going?" he'll say. You tell him there's no place we need to be, but 30 seconds later he'll ask again, "Shouldn't we be going?"
What happens to memories when they're collapsed inside time like this? They don't exactly disappear, they just become impossible to unpack. And so my father, who loved stories so much -- who loved to tell them, who loved to hear them -- can no longer comprehend them. The structure of any story, after all, is that this happened and then that happened, and he can't make sense of any sequence.
That is the real hell of this disease. His own identity has become a puzzle he can't solve.
Objects have stories, too. Puzzles that need to be solved. Like a pair of baseball bats, for instance, that each passed through Roberto Clemente's hands before they passed through my father's. One hung on my bedroom wall throughout my childhood. The other is in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
These objects never forget, but they never tell their stories, either.
Without a little bit of luck, we'd never hear them.
Or more than a little luck:
My father has lots of old baseball bats given to him by players he worked with over the years. He has Mickey Mantle bats from his years with the Yankees, and Willie Stargell and Dave Parker bats from his days with the Pirates. The one I always loved best was an Adirondack model with R CLEMENTE embossed in modest block letters, instead of the usual signature burned into the barrel. On the bottom of the knob, Roberto had written a tiny "37" in ballpoint pen, presumably to indicate its weight: 37 ounces. It also had a series of scrapes around the middle where someone had scratched off the trademark stripe that encircled all Adirondack bats. Former Pirates GM Joe Brown gave my dad this bat several years after Roberto died. For much of my childhood it hung on the wall of my bedroom, on a long rack with about a dozen other game-used bats.
My dad had been working at the Hall of Fame for more than a decade when, in 1993, his old friend Tony Bartirome, a one-time Pirates infielder who had become their longtime trainer, came to Cooperstown for a visit. Tony and his wife went to dinner with my folks and then came back to our house to chat. The only way to go to the first-floor washroom in that house was through my old bedroom, and on a trip there, Tony noticed that Adirondack of Clemente's hanging on the wall.
Tony carried it into the living room. He said to Dad, "Where did you get this bat?" My dad told him that Joe Brown had given him the bat as a gift, sometime in the late '70s. "Bill," Tony said. "This is the bat Roberto used to get his 3,000th hit."
My father was confused by this. "That's impossible," he told Tony. "The day he hit 3,000 I went down to the clubhouse, and Roberto himself handed me the bat he used. I sent it to the Hall of Fame. I walk by it every day."
"Well," Tony said. "I have a story to tell you."
It's a wonderful story, read the whole thing. Or get the book: the story is excerpted from Guilfoile's A Drive into the Gap, available here or for the Kindle.
Michael Jordan just turned 50 and so Deadspin's Emma Carmichael asked former Cavs guard Craig Ehlo what it was like to guard Jordan in his prime. Sometimes Jordan would tell Ehlo what he was going to do ahead of time and still score.
Usually, Ron Harper would start on him, then I would come in and go to him, and Ron would go to Scottie Pippen or something like that. I always felt very lucky that Coach Wilkens had that faith in me to guard him. Michael was very competitive when he got between the lines. He was never a bad talker or too arrogant, but it was just like what Jason [Williams] said: He'd tell you. He only did that to me one time, from what I remember. It was his 69-point game, and things were going so well for him that I guess he just went for it. We were running up the court side-by-side and he told me: "Listen man, I'm hitting everything, so I'm gonna tell you what I'm gonna do this time and see if you can stop it. You know you can't stop it. You know you can't stop this. You can't guard me.
"I'm gonna catch it on the left elbow, and then I'm gonna drive to the left to the baseline, and then I'm gonna pull up and shoot my fadeaway."
If you don't know anything about football and yet are interested in (or being coerced into) watching the big game this weekend, here are some players' stories that might make it more interesting for you.
Whether actively experiencing the spectacle or not, there are a few reasons to like the Super Bowl in 2013, besides the fact that the Baltimore Ravens are the first major professional sports franchise, so far, to be named after a 19th century poem. For starters, in a sports year that's already brought us doping cyclists and fake dead girlfriends, the teams in this year's contest are welcome standouts. The San Francisco 49ers were the first NFL team to join the "It Gets Better" campaign, and their opponent, the Ravens, has a team captain who is the most outspoken advocate of LGBT rights in the NFL, and whose presence has evolved the once overtly homophobic locker-room culture of his entire team.
I loved this line in reference to Colin Kapernick's replacement of Alex Smith as the 49ers' starting QB:
The deliberate, steady bus was replaced by a flaming Apache helicopter flown by a nude Vladimir Putin.
Carlin Isles is one of the world's fastest men at the 100 meters but that wasn't good enough to make the US Olympic team. So he looked for other sports in which to make his mark and settled on rugby sevens. The difference in speed between him and the other players on the field is startling.
I saw this video back in December and didn't think much of it, aside from "wow, that dude is fast". But on Twitter the other day, Robin Sloan suggested it was Kottke-esque. Now that I've watched it again, I think I know what he was getting at.
People in tech talk a lot about innovation and disruption but there's a lot of hand-waving that happens when you attempt to pinpoint what those things mean. One of the reasons I enjoy following sports -- and in particular the sporting world's outliers (Messi, Jordan, Billy Beane, Rodman, Magnus Carlsen, Vonn, Belichick, Federer, knuckleball pitchers, Barry Sanders, Serena, etc.) -- is that you can see innovation and disruption in action, more or less directly. When Carlin Isles takes a pass from one of his teammates and blazes past the other team, it's clear he's playing an entirely different game than the other 13 players on the field and profiting handsomely from it...innovation results in disruption.
(Oh, and it's not that Isles is necessarily any good at rugby...that remains to be seen. But the combination of speed and size that he brings to the game is a disruptive innovation and opposing teams will have to change the way they play when he's on the field.)
Update: Like I said, it remains to be seen whether or not Isles has a big impact on rugby, but Jonah Lomu was a star rugby player who had a long-lasting influence on the game:
Lomu in his prime was not quite as fast as Isles (10.13s vs 10.8s in the 100 meters) but at 6'5" and 276 lbs, he had a brutal combination of pace and size. (via @dan_connolly)
The thought experiment is to compare players across sports. I.e., are basketball players better at basketball than, say, snooker players are at playing snooker?
Unless you count being tall as one of the things NBA basketball players "do" I would say on the contrary that NBA basketball players must be among the worst at what they do in all of professional sports. The reason is simple: because height is so important in basketball, the NBA is drawing the top talent among a highly selected sub-population: those that are exceptionally tall. The skill distribution of the overall population, focusing on those skills that make a great basketball player like coordination, quickness, agility, accuracy; certainly dominate the distribution of the subpopulation from which the NBA draws its players.
The question Posnanski is essentially asking is: who is the most dominant athlete of all time across any sport? But not quite that question...Babe Ruth was quite the slugger in his day, but he might not fare so well against modern pitching. Same with Wilt, Jim Thorpe, Babe Didrikson, or even Gretzky. The game played is a factor as well. Aside from variants such as speed chess and Chess960, chess is chess and the board is the board...home field, wind, and teammates aren't really a factor. (Is chess a sport though? If so, I might take Kasparov against anyone.)
CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), the degenerative brain disease that could dramatically change the way pro football is played in the future (if it's played at all), can't be identified in victims until after death. That makes it difficult to prove (or disprove) the connection between pro football, concussions, and death from CTE. But researchers have discovered a possible technique that could diagnose CTE in living patients.
Last year five retired N.F.L. players who were 45 years and older and suffered from mood swings, depression and cognitive problems were given PET, or positron emission tomography, scans. The authors of the study said those scans revealed tau protein deposits in their brains, a signature of C.T.E. While not definitive, the distribution of tau in the retired players was consistent with those found in the autopsies of players who had C.T.E.
If it's actually possible, this could be huge. Many more players, current and former, can be tested and diagnosed and if CTE was found regularly and consistently, you'd think that insurance companies would flee from the NFL like rats leaving a sinking ship and football would have to adapt (to be more like soccer? flag football?) or die.
"The worst injury I've ever had on the field -- for my wife and kids, at least, and my mom and dad -- was an injury I got against the 49ers," says Matt Hasselbeck. "Patrick Willis hit me as I was diving for the goal line. He hit me, and twenty minutes later I'm in an ambulance on my way to Stanford Medical. I'd broken a rib on the left and I'd broken a rib on the right. The rib on the right was right next to my aorta, and it was really dangerous for my health. I couldn't breathe. It was like there was a weight on top of me. It's a scary thing, because it feels like you're drowning. I couldn't breathe at all, and I got up off the field because it was a two-minute situation - I didn't want the team to have to take a time-out. I tried to run off the field, and when the trainers met me they saw I was, like, purple in the face. And they immediately put me on the ground. Sometimes they'll put you on the ground to evaluate you and sometimes to give the backup quarterback a chance to get loose. They put me on the ground because I was purple."
That instinct - the instinct to run when you can't breathe in order to save your team a time-out - is not one often encountered in civilian life. Indeed, it is one encountered almost exclusively in war, in which people's lives, rather than simply their livelihoods, are at stake. Now, the NFL is replete with military symbolism, not to mention military pretensions. But the reality of injury is what makes it more than fantasy football, more than professional wrestling, more than an action movie, more than a video game played with moving parts who happen to be human. The reality of injury - and the phantasmagoric world of pain - is what makes it, legitimately, a blood sport. And it is what makes Dr. Yates, the Steelers' team doctor, define his job simply and bluntly: "My job is to protect players from themselves."
Former NFL star Jason Taylor was so injured (and yet still playing every week) that for a period of two years, the 6'6" 240-pound linebacker couldn't lift his kids into bed. So how did he play? Shots to kill the pain and then more shots to kill the pain of the first shots. And so on. Until he almost had to have his leg amputated.
The trainer rushed to Taylor's house. Taylor thought he was overreacting. The trainer told him they were immediately going to the hospital. A test kit came out. Taylor's blood pressure was so high that the doctors thought the test kit was faulty. Another test. Same crazy numbers. Doctors demanded immediate surgery. Taylor said absolutely not, that he wanted to call his wife and his agent and the famed Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion. Andrews also recommended surgery, and fast. Taylor said, fine, he'd fly out in owner Daniel Snyder's private jet in the morning. Andrews said that was fine but that he'd have to cut off Taylor's leg upon arrival. Taylor thought he was joking. Andrews wasn't. Compartment syndrome. Muscle bleeds into the cavity, causing nerve damage. Two more hours, and Taylor would have had one fewer leg. Fans later sent him supportive notes about their own compartment syndrome, many of them in wheelchairs.
"I was mad because I had to sit out three weeks," he says. "I was hot."
He had seven to nine inches of nerve damage.
"The things we do," he explains. "Players play. It is who we are. We always think we can overcome."
At the New Yorker, Reeves Wiedeman reminds us that the NFL is unlikely to change because so much of what happens with injuries is hidden from view.
As we watch a game that we know is dangerous, we soothe ourselves with the idea that these men must be aware of the risks, too; that they are being well compensated to take on those risks; and that, at least when they're on the field, in front of the cameras, they are living the dream that we all craved as kids, and they're having fun.
But what we can take from this story, and from the fact that, on the surface, this weekend's games were filled with such excitement, is the fact that so much of football's barbarism takes place beyond our vision and behind closed doors.
Troy Aikman moves around the field at Cowboys Stadium as if he owns the place, but in a previous-owner kind of way. He'll soon call a game here for Fox. People scream his name from the stands as he moves toward midfield to meet a head coach and a PR man. The sportcaster's partner, Joe Buck, sits up in the booth, preparing. The Cowboys. The Saints. Thanksgiving Day. Here's the behind-the-scenes look at how Fox's broadcast of the game happens.
If Aikman -- and Buck, too -- have any misconceptions about their comedic chops, it's because, for several months out of the year, they are surrounded by people who laugh too hard at their jokes or anything that even seems like a joke. The next day, Aikman makes the slightest quip about the size of the enormous screen that hovers above the field at Cowboys Stadium -- certainly strip-mined ground even a couple of months after the place opened. The reaction he receives would seem improbable even if Louis C.K. had delivered the line.
Pretty interesting. Aikman and Buck are among my favorite football announcers, but they're not as good as Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth or John Madden and Anyone At All.
"I think it's important for everyone to know that Junior did indeed suffer from CTE," Gina Seau said. "It's important that we take steps to help these players. We certainly don't want to see anything like this happen again to any of our athletes."
She said the family was told that Seau's disease resulted from "a lot of head-to-head collisions over the course of 20 years of playing in the NFL. And that it gradually, you know, developed the deterioration of his brain and his ability to think logically."
Under certain warming forecasts, more than half of the 103 ski resorts in the Northeast will not be able to maintain a 100-day season by 2039, according to a study to be published next year by Daniel Scott, director of the Interdisciplinary Center on Climate Change at the University of Waterloo in Ontario.
By then, no ski area in Connecticut or Massachusetts is likely to be economically viable, Mr. Scott said. Only 7 of 18 resorts in New Hampshire and 8 of 14 in Maine will be. New York's 36 ski areas, most of them in the western part of the state, will have shrunk to 9.
The trouble with using statistics to improve the performance of sports teams is the difficulty in choosing what stats to track. Kirk Goldsberry makes that case that we should be tracking a new statistic called the Kobe Assist, which is actually a good kind of missed shot.
Kobe was wide-open; he caught the ball and shot without hesitation. He missed, and despite the great screen by Howard and the great playmaking by Nash, this beautiful basketball sequence was seemingly fruitless. Nash would not get his assist.
However, while Nash was busy playmaking and while Kobe was busy jump shooting, Dwight Howard had taken about seven steps toward his happy place -- the restricted area -- fought off the gigantic DeMarcus Cousins, and gained optimal rebounding position. Kobe's miss ricocheted upward from the rim before descending back down into the hands of Howard, who quickly put the ball in the basket; the Staples crowd went wild (in the dark). Did Kobe just miss a shot or did he just inadvertently set up Dwight Howard for an easy score? Are some of Kobe's missed shots actually good for the Lakers? Are some of his misses kind of like assists?
Wimbledon winner and world No 1 Novak, 25, wants the donkey's milk cheese to supply a new chain of restaurants in his Serbian homeland. The delicacy, known as pule, is made in Zasavica, Serbia, and is described as similar to Spanish manchego. Donkey milk is said to be very healthy for humans as it has anti-allergen properties and is low fat.
What followed was something like the movie scene where every non-essential part on the plane is removed in order to make it light enough to take off from the short, improvised runway. First to go were any tunes longer than 30 seconds. Then, after the 2009 season in which Kelly became Oregon's head coach, Wiltshire ditched the flipbook on which the songs were written in favor of hand signals. "By the time I flipped a page," he says, "it was already too late." Knowing he had to serve two masters -- playing faster while still engaging the audience -- Wiltshire hit upon a new idea: theme music. Now whenever one of Oregon's star players gets a first down, the band plays the first five chords of a recognizable song: the "Hawaii Five-O" theme for quarterback Marcus Mariota (because he's originally from Hawaii); "Mambo No. 5" for De'Anthony Thomas (because his nickname is "the Black Mamba"); and the "Superman" theme for Kenjon Barner (because he's really good).
Tim Jahnigen has always followed his heart, whether as a carpenter, a chef, a lyricist or now as an entrepreneur. So in 2006, when he saw a documentary about children in Darfur who found solace playing soccer with balls made out of garbage and string, he was inspired to do something about it.
The children, he learned, used trash because the balls donated by relief agencies and sporting goods companies quickly ripped or deflated on the rocky dirt that doubled as soccer fields. Kicking a ball around provided such joy in otherwise stressful and trying conditions that the children would play with practically anything that approximated a ball.
"The only thing that sustained these kids is play," said Mr. Jahnigen of Berkeley, Calif. "Yet the millions of balls that are donated go flat within 24 hours."
You can buy one online and for every ball that you buy, one will be donated to a community in need.
Last week, the hosts of NFL Kick Off on ESPN, Trey Wingo, Mark Sclereth, and Tedy Bruschi, jammed as many Princess Bride references as they could into their half hour show. Jack Moore collected them. Genuine guffaw at "There will be no survivors" from around :45.
This is one of the nuttiest sports things I have ever seen. Ethan Sherwood Strauss was rewatching a second round game from the 1993 NBA playoffs. Shawn Kemp's Seattle SuperSonics vs. Hakeem Olajuwon's Houston Rockets. Game seven. Overtime. Hakeem has the ball in the closing moments of the game. And suddenly, Strauss spies a sixth player on the court for Houston. The refs missed the extra player and so did most everyone else for the last 19 years. Take a look for yourself...the play in question starts at 16:50:
Number 22 just wanders off the bench and into the game!
Brian Simmons does not like the clay at this year's World Horseshoe Tournament in Knoxville, Tenn. It's powdery, slippery. Even the non-horseshoe pitchers can tell this, because the bleachers in the convention center, where the tournament is being held, are coated in a light gray dust and the concrete floor has gotten more slick with each passing day. The clay dust gets on Simmons's shoes and then the shoes slip out of his hand. It's supposed to be Kentucky Blue Clay but that is hard to believe. More like Kentucky Synthetic, one man says. It makes it damn hard to pitch a horseshoe with the accuracy normally attributed to a man like Simmons.
This is what Simmons is thinking about as he stares down a 14-inch tall stake. He is thinking about the slippery clay, and how he might adjust his release point, and as these thoughts slip into his brain, he has lost without even pitching the shoe.
Also, I have been throwing horseshoes wrong all these years.
The next time people in Rosario heard his name, he was a star. "It is difficult to be a hero in your own city," explained Marcelo Ramirez, a family friend and radio host who showed us text messages from Messi. "He didn't grow up here. It's like he lost contact with the people. He is more an international figure than a Rosarino."
The Argentine national team coaches found out about him through a videotape, and the first time they sent him an invitation to join the squad, they addressed it to "Leonel Mecci." In the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, playing outside the familiar Barcelona system, he struggled, at least in the expectant eyes of his countrymen. His coaches and teammates didn't understand the aloof Messi, who once went to a team-building barbecue and never said a word, not even to ask for meat. The people from Argentina thought he was Spanish, and in the cafes and pool halls, they wondered why he always won championships for Barcelona but never for his own country. They raged when he didn't sing the national anthem before games. In Barcelona, Messi inspired the same reaction. People noticed he didn't speak Catalan and protected his Rosarino accent. He bought meat from an Argentine butcher and ate in Argentine restaurants. "Barcelona is not his place in the world," influential Spanish soccer editor Aitor Lagunas wrote in an e-mail. "It's a kind of a laboral emigrant with an undisguised homesick feeling."
The Clowns were baseball's answer to the Harlem Globetrotters. Players entertained the crowd with various comedic antics, including "shadowball", where they would go through a warm-up routine with no baseball. When the team joined the Negro American League, they dropped the "Ethiopian" moniker and played straight baseball.
I missed this when it was announced in August, but there will be a third series of ESPN's 30 for 30 documentary films, and one scheduled to air in December will feature Bo Jackson.
A close look at the man and marketing campaign that shaped his legacy. Even without winning a Super Bowl or World Series, Bo redefined the role of the athlete in the pop cultural conversation. More than 20 years later, myths and legends still surround Bo Jackson, and his impossible feats still capture our collective imagination.
The statue, entitled "Headbutt," is by the Algerian sculptor Adel Abdessemed, and coincides with an exhibition of his work in the museum. "This statue goes against the tradition of making statues to honor victories," said Phillipe Alain Michaud, who directed the exhibition. "It is an ode to defeat... Zidane's downward glance recalls that of Adam, chased from paradise."
But as Michaud knows, and surely as Abdessemed intends, it is both not so simple and much simpler. It is an ode to more than defeat; but it's also a representation of very basic feelings complicated by literary analogy. The Headbutt was full of anger, stupidity, and recklessness, but beneath them lay a damaged sense of honor. This makes it hard for even the calmest football fan to wholly begrudge Zidane his actions.
One hemisphere of your brain can cause you to over-think things and choke at key moments during athletic competitions. Scientists wondered if you could somehow break that pattern by doing something as simple as making a fist with your left hand. And it worked.
Lead researcher Juergen Beckmann, PhD, put it pretty profoundly: "Consciously trying to keep one's balance is likely to produce imbalance." Simple (brain-hemisphere-dependent) tasks that activate motor portions of the brain while drawing activity away from the ruminating portions can help experienced athletes perform (in terms of accuracy and complex body movements done from muscle memory) without being messed up by nerves. "Just let it happen; be the ball."
Correct me if I'm wrong, but this video of a soccer player picking up a piece of garbage and casually throwing it off the field COME TO FIND OUT IT IS SOME SORT OF EXPLOSIVE DEVICE THAT EXPLODES WHEN HE THROWS IT is crazy. I didn't want to bury the lede on that one. The game was an AFC Champions League match between Iran's Sepahan and Saudi Arabia's Al-Ahli at Foolad Shahr Stadium, and the lucky player was Sepahan midfielder Adel Kolahkaj.
Here's another version with some more detail/slow mo. I'm not wrong, right? That was totally crazy and not something you would expect during a soccer match? And it's not fake, is it? (via cosby sweaters)
From inside the club, Aisner and his friend watched out the front window as Ali screetched up in a red Cadillac convertible, parked in front of a fire hydrant, and jumped over the car door.
For the next 20 minutes, Ali talked boxing, footwork, why he wanted to fight -- and launched into an epic, unprompted riff about traveling to Mars and fighting for the intergalactic boxing title. All went smoothly -- until Aisner realized he'd forgot to turn on the tape recorder.
"I was mortified," he says. "I said, 'Champ, do you think you could do that again?'"
The study, which aggregates results from a decade's worth of experiments, found that "palm cooling" helped people do 144 percent more pull-ups than they did before, on average. A closer look reveals that the effect might not be so beefy as it looks, however. That figure comes from testing just a handful of people in the lab-even after 10 years of research-and it has some honking error bars (+/-83 percent). To put it in perspective: Before the palm-cooled training, their scores ranged from 70 to 153 pull-ups in each session; after training, they ranged from 70 to 616.
In almost every case, the perceived skill-level gender gap between males and females is overblown. One exception: Throwing. According to one researcher: "The overhand throwing gap, beginning at 4 years of age, is three times the difference of any other motor task, and it just gets bigger across age. By 18, there's hardly any overlap in the distribution: Nearly every boy by age 15 throws better than the best girl." About the only thing I can do better than my wife is manage a browser with 65 open tabs.
Apparently no one told Erin DiMeglio about this throwing research. She plays quarterback on her high school football team in Florida.
Leveraging the high number of specialized heat-transfer veins in the palm of the human hand, researchers at Stanford have developed a thermal exchange glove that is able to cool a person's core temperature in a matter of minutes. Turns out this is helpful for athletes.
The glove's effects on athletic performance didn't become apparent until the researchers began using the glove to cool a member of the lab -- the confessed "gym rat" and frequent coauthor Vinh Cao -- between sets of pull-ups. The glove seemed to nearly erase his muscle fatigue; after multiple rounds, cooling allowed him to do just as many pull-ups as he did the first time around. So the researchers started cooling him after every other set of pull-ups.
"Then in the next six weeks he went from doing 180 pull-ups total to over 620," said Heller. "That was a rate of physical performance improvement that was just unprecedented."
The researchers applied the cooling method to other types of exercise -- bench press, running, cycling. In every case, rates of gain in recovery were dramatic, without any evidence of the body being damaged by overwork - hence the "better than steroids" claim.
The cooling resets a temperature-sensitive enzyme that muscles need to generate energy, "essentially resetting the muscle's state of fatigue". I expect this will be either everywhere in pro sports in a couple of years or banned. (via @jsnell)
Or rather, just an amazing performance, full stop. I was alerted to this video by Dunstan Orchard who tweeted "this must be the most remarkable track race I've ever seen". I don't want to spoil it too much but pay attention to the guy in last place coming out of the curve.
Like a freight train! I've watched this race about 8 times now and it never gets old. The runner, Richard Whitehead, set the world record in the race. He also owns the world record in the marathon, which, amazing! Oh, and this table tennis shot is pretty great too.
If you had any remaining doubts about Lance Armstrong's involvement in doping, Tyler Hamilton's book should put those to rest. Hamilton was Armstrong's teammate on the U.S. Postal Service team, and in the book, he tells the story (corroborated by no fewer than nine former Armstrong/Hamilton teammates) of how Armstrong, the USPS team, and practically everyone else on the racing circuit doped in the 1990s/2000s. From an early look at the book by Christopher Keys at Outside Magazine:
The drugs are everywhere, and as Hamilton explains, Armstrong was not just another cyclist caught in the middle of an established drug culture -- he was a pioneer pushing into uncharted territory. In this sense, the book destroys another myth: that everyone was doing it, so Armstrong was, in a weird way, just competing on a level playing field. There was no level playing field. With his connections to Michele Ferrari, the best dishonest doctor in the business, Armstrong was always "two years ahead of what everybody else was doing," Hamilton writes. Even on the Postal squad there was a pecking order. Armstrong got the superior treatments.
What ultimately makes the book so damning, however, is that it doesn't require readers to put their full faith in Hamilton's word. In the book's preface, which details its genesis, Coyle not so subtly addresses Armstrong's supporters by pointing out that, while the story is told through Hamilton, nine former Postal teammates agreed to cooperate with him on The Secret Race, verifying and corroborating Hamilton's account. Nine teammates.
The story has been told so many times, of these early years, when Compton got used to the sight of the little girls who would always be playing tennis at the public park -- or riding around in their faded yellow VW bus with the middle seat taken out to accommodate the grocery cart full of balls -- but somehow the strangeness and drama of it retain a power to fascinate. The idea of this African-American family organizing itself, as a unit, in order to lay siege to perhaps the whitest sport in the world and pulling it off somehow. "I remember even talking to my sisters and brothers," Oracene said, recalling a time before anyone had ever heard of the Williams sisters, "and telling them: 'The girls are going to be professional. We're going to need a lawyer, and we're going to need an accountant.' "
Isha, the middle daughter -- sharply funny and practical, fiercely loyal to the family -- told me: "Life was get up, 6 o'clock in the morning, go to the tennis court, before school. After school, go to tennis. But it was consistency. I hate to put it [like this], but it's like training an animal. You can't just be sometimey with it." She still can't sleep past 6.
One thing Venus talked about that was interesting was how easy it is for professional athletes to pick up other sports. So what they are good at is not the sport itself, but it's just a way of being in the world. It's a sense of their own bodies and an ability to manipulate their own bodies and have sort of a visual map in your head of what the different parts are doing. At one point she was talking about doing a benefit with Peyton and Eli Manning. They'd almost never played tennis before and they started out awful, and she said it was amazing to watch them. It was like watching a film. Every stroke they hit was noticeably better than the last. Every time they hit the ball. She said you could almost watch their brains working and by the end of it they were totally competent tennis players.
The Super Manning Bros anecdote hits because, as David Foster Wallace pointed out in his evisceration of tennis player Tracy Austin's biography, it can be difficult for gifted athletes to talk about why and how they are able to do what they do. But Venus obviously can and I wish there'd been more of that in the main essay.
Lionel Messi's and Cristiano Ronaldo's league matches will disappear from the television sets of many American soccer fans, starting this weekend.
That's because the U.S. television rights to Spain's La Liga have switched from GolTV to the new beIN Sport USA network, launched this week by the Al-Jazeera Sport Media Network and available in only about 8 million homes to viewers of DirecTV and DISH Network.
And it's not just Spain's soccer that is affected.
Italy's Serie A, France's Ligue 1, England's second-tier League Championship and England's League Cup also have moved to high-spending beIN Sport, which is taking over all of them from News Corp.'s Fox Soccer.
"The ratings are going to be so low that they will be almost unmeasurable," said Marc Ganis of the Chicago-based Sports Corp. Ltd., consulting firm. "Considering the push that European soccer is making in the United States, taking additional money and losing exposure becomes fools' gold. They need to have a long-term strategy, not short-term."
Alain Prost retired from F1 racing for the final time in 1993, with his last race coming at the Australian Grand Prix in November. He finished second in the race to his fierce rival Ayrton Senna but handily won the World Championship to the runner-up Senna. But the two of them raced for one final time in December of that year...driving go-karts.
Predictably, the pair took it very seriously: four-time world champion Prost having tested extensively before the event; Senna, a three-time title holder, having a kart shipped to Brazil so that he could practise.
San Francisco Giant Melky Cabrera recently tested positive for a banned substance and received a 50 game penalty per MLB's rules. Prior to receiving the suspension, Cabrera made an attempt, new at least in the world of sports, to get off without punishment.
The New York Daily News has discovered that in an effort to beat the rap on his 50-game suspension, Melky and his "associates" devised a scheme that included purchasing a website for $10,000, making this website appear to sell a fake product and pretending Melky purchased and used the product, unaware that it contained a banned substance. Ohh, this close.
Cabrera offered the website as evidence during his appeal and the scheme devolved into comedy in short order.
Bernard James was this year's second round draft pick of the Cleveland Cavaliers (immediately traded to Dallas). He's also 27, and an Air Force veteran. This is a great story, I hope he has a long career.
Fans attend the NBA draft to boo. They boo Commissioner David Stern. They boo their draft picks. They boo other teams' draft picks. They boo to boo.
They didn't boo Bernard James. They chanted "U-S-A" over and over again.
After the race, track and field aficionados questioned her tactics. The BBC's David Ornstein said it appeared that Semenya "had more left in the tank." His story quoted BBC commentator Kelly Holmes, who won this event in the 2004 Olympics, suggesting that Semenya hadn't made her best effort: "She looked very strong, she didn't look like she went up a gear, she wasn't grimacing at all. I don't know if her head was in it, when she crossed the line she didn't look affected." Meanwhile, Sports Illustrated senior writer Tim Layden tweeted that Semenya "seemed oddly disengaged most of race and not tired at end."
I watched the race and Semenya's finish was odd...she made her move super-late and was moving at a tremendous pace when she crossed the line. Had she worked her way up to the front before the final turn, she may have beaten the field by several lengths.
Perhaps there is nothing to her performance other than that she runs a more even pace than her rivals.
A comparison between her semi-final and this race is interesting in this regard. In that semi, she went through 400m in just over 58 seconds, 600m in about 1:28 and then closed the final 200m in 29.5s, looking like she had something in reserve.
Tonight, she went through 400m in 57.69s, then through 600m in about 1:27.1, and then closed in a touch over 30 seconds. My point is, her performance in the final was slightly faster at every stage than the semi, until she closed slower over the final 200m. To finish SLOWER than she did in the semi implies that she has little reserve and that she is closer to the limit than she looks. She wasn't actually that fast over the final 200m, it's just that everyone else was very slow!
A week later the three-day decathlon competition began in a pouring rain. Thorpe opened the event by splashing down the track in the 100-meter dash in 11.2 seconds-a time not equaled at the Olympics until 1948.
On the second day, Thorpe's shoes were missing. Warner hastily put together a mismatched pair in time for the high jump, which Thorpe won. Later that afternoon came one of his favorite events, the 110-meter hurdles. Thorpe blistered the track in 15.6 seconds, again quicker than Bob Mathias would run it in '48.
On the final day of competition, Thorpe placed third and fourth in the events in which he was most inexperienced, the pole vault and javelin. Then came the very last event, the 1,500-meter run. The metric mile was a leg-burning monster that came after nine other events over two days. And he was still in mismatched shoes.
Thorpe left cinders in the faces of his competitors. He ran it in 4 minutes 40.1 seconds. Faster than anyone in 1948. Faster than anyone in 1952. Faster than anyone in 1960 -- when he would have beaten Rafer Johnson by nine seconds. No Olympic decathlete, in fact, could beat Thorpe's time until 1972. As Neely Tucker of the Washington Post pointed out, even today's reigning gold medalist in the decathlon, Bryan Clay, would beat Thorpe by only a second.
Update: I misstated what the Smithsonian article actually said about Thorpe's official status according to the IOC. Here's what the article says:
It's commonly believed that Thorpe at last received Olympic justice in October of 1982 when the IOC bowed to years of public pressure and delivered two replica medals to his family, announcing, "The name of James Thorpe will be added to the list of athletes who were crowned Olympic champions at the 1912 Games." What's less commonly known is that the IOC appended this small, mean sentence: "However, the official report for these Games will not be modified."
In other words, the IOC refused even to acknowledge Thorpe's results in the 15 events he competed in. To this day the Olympic record does not mention them. The IOC also refused to demote Wieslander and the other runners-up from their elevated medal status. Wieslander's results stand as the official winning tally. Thorpe was merely a co-champion, with no numerical evidence of his overwhelming superiority. This is no small thing. It made Thorpe an asterisk, not a champion. It was lip service, not restitution.
Thorpe's family got his medals and is listed on the Olypmic web site. But as the article says, it does nothing to recognize just how dominant Thorpe was in the decathalon and pentathalon. In the decathalon, Thorpe led from the second event on and beat his nearest competitor Hugo Wieslander by almost 700 points. (For his part, Wieslander refused to accept the gold medal retroactively awarded to him because of Thorpe's disqualification.) His victory in the pentathlon was even more lopsided...in an event where fewer points are better, the second-place competitor earned three times as many points as Thorpe. (thx, gary)
Nate Jones was disappointed about how women's Olympic beach volleyball has been photographed at the Olympics so he decided to show us what other sports look like through the lens of women's Olympic beach volleyball photographer's lens. The results are hilarious.
The International Olympic Committee does not keep records on the number of pregnant athletes, but a search of news reports suggests that only three other pregnant women have competed in the Olympics, all of them in the Winter Games. And Nur Suryani looks likely to set the record for the most heavily pregnant competitor in Olympic history.
Shooting may be less strenuous on a pregnant body than many other sports, but it is also a sport in which fortunes can hinge on fractions of millimeters, with breathing, balance and concentration considered paramount.
Nur Suryani has a solution when she steps onto the rifle range in London: "I will talk to her, say, 'Mum is going to shoot just for a while. Can you just be calm?"'
It was precisely a year ago that the Japanese women's soccer team won the World Cup, beating the United States in the final and giving a boost to the spirits of a nation that had been battered by an earthquake, a tsunami and a nuclear disaster.
But when they flew to Europe on Sunday along with the men's team, the women were in coach seats while the men were up in business class. The Japanese Football Association said the teams had left Tokyo together on the same Japan Airlines flight.
"I guess it should have been the other way around," Homare Sawa, the leading player on the women's team, told Japanese reporters this week. "Even just in terms of age, we are senior."
And don't even get started on Saudi Arabia and many other Middle Eastern countries. Recent "progress" aside, these countries are still sickeningly misogynistic regarding athletics.
Jesse Owens' medal-winning exploits against the Aryan backdrop of the 1936 Olympics are well known, but I had never heard the story of his friendship with his German rival in the long jump. Owens explained in a 1960 Reader's Digest piece:
Walking a few yards from the pit, I kicked disgustedly at the dirt. Suddenly I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned to look into the friendly blue eyes of the tall German broad jumper. He had easily qualified for the finals on his first attempt. He offered me a firm handshake.
"Jesse Owens, I'm Luz Long. I don't think we've met." He spoke English well, though with a German twist to it.
"Glad to meet you," I said. Then, trying to hide my nervousness, I added, "How are you?"
"I'm fine. The question is: How are you?"
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Something must be eating you," he said-proud the way foreigners are when they've mastered a bit of American slang. "You should be able to qualify with your eyes closed."
"Believe me, I know it," I told him -- and it felt good to say that to someone.
The shoes are fabricated using a selective laser sintering process that uses precise 3-D scans of an athlete's foot to achieve maximum fit. The really tantalizing (but unfortunately uncited) bit about Fusaro's design is that by fitting shoes to a sprinter's feet so precisely, significant performance improvements might result:
Scientific investigations have shown that tuning the mechanical properties of a sprint shoe to the physical abilities of an athlete can improve performance by up to 3.5%.
For 100-meter world record holder Usain Bolt, a performance improvement of 3.5% could lower his world record to 9.24...just by wearing different shoes. That seems insane but Speedo's LZR Racer suit that was responsible for dozens of world records falling in 2008 were shown to lower racing times by 1.9 to 2.2 percent so that sort of improvement is certainly possible. (via @curiousoctopus)
The ideas of aerodynamics don't apply here. Normally, air would flow around anything moving through it. But the air molecules in front of this ball don't have time to be jostled out of the way. The ball smacks into them hard that the atoms in the air molecules actually fuse with the atoms in the ball's surface. Each collision releases a burst of gamma rays and scattered particles.
These gamma rays and debris expand outward in a bubble centered on the pitcher's mound. They start to tear apart the molecules in the air, ripping the electrons from the nuclei and turning the air in the stadium into an expanding bubble of incandescent plasma. The wall of this bubble approaches the batter at about the speed of light-only slightly ahead of the ball itself.
All science writing should (and probably could!) be this entertaining. (via @delfuego)
To demonstrate a pair of their products, Google arranged for a group of skydivers to jump out of a blimp and parachute onto the roof of the Moscone Center in San Francisco, the building in which the Google I/O was being held. The divers were each wearing a pair of Google Glass networking glasses and video chatting on a Google+ Hangout.
Here's what it looked like from the ground:
I think this is what Robin Sloan was referencing in his tweet earlier:
Watched #GoogleIO. This company is totally Doc Brown. In one corner, an automatic banana-peeler; in the other, A WORKING TIME MACHINE.
Amateur bowler Bill Fong almost bowled a perfect series two years ago, something that 21 bowlers have ever accomplished. But he came up short.
His teammates aren't interested in talking about what he can do to make his strikes more solid, though, or even tonight's mildly competitive league game. They're still discussing a night two years ago. They mention it every week, without fail. In fact, all you have to do is say the words "That Night" and everyone at the Plano Super Bowl knows what you're talking about. They also refer to it as "The Incident" or "That Incredible Series." It's the only time anyone can remember a local recreational bowler making the sports section of the Dallas Morning News. One man, an opponent of Fong's that evening, calls it "the most amazing thing I've ever seen in a bowling alley."
Bill Fong needs no reminders, of course. He thinks about that moment -- those hours -- every single day of his life.
There's a twist worthy of the Usual Suspects near the end of the story.
Speaking of what fast looks like, here's a pair of synced videos that show just how fast F1 cars are. On the left are drivers participating in a track day, that is, normal folks who want to drive their cars fast on a real race course. A couple of them look like actual GT cars and are moving pretty quick. On the right, you've got F1 cars on the same track. It's not even close:
Tim Tebow does too. LeBron James poops. Derek Jeter, Maria Sharapova, Drew Brees -- they all poop. Most of these stars will never have a Julie Moss moment or even a Serena Williams scare. And if they did, it's highly unlikely they'd ever talk as openly about it as Paula Radcliffe does in discussing her own Defcon 1 incident. The British distance runner and Nike spokesperson was four miles from winning the 2005 London Marathon when she stopped suddenly and darted to the side of the course. Radcliffe had been losing time for several miles because of gastrointestinal disturbances -- the kind that, according to one study, affect 83 percent of marathoners and that are usually preceded by gaseous outbursts that runners call walkie-talkies.
Radcliffe's solution? She simply placed one hand on a metal crowd barricade for balance, used the other to curtain her shorts to the side and perched, precariously, over her shoes. Then, as they say in England, she proceeded to "have a poo" right there on the street and in broad daylight, within two feet of a startled spectator. "I didn't really want to resort to that in front of hundreds of thousands of people," she says, unfazed. "But when I'm racing, I'm totally focused on winning the race and running as fast as possible. I thought, I just need to go and I'll be fine."
She was fine. Radcliffe finished her pit stop, adjusted her shorts and floated through the next four miles to win by more than five minutes and set a world record for a women-only marathon. The most telling part of the whole scene was the BBC announcer's description. He insisted Radcliffe was just stretching out "a cramp" during her brief detour. Cheeky bastard.
Afterward, there was no public backlash. That's a tribute, Inglis says, to the supreme cultural power of sports. He offers this scenario: If Radcliffe had been out on the street in London a day earlier, walking with her kids or her dog, and stopped to relieve herself on the sidewalk, she would have been arrested, shunned and dropped by Nike within an hour. But the fact that she did it in the middle of a race made it not just okay but, in some weird way, kind of awesome. "You truly begin to get a sense of how influential sports are only when you realize it's one of the few activities where society's willing to override such strong feelings about defecation," Inglis says. "We make something so taboo acceptable, for a little bit at least, because it's being done for the sake of what we see as a higher sporting ideal."
Chuck started Michael and Magic every game and then rotated the other three. Pippen would start one game, Mullin would start the next. Robinson and Ewing would alternate; Malone and Barkley would alternate. He was a master at managing. But in the second game against Croatia, there was never any doubt: He was putting Pippen on Toni Kukoc [who had just been drafted by the Bulls and had been offered a contract for more money than his future teammate]. Pippen and Jordan were tired of hearing about how great Kukoc was, because they were winning NBA championships.
You ever watch a lion or a leopard or a cheetah pouncing on their prey? We had to get Michael and Scottie out of the locker room, because they was damn near pulling straws to see who guarded him. Kukoc had no idea.
On Thursday, 80 lawsuits against the NFL related to brain injuries and concussions were combined into one complaint and filed in Philadelphia. The suit also names helmet maker Ridell, and if I'm reading the article correctly, 2100 former players are involved in the case.
Former running back Kevin Turner, now suffering from Lou Gehrig's Disease, said:
The NFL must open its eyes to the consequences of its actions. The NFL has the power not only to give former players the care they deserve, but also to ensure that future generations of football players do not suffer the way that many in my generation have. For the longest time, about the first 10 years after I retired in January 2000, I thought I had just turned into a loser overnight. I couldn't figure out what was wrong. It was a very scary proposition -- until I found out there were a lot more guys just like me. I find they had been through some of the same struggles. I realized this is no longer a coincidence.
Back in February, we linked to a Grantland piece by economists Tyler Cowen and Kevin Grier about head injuries leading to the end of the NFL. In their version, injuries to high school and college students result in lawsuits making the sport prohibitively expensive to offer to their students (along with a perception that it's too dangerous for kids to play).
Is this case the beginning of that timeline? Depending on what comes out in the lawsuit, one (unjust) popular opinion will be that the players should have known they were playing a dangerous game and they were handsomely rewarded to boot. It's not really a fair opinion, but people love their football. (You can see evidence of this in the comments to the ESPN article linked at the top.) A best case scenario, I would think, would be for the NFL to settle with some sort of acknowledgement of the issue. Not lip-service, but actual changes to current policies and future support for former players.
In happier NFL news, Trick Shot Quarterback, Alex Tanney was signed yesterday by the KC Chiefs. Regardless of setting the NCAA Division III record for passing with 14,249 yards, the NCAA record for touchdowns with 157, and only throwing 30 interceptions in college, Tanney had gone undrafted.
Grantland's Bill Simmons and the New Yorker's Malcolm Gladwell had one of their epic email conversations the other day and posted it to Grantland. Topics included the NBA playoffs, sports journalism, LeBron, fame in the internet era, sports philosophers, and football concussions.
Do we really need 25 people crammed in baseball locker rooms fighting for the same mundane quotes? What's our game plan for the fact that -- thanks to the Internet and 24-hour sports stations -- a city like Boston suddenly has four times as many sports media members as it once had? Why are we covering teams the same way we covered them in 1981, just with more people and better equipment? If I could watch any Celtics game and press conference from my house (already possible), and there was a handpicked pool of reporters (maybe three per game, with the people changing every game) responsible for pooling pregame/postgame quotes and mailing them out immediately, could I write the same story (or pretty close)? If we reduced the locker room clutter, would players relax a little more? Would their quotes improve? Would they trust the media more? Why haven't we experimented at all? Any "improvements" in our access have been forgettable. Seriously, what pearls of wisdom are we expecting from NBA coaches during those ridiculous in-game interviews, or from athletes sitting on a podium with dozens of media members firing monotone questions at them? It's like an all-you-can-eat buffet of forgettable quotes, like the $7.99 prime rib extravaganzas at a Vegas casino or something. There's Russell Westbrook at the podium for $7.99! Feast away! We laugh every time Gregg Popovich curmudgeonly swats Craig Sager away with four-word answers, but really, he's performing a public service. He's one of the few people in sports who has the balls to say, "This couldn't be a dumber relationship right now."
Lovely video of skateboarding tricks in super slow motion. It was filmed at 1000fps.
Uncommon skateboarding tricks in super slow motion. Filmed at 1,000 frames per second with a Redlake N3 high speed camera. Since skateboarding trick names are defined by common usage and these tricks are not very common, some of them don't have well-established names. So here are my best guesses as to what they should be called:
Kyle McPherson -- nollie dolphin flip (AKA nollie forward flip)
Cameron Carmichael -- backside 180 casper flip (?) (or bs 180 hospital flip)
Jerrod Skorupski -- nollie heelflip bs body varial
David Case - nollie 360 shuv underflip (AKA nerd flip)
David Case - frontside shuv underflip (AKA kiwi flip)
Dustin Blauvelt - hardflip pretzel
Dustin Blauvelt - Merlin twist (switch front foot impossible fs 180)
Dustin Blauvelt - nollie heelflip indy grab
Shane Anderson - early grab frontside 180 fingerflip (?)
Jovan Pierson - pressure hardflip (?)
Jovan Pierson - ?? I don't know what this is, I just call it a Jovan flip
Erick Schaefer - backside pop shuv underflip
Tim Hamp - Nollie pressure hardflip (?)
Seems that Stevenson was inspired by skateboarder Rob Dyrdek, who had one installed during filming of his MTV reality show Rob and Big. According to TMZ, Stevenson shelled out $3,500 for the installation, charges a ridiculous $4.50 transaction fee, and refills it with $20,000 in cash a few times a year. Seems like a good move to install one in-house, especially if he's got wealthy NBA teammates stopping over on occasion before they go out for the night.
Rick Paulas has a deep look in the Awl at baseball players who, regardless of how long their professional careers were, only played in one Major League Baseball game. They're in an interesting spot, possessing great enough talent to get them to the pinnacle of their profession but not enough to keep them there (though military service, luck, and injuries also play a role in some cases).
Some players performed poorly in their one game, others did...better.
On the final day of the 1963 regular season, John Paciorek had a hell of a career. The 18-year-old started in right field for the Houston Colt .45s -- two years away from trading in the handgun for the Space Race-influenced "Astros" moniker -- and had a perfect day at the plate: three-for-three, two walks, three RBIs and four runs. Nagging back injuries meant he'd never have a chance to blemish that perfection.
By the math in the article, 5.5% of all major leaguers ever have only played in one game. I can't decide if that's more or less than I would expect.
Howler is a new magazine about soccer. It's a big, glossy publication that will come out four times a year with distinctive, original writing about American and international soccer, as well as some of the most striking art and design you'll find in any publication being made today. (We know that's a bold claim, but we really believe it's true.) We've been working on Howler for months, and issue one is nearly ready to be printed, shipped, and in your hands by late summer.
File this one under what fast looks like: motorcycle racers reach speeds in excess of 200 mph as they navigate the tiny curved roads of the Isle of Man during the Isle of Man TT race. The crash at 1:30, which is insane by the way, involves a stone wall, sheep, and was filmed cinematically from a helicopter.
There's a driving technique called heel-and-toe where the driver uses all three pedals (brake, clutch, throttle) at once to make deceleration smoother, especially in the turns.
Heel-toe or heel-and-toe double-declutching is used before entry into a turn while a vehicle is under braking, preparing the transmission to be in the optimal range of rpm to accelerate out of the turn. One benefit of downshifting before entering a turn is to eliminate the jolt to the drivetrain, or any other unwanted dynamics. The jolt will not upset the vehicle as badly when going in a straight line, but the same jolt while turning may upset the vehicle enough to cause loss of control if it occurs after the turn has begun. Another benefit is that "heel-and-toeing" allows the driver to downshift at the last moment before entering the turn, after starting braking and the car has slowed, so the engine speed will not be high enough when the lower gear is engaged.
Here is a video of Formula One great Ayrton Senna demonstrating the techique in a Honda NSX. You'll note he's wearing a button-down shirt, dress pants, Italian loafers, and no helmet while burying the speedometer on his way around the track.
It's a bit difficult to understand from the video what Senna is actually doing...this step-by-step video shows the heel-and-toe technique more clearly. (thx, micah)
3. Dueling pistol, 1906
No actual duels were fought, alas. Rather, contestants shot at a dummy dressed in a frock coat. Shooting events tend to be rather dull to watch, but they would have a chance with creative thinking like this.
With the LA Kings, LA Lakers, and LA Clippers all in the playoffs this year, the Staples Center has been pretty busy. Between May 17th and May 20th, there were 6 games. The crew at the Staples Center has to break the arena down between every game, what with all the different teams and sports. Watching the set up is pretty neat, and since no one would watch a four-day-long video, they've been kind enough to share a time lapse. Watch the arena go from Kings to Lakers to Clippers to Lakers to Kings to Clippers. My favorite parts are the pre-game introductions and that they lower the jumbotron every night.
After negotiating your contracts, you both will surely buy a house in an affluent suburb where no 22-year-old would be happy living. Your new neighbors will be rich as well, facelifted, lipo-sucked, Xanaxed and dripping in diamonds, simply delighted to welcome you to the neighborhood. You will commission an interior decorator, recommended by a neighbor, to furnish your home. This will guarantee it feels nothing like Home. And someday, when all of this is over, you'll walk through and gaze upon the marble columns and the embroidered drapes like artifacts in a museum, wondering why you ever listened to that woman.
A fine companion to this letter from former NFL player Trevor Pryce.
Dykstra ordered a Coke and French fries with ketchup: "And I'm actually going to have that as my meal-might be the oddest order of the day." (Healthy living was never his specialty.) When the Coke arrived, he sent it back, believing it to be Diet. After the fries were delivered, he made a show of extracting a "You're welcome" from the waiter, who had since moved on to another table. "I pay a thousand bucks a night -- actually, three thousand bucks a night -- and people are discourteous," he said, shaking his head. "There's some point in life when you have to grow up."
For many ballplayers, the growing-up point does not arrive until after retirement, when all the freebies vanish and equipment managers and hotel maids can no longer be relied upon for regular laundry service. Dykstra last played in the majors in 1996, at age thirty-three. Improbably, he has since become a successful day trader, and he let me know that he owns both a Maybach ("the best car") and a Gulfstream ("the best jet"). The occasion for our lunch, however, was a new venture: Dykstra is launching a magazine, intended specifically for pro athletes, called The Players Club. An unfortunate number of his former teammates have ended up broke, or divorced, or worse. The week before we met, the ex-Yankee Jim Leyritz, himself twice divorced and underemployed, had hit a woman while driving home from a bar. He never grew up.
"You've got the ten per cent who are going to find their way no matter what," Dykstra said of the athlete population. "And you get the ten per cent that are fuckheads no matter what-- we'll paste an 'L' to 'em." The rest need guidance, and Dykstra, who will write a regular column called "The Game of Life," is prepared to give it. "This will be the world's best magazine," he said.
Since then, Dykstra has declared bankruptcy, divorced from his wife, was sentenced to three years in state prison for grand theft auto (and several other charges), and most recently was sentenced to nine months in jail for assault and indecent exposure. He's also awaiting trial on federal bankruptcy fraud charges.
"Early retirement" sounds wonderful. It certainly did that cold night in Pittsburgh. I was going to use my time to conquer the world.
Boy, was I wrong. Now I find myself in music chat rooms arguing the validity of Frank Zappa versus the Mars Volta. (If the others only knew Walkingpnumonia was the screen name for a former All-Pro football player and not some Oberlin College student trying to find his place in the world.) I wrote a book. I set sail on the picturesque and calming waters of Bodymore, Murdaland. And when I'm in dire straits, I do what any 8-year-old does; I kick a soccer ball against the garage hoping somebody feels sorry and says, "Hey, want to play?"
With millions of Americans out of work or doing work for which they are overqualified, I consider myself lucky. But starting from scratch can be unsettling. If you're not prepared for it, retirement can become a form of self-imposed exile from the fulfillment and the exhilaration of knowing you did a good job.
In 1967, Kathrine Switzer officially entered the Boston Marathon, which was an all-male event at the time. Two miles in, race officials caught their mistake and one of them tried to remove her from the course. Switzer's boyfriend intervened on her behalf:
She finished the race but was later disqualified. (via mlkshk)
Lionel Messi has scored 234 goals in his short career (he's only 24), making him the top goal scorer in all competitions for FC Barcelona. Here are all of them.
What strikes me about this video, aside from the crappy quality, is that the type of goals Messi scores are not generally what you see from other top scorers. Think of the booming balls of Ronaldo for instance, which may break the sound barrier on their way into the back of the net. Many of Messi's goals often don't look like much. They're chips and slow rollers and even the fast ones aren't that fast. But what's apparent in watching goal after goal of his is that what Messi lacks in pace, he more than makes up with quickness, placement, and timing. It's a bit mesmerising...I can only imagine how it feels as an opposing keeper to watch the same thing happening right in front of you. (via devour)
Barcelona start pressing (hunting for the ball) the instant they lose possession. That is the perfect time to press because the opposing player who has just won the ball is vulnerable. He has had to take his eyes off the game to make his tackle or interception, and he has expended energy. That means he is unsighted, and probably tired. He usually needs two or three seconds to regain his vision of the field. So Barcelona try to dispossess him before he can give the ball to a better-placed teammate.
I swear this is totally not made up: Ultimate Tak Ball is an indoor sport wherein you try to deposit a large soccer ball into a goal while the other team tries to stop you with stun guns. As in, you're running along and then the defender tasers you:
Ever since the World Cup in 2010, I've been watching a fair amount of soccer. Mostly La Liga, Premier League, and Champions League but a smattering of other games here and there. As my affection for the game has grown, I've mostly made my peace with diving. Diving in soccer is the practice of immediately falling to the ground when a foul has been committed against you (or even if one hasn't) in order to get the referee's attention. To Americans who have grown up watching American football and basketball, it is also one of the most ridiculous sights in sports...these manly professional athletes rolling around on the ground with fake injuries and then limping around the pitch for a few seconds before resuming their runs at 100% capacity. I still dislike the players who go down too often, lay it on too thick, or dive from phantom fouls, but much of the time there's only one referee and two assistants for that huge field and you're gonna get held and tackled badly so how else are you going to get that call? You dive.
Except for Lionel Messi. It's not that he never dives (he does) but he stays on his feet more often than not while facing perhaps the most intense pressure in the game. Here's a compilation video of Messi not going down:
In recent years, efforts have been made on various fronts to apply the lessons of Moneyball to soccer. I don't think diving is one of the statistics measured because if it were, it might happen a lot less. Poor tackles and holding usually occur when the player/team with the ball has the advantage. By diving instead of staying on your feet, you usually give away that advantage (unless you're in the box, have Ronaldo on your team taking free kicks, or can somehow hoodwink the ref into giving the other guy a yellow) and that doesn't make any sense to me. If you look at Messi in that video, his desire to stay upright allows him to keep the pressure on the defense in many of those situations, creating scoring opportunities and even points that would otherwise end up as free kicks. It seems to me that Messi's reluctance to dive is not some lofty character trait of his; it's one of the things that makes him such a great player: he never gives up the advantage when he has it.
This is the oldest surviving clip of an American football game, in which we see Princeton and Yale battle in 1903.
The game footage starts at around 2:00. It resembles the current game of football in name only...before the forward pass, yards and points were difficult to come by and the game seems more like rugby or 11-on-11 wrestling. (via sly oyster)
In one of the most eloquent photographs ever made of a great athlete in decline, Yankee star Mickey Mantle flings his batting helmet away in disgust after another terrible at-bat near the end of his storied, injury-plagued career.
Mantle was only 33 when that photo was taken but he'd already had 13 extremely productive seasons under his belt and his last four seasons from '65 to '68 were not nearly as good.
This slow death march could easily take 10 to 15 years. Imagine the timeline. A couple more college players -- or worse, high schoolers -- commit suicide with autopsies showing CTE. A jury makes a huge award of $20 million to a family. A class-action suit shapes up with real legs, the NFL keeps changing its rules, but it turns out that less than concussion levels of constant head contact still produce CTE. Technological solutions (new helmets, pads) are tried and they fail to solve the problem. Soon high schools decide it isn't worth it. The Ivy League quits football, then California shuts down its participation, busting up the Pac-12. Then the Big Ten calls it quits, followed by the East Coast schools. Now it's mainly a regional sport in the southeast and Texas/Oklahoma. The socioeconomic picture of a football player becomes more homogeneous: poor, weak home life, poorly educated. Ford and Chevy pull their advertising, as does IBM and eventually the beer companies.
So, here's the game: The Jon Lovitz Devil has consigned you to an eternity of being stuck in traffic in a wheezing Ford Escort without air conditioning, and the only radio station plays Michael Bolton 24 hours a day. But you have one chance to escape your fate. You get to choose one athlete, at his or her peak, and one sport. Ever. And if that athlete wins, you get a whole different eternity, with chocolate-covered strawberries, DirecTV and a deck that overlooks the ocean.
Ah, but there is one catch. You get to pick the athlete and sport. But the Jon Lovitz Devil gets to pick the terms.
In other words, you might choose Tiger Woods circa 2000 and golf. That's fine. But the JLD can then choose Ben Hogan and say that the match will be played at Merion with a U.S. Open setup.
You might choose Mike Tyson in his overpowering youth. But the JLD can then choose a young and almost unhittable Ali and a big ring.
You might choose John Elway and one final football drive. But the JLD can then say he has to drive 80 yards in three minutes against the 1985 Chicago Bears defense in the Soldier Field wind.
The question Posnanski is essentially asking is: who is the most dominant athlete of all time across any sport? But not quite that question...Babe Ruth was quite the slugger in his day, but he might not fare so well against modern pitching. Same with Wilt, Jim Thorpe, Babe Didrikson, or even Gretzky. The game played is a factor as well. Aside from variants such as speed chess and Chess960, chess is chess and the board is the board...home field, wind, and teammates aren't really a factor. (Is chess a sport though? If so, I might take Kasparov against anyone.)
But the answer is probably someone not from one of the major sports and certainly not from a team sport. The comments of the article mention wrestler Aleksandr Karelin, wheelchair tennis player Esther Vergeer, and Secretariat. And I know that there are athletes in other sports who are equally as dominant. Even so, I might go with 2009 World Championships Usain Bolt in the 100 meter dash. He's the fastest ever by a wide margin, he's current, and it's an individual sport. Of course, under the current one-and-done disqualification rules, he might be in trouble. Or if you could choose Jordan specifically playing 1-on-1...he would beat anyone -- Wade, Kobe, LeBron -- on any crappy hoop or shitty playing surface anywhere. (via ★djacobs)
Update: I knew I'd covered some of this same territory before but just couldn't find it. From back in August:
Speaking of sports, Grantland, and Federer, Bill Simmons said of Lionel Messi earlier this year that "he's better at soccer than anyone else is at anything". That's a pretty short list but got me wondering, if you expanded the criteria slightly, who else might join Messi on the "better at their sport than almost anyone else is at anything at some point in the past 5-6 years". Off the top of my head, possible candidates include Roger Federer, Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, Lindsey Vonn, Tiger Woods, Marta, Shaun White, Jimmie Johnson, and Annika Sörenstam. I don't know much about hockey, but maybe Alex Ovechkin? No basketball, baseball, or football players on that list; Michael Jordan and Barry Bonds are the most recent candidates in basketball and baseball (please, don't give me any of that LeBron crap) and I can't think of any football player over the past 20 years who might fit the bill. Barry Sanders maybe? His team never won a lot of games and didn't win championships, but man he was a genius runner.
I received several suggestions from readers about additions to that list, among them were surfer Kelly Slater, rally driver Sébastien Loeb, motorcycle racer Valentino Rossi, and cricketer Don Bradman.
For instance, there's Mark Herzlich, a former top NFL prospect who was diagnosed with bone cancer while in college, took a year off to beat the disease, returned to the game, and then went undrafted by every NFL team. As a last-ditch, he auditioned for training camp. By November, about two years after undergoing chemotherapy, Mark was a starting linebacker for the Giants.
There's five-foot-seven Danny Woodhead of the Patriots, a player considered too small even for Division I college football, who went to the only place that wanted him, a little school in Nebraska called Chadron State, where he worked his ass off, and by the time he graduated, he was college football's all-time leading rusher. He's still so anonymous that he worked at a sporting goods store on a day off last year and pretty much no one recognized him. Now he's a running back for a team in the goddamned Super Bowl.
In their tandem press conferences, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, of the Miami Heat, alternate impeccably tailored suits with cardigans over shirts and ties. They wear gingham and plaid and velvet, bow ties and sweater vests, suspenders, and thick black glasses they don't need. Their colors conflict. Their patterns clash. Clothes that once stood as an open invitation to bullies looking for something to hang on the back of a bathroom door are what James now wears to rap alongside Lil Wayne. Clothes that once signified whiteness, squareness, suburbanness, sissyness, in the minds of some NBA players no longer do.
If you happen to be someone who looks at Durant, James, or Amar'e Stoudemire's Foot Locker commercials -- in which he stalks along a perilously lit basketball court wearing a letterman's cardigan, a skinny tie, and giant black glasses (his are prescription) -- and wonders how the NBA got this way, how it turned into Happy Days, you're really wondering the same thing about the rest of mainstream black culture. When did everything turn upside down? Who relaxed the rules? Is it really safe to look like Carlton Banks?
The NFL regards the "All-22" footage of their games -- the zoomed-out view of the game that includes the movements of all 22 players on the field -- as proprietary and releases it to very few people. But it's difficult to fully understand the game without it.
For decades, NFL TV broadcasts have relied most heavily on one view: the shot from a sideline camera that follows the progress of the ball. Anyone who wants to analyze the game, however, prefers to see the pulled-back camera angle known as the "All 22."
While this shot makes the players look like stick figures, it allows students of the game to see things that are invisible to TV watchers: like what routes the receivers ran, how the defense aligned itself and who made blocks past the line of scrimmage.
By distributing this footage only to NFL teams, and rationing it out carefully to its TV partners and on its web site, the NFL has created a paradox. The most-watched sport in the U.S. is also arguably the least understood. "I don't think you can get a full understanding without watching the entirety of the game," says former head coach Bill Parcells. The zoomed-in footage on TV broadcasts, he says, only shows a "fragment" of what happens on the field.
The Olympic Games used to include competitions in painting, sculpture, literature, architecture, and music.
From 1912 to 1948 rules of the art competition varied, but the core of the rules remained the same. All of the entered works had to be inspired by sport, and had to be original (that is, not be published before the competition). Like in the athletic events at the Olympics, gold, silver, and bronze medals were awarded to the highest ranked artists, although not all medals were awarded in each competition. On a few occasions, in fact, no medals were presented at all.
I can't find a great account of it (go here and here for the basics), but the story of how Tony Stewart won the 2011 Sprint Cup Championship at the Ford 400 in Homestead, FL is flat-out amazing and as thrilling as anything that's happened in sports over the past 12 months: an aging former champion wins five out of the last ten NASCAR races (more than 10% of his total career victories), including a final race in which he recovered from two slow pit stops (one of which was agonizingly slow), passed 118 cars total, came from back of the pack twice, made several ballsy four-across passes, and was saved from defeat by a passing rain shower. And the guy he was chasing the whole time (in this race and the points standings) was driving great...it's just that Stewart was racing insanely great, right on the edge.
I've seen very little coverage of this on the big generalist sports blogs...nothing on Deadspin and only a short "Tony Stewart won some NASCAR thingie" on Grantland. Come on! Simmons, Klosterman, someone, get on this!
He discovered a manuscript of accounts from King James IV of Scotland that showed he paid two shillings for a bag of 'fut ballis' on 11 April, 1497. More evidence came with we came across several diary accounts of football being played in places like Stirling Castle, Edzell Castle and Carlisle Castle. The games were played on pitches smaller than the current regular football field, and featured between 10 and 20 men on each side.
The Catalonia region of Spain celebrated the last bullfight with a pair of matador dispatching their bulls in front of a sell-out crowd in Barcelona.
After putting to death their respective bulls in front of a sell-out crowd in the 20,000-seat arena, Mr Tomas, along with another bullfighter Serafin Marin, were carried shoulder high from the ring into the streets by ecstatic fans. Others, meanwhile, invaded the ring to gather some of its sand as a souvenir of the final fight, which follows a vote last year by the Catalan regional Parliament to ban bullfighting.