Some sports links

Some old and some new, but here are the latest sports related stories that have been up in the tabs for a bit. I could have built this list forever, so I just decided to publish it today.

Everything’s on me‘ is about Floyd Mayweather and his money.

Unlike manager- and promoter-dependent fighters, Mayweather dictates his share of fight revenue and his opponent’s. He controls the gate receipts by setting ticket prices at the MGM Grand; for his May 5 light middleweight title fight against Miguel Cotto, they range from $200 to $1,500. He negotiates directly with HBO to set the price for the pay-per-view broadcast. HBO is advertising the fight for a “suggested” retail price of $59.95. (The Victor Ortiz fight, for which Mayweather earned $40 million, generated 1.25 million buys despite being pricey, at $59.95 for standard definition and $69.95 in hi-def.)

The Truth is Out There‘ is an extensive look at ALL the sports conspiracies, and conspiracies in general.

I came here for illusions. To look right past them. To spot the sinister, hidden hand behind the not-so-random workings of the sports world. Specifically, I came to have Kaufman watch grainy, digitized footage of the 1985 NBA Draft Lottery — the Zapruder film of athletic conspiracies — and then tell me how commissioner David Stern managed to rig the whole damn thing.

An update on the Roger Clemens trial.

Uncle Sam has placed a huge bet on a conviction. According to Munson’s numbers, 103 agents interviewed 187 witnesses in 79 locations to generate 268 official reports for this case. The prosecution moves with the utmost care to avoid a repeat of last summer’s mistrial, declared on the basis of inadmissible evidence presented to the jury. Given the jury’s lack of interest in baseball, the government has an opportunity to invent the story of Roger Clemens from scratch. Their basic pitch is that Clemens was a ferociously competitive athlete who grew desperate for ways to regain his competitive edge as his aging body broke down.

How (and why) athletes go broke.

• By the time they have been retired for two years, 78% of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress because of joblessness or divorce.
• Within five years of retirement, an estimated 60% of former NBA players are broke.
• Numerous retired MLB players have been similarly ruined, and the current economic crisis is taking a toll on some active players as well. Last month 10 current and former big leaguers—including outfielders Johnny Damon of the Yankees and Jacoby Ellsbury of the Red Sox and pitchers Mike Pelfrey of the Mets and Scott Eyre of the Phillies—discovered that at least some of their money is tied up in the $8 billion fraud allegedly perpetrated by Texas financier Robert Allen Stanford. Pelfrey told the New York Post that 99% of his fortune is frozen; Eyre admitted last month that he was broke, and the team quickly agreed to advance a portion of his $2 million salary.

On rampant fixed matches and bribery in soccer.

THE WORLD’S MOST popular game is also its most corrupt, with investigations into match fixing ongoing in more than 25 countries. Here’s a mere sampling of events since the beginning of last year: Operation Last Bet rocked the Italian Football Federation, with 22 clubs and 52 players awaiting trial for fixing matches; the Zimbabwe Football Association banned 80 players from its national-team selection due to similar accusations; Lu Jun, the first Chinese referee of a World Cup match, was sentenced to five and a half years in prison for taking more than $128,000 in bribes to fix outcomes in the Chinese Super League; prosecutors charged 57 people with match fixing in the South Korean K-League, four of whom later died in suspected suicides; the team director of second-division Hungarian club REAC Budapest jumped off a building after six of his players were arrested for fixing games; and in an under-21 friendly, Turkmenistan reportedly beat Maldives 3-2 in a “ghost match” — neither country knew about the contest because it never actually happened, yet bookmakers still took action and fixers still profited.

1972 SI look at a gambling addict by Don DeLillo.

The Reds trail 5-1. Michigan State trails 6-0 but seems to be doing things right as the second quarter progresses. With perfect timing CJ switches (radio) from Columbia-Princeton (no score) to the re-creation of the second race at Belmont. With 70 yards to go a horse named Siberian Native threatens to take the lead from CJ’s selection, Early Judgement, but the 3-horse holds on to win by a head, and CJ has his double—a sign, an omen, an early-warning signal. He clenches his fist, nods his head firmly and then gets up and switches to baseball on the color set, football on the black and white. “I gamble because when I don’t gamble I feel sick,” he says.

An Oral History of the Dream Team.

Houston: The clock ran out—we had a twenty-minute clock—and we were up. And everybody looked around sheepishly, like, This is not supposed to happen. Nobody said anything for a few minutes.
Malone: We took them for granted, and they kicked our butt. And Coach Daly just had that look on his face like, “Well, this is what we told you guys. You gotta be ready.” After that, we was chomping at the bit to play them again that same day, but he didn’t let us. He let us stew on it a little bit.
Webber: When we busted their ass, they didn’t say any prima donna stuff—”We let you win.” That night was special. I remember me and Bobby Hurley decimating the golf course on some golf carts because we were so excited.

All about pooping athletes.

But the main culprit was this: The moment Moss began to exercise, her body started shunting blood away from nonessential systems, like digestion and waste, in order to feed the heart, lungs and muscles with nutrients and oxygen. This is known as exercise-induced ischemic colitis, and the result is a black, bloody, swollen colon, like the one that now has the attention of Michael Dobson, the director of a colorectal surgery center in Charlotte, N.C., who is holding up a disturbing endoscopic image from The American Journal of Gastroenterology. The owner of this colon, an ultra-marathoner, had denied proper blood flow to his intestines for so long — because of natural, but extended, shunting — that the tissue inside his colon began to die and perforate. An extreme example, yes, but anytime blood is removed from the colon by exercise, as Dobson explains, water and other material that should have been absorbed along the way instead pass rapidly to the rectum. There, spikes in volume and pressure trigger nerves in the sphincter that emit urgent warnings to the brain. In less scientific circles, this is what is known as prairie doggin’.

How Bill James and Sabrmetrics convinced Brandon McCarthy to change his pitching style, changing his career.

In retrospect, McCarthy might have been the perfect candidate for a sabermetric transformation. An avid reader who effortlessly drops words like peccadillo, audacity and misnomer into casual conversation, McCarthy fancies grapes over hops and lives for Liverpool soccer even though he calls Dallas home and lives a block from American Airlines Center, the Mavericks’ arena. Clearly he’s attracted to unconventional thinking. He’s also Pat McCarthy’s kid, which means he knows the difference between the past and the future.

What has Terrell Owens been up to?

They came to an agreement in January. Owens would play every home game, and maybe the away games (he said he’d play if the other team would pay him — and some would eventually agree). He’d also become part owner of the team — an arrangement that included a cut of ticket sales and concessions for the games in which he appeared. If every game sold out, he could make a couple hundred grand for the season.

Esquire goes long on Paterno/Sandusky.

When this whole thing started, last November, he made the conscious decision not to read about it. He absorbed the general outline, of course: Jerry Sandusky, Penn State’s longtime defensive coordinator, arrested on multiple counts of child sexual abuse. Coach drawn into the mess when it came out that a decade ago an assistant had told him that he’d seen Sandusky doing something of a sexual nature to a preadolescent boy in the showers of the football building.

A profile of Abdul, the Mad Man from Sudan.

Dubbed “wrestling’s Methuselah” by The New York Times, Abdullah has fought for the past 50 years as “the Madman from the Sudan,” a billing his opponents say is at least half true. Born Larry Shreve in Windsor, Ontario, 71 years ago, he has never visited the Sudan. But some of his wrestling colleagues—they would say victims—claim his madness is genuine, and needs to be stopped. When the WWE Hall of Fame inducted Abdullah last year, Hulk Hogan and “Superstar” Billy Graham, two venerable masters of the mat, objected on the grounds that Abdullah had supposedly cut opponents without their permission, drawing blood for the audience’s entertainment. “Abdullah really is obsessed with cutting people,” says Devon Nicholson, 29, a 265-pound fellow Canadian who wrestled Abdullah and is now suing him for alleged injury in the ring. (The suit is still in its early stages; Abdullah denies the charges.) “He is like a monster movie come to life.”

This article gets written at least once a year, but it’s usually pretty interesting. The Guardian’s take on choking.

Britain is no stranger to the choke. Reading the newspapers, or overhearing pub conversations, you might well imagine it’s a national pastime. The England football team? Ach, we’ll crack up when it comes to penalties. Murray at Wimbledon? Wait till it comes to the crunch. The Olympics? More tears from Paula Radcliffe. Of course, this is an unfair generalisation. All those cited have performed at the highest level, and Britain has produced any number of champions. Yet it’s undoubtedly true that in a summer in which so many will be playing for the highest stakes, many of the great sporting hopes, from whatever country, will buckle under the pressure.

Super article about bowling. Seriously. Read it.

Most people think perfection in bowling is a 300 game, but it isn’t. Any reasonably good recreational bowler can get lucky one night and roll 12 consecutive strikes. If you count all the bowling alleys all over America, somebody somewhere bowls a 300 every night. But only a human robot can roll three 300s in a row—36 straight strikes—for what’s called a “perfect series.” More than 95 million Americans go bowling, but, according to the United States Bowling Congress, there have been only 21 certified 900s since anyone started keeping track.
Bill Fong’s run at perfection started as most of his nights do, with practice at around 5:30 pm. He bowls in four active leagues and he rolls at least 20 games a week, every week. That night, January 18, 2010, he wanted to focus on his timing.

On the Piggyback Bandit.

The Piggyback Bandit might have remained a Northwest oddity. But like the Barefoot Bandit, he did something remarkable. Sherwin left his home in the Seattle suburbs, bought a fistful of bus tickets, and went east. He piggybacked his way across Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, even Illinois. “We’re 30 miles from downtown Chicago,” says one coach who was recently visited by the Bandit. The journey Sherwin embarked on in February, an epic, 3,000-mile round trip, is one I’m determined to retrace. By talking to the Bandit’s victims, I want to discover just how Sherwin pulled it off.

Bad ass 6 day cycle racers from the 30s and 40s.

In this year’s Tour de France, competitors will cover nearly 2,200 miles over 23 days. In a typical six-day race, each team would cover up to 2,800 miles in less than a week, during 146 hours of continuous riding. However, in the six-day race, the scenery wasn’t as good: instead of French country roads, it was lap after lap after lap around a banked wooden track constructed in the middle of a smoke-filled stadium. The over-arching event was punctuated by matinee and evening sprints in front of full arenas, with exhausted racers from around the world going all out for cash and prizes while jazz bands set up inside the oval accelerated their tempo to match the—occasionally literal—breakneck speed.

Here’s the Sports Illustrated Dream Team look back published last week. Can’t figure out how to get it all on one page. Sorry. It’s super long and has more about “The Game”, the famous scrimmage before the Olympics that is talked about as the best basketball game of all time.

Jordan dribbles upcourt, and Magic yells, “Let’s go, Blue. Pick it up now.” This is what Magic has missed since he retired because of his HIV diagnosis in November 1991: the juice he got from leading a team, being the conductor, the voice box, the man from whom all energy flows. A half hour earlier, during leisurely full-court layup drills, Magic had suddenly stopped and flung the ball into the empty seats. “We’re here to practice!” he yelled. That was his signal that the players were half-assing it, and the day turned on that moment. Magic had promised Daly back in the U.S., “I will see to it that there will be no bad practices.”

Really awesome long read of a new New Yorker’s thoughts on the City’s pick up basketball culture.

At Dean Playground in Brooklyn, I confronted the city’s greatest physical adjustment for an out-of-towner: the absence of nets. In New York, nets seem to be a great luxury, like air-conditioning and tranquillity. That lack of mesh revealed to me that my depth perception depended largely upon the presence of woven nylon. I am adjusting, but practice is needed.

Most of these came from general looking around or Stellar.

Some sports links

Bill Simmons’ List of Comedy MVPs Since 1975

In a recent mailbag, Bill Simmons had occasion to name comedy MVPs for every year since 1975. The criteria:

You have to nail at least one of these questions to qualify for that given year: Were you in the hottest comedy of the year or, even better, in the middle of a run of hot comedies? Were you carrying SNL? Did you have an iconic stand-up special, cable TV show, late-night show or comedy series? Did you routinely crush any late-night appearance or SNL hosting gig? Did you have a huge approval rating with little to no backlash? Do we associate that year with you to some degree? I need resonance beyond just cult affection, which unfortunately rules out the great Bill Hicks (who has a strong case for 1990).

It’s a pretty good list. Eddie Murphy’s 3 year run from 82-84 is set up as the run all comedians should aspire to, which I agree with. There are some lean years, as well, which leads to a few underwhelming selections like Billy Crystal in 1990 and Gary Shandling in 1997. Without having other names to suggest, I think I have the most problems with the last 8 years or so. I love Larry David, but it’s hard for me to see him on the list twice when his show hasn’t really gotten beyond cult status. Ricky Gervais probably deserves a spot somewhere, and maybe the Lonely Island guys for Lazy Sunday. Also notably absent Stephen Colbert (2006 or 2007) and Conan O’Brien. This list, though, is at least a good place to start the argument. There is only one woman on the list, and a winner for 2010 has not yet been declared. Has there been a breakout comedy for this year, yet? My bet is on Steve Carell, Zach Galifianiakis, Jonah Hill or Russel Brand could be a dark horse, as well as anyone staring in a comedy coming out between now and December. Actually, you know who wins for 2010? Betty White.

Here is the list:
1975: Richard Pryor
1976: Chevy Chase
1977-78: John Belushi
1979: Robin Williams, Steve Martin (tie)
1980: Rodney Dangerfield
1981: Bill Murray
1982-84: Eddie Murphy (1984 Honorable Mention to Sam Kinison)
1985-86: David Letterman
1987: Jay Leno, Howard Stern (tie)
1988: Eddie Murphy
1989: Dana Carvey
1990: Billy Crystal
1991: Jerry Seinfeld
1992: Jerry Seinfeld, Mike Myers (tie)
1993: Mike Myers
1994: Jim Carrey
1995: Chris Farley
1996: Chris Rock
1997: Garry Shandling
1998: Adam Sandler
1999: Mike Myers, Chris Rock (tie)
2000: Will Ferrell
2001: Matt Stone and Trey Parker (tie)
2002: Larry David
2003: Dave Chappelle
2004: Dave Chappelle, Jon Stewart (tie)
2005: Steve Carell
2006: Sacha Baron Cohen
2007: Larry David
2008: Tina Fey
2009: Zach Galifianiakis
2010: ????????

Bill Simmons’ List of Comedy MVPs Since 1975

Bill Hall’s Expiring Contract

In this article about the Red Sox’ recent moves, Alex Speier touches on their trade of Casey Kotchman for Mariners’ utility man Bill Hall. It’s been said this offseason that the Sox are especially concerned about the luxury tax and are doing everything in their power to remain under the $170 million salary threshold. This threshold is determined based on the average annual value of a contract, Bill hall’s 4 years at $24 million for instance would be a cost of $6 million against the luxury tax threshold. However, since his contract was structured differently, and since the Brewers were paying the Mariners almost the full amount of the contract, Bill Hall’s expiring contract is actually worth around -$1.5 million against the threshold.

Expiring contracts have a significant trade value in the NBA, but I’ve never heard of any baseball trades being made for this reason. Bill Simmons goes so far as to suffix Expiring Contract onto the end of any player in the last year of a contract, so at the very least, we should refer to Bill Hall as Bill Hall’s Expiring Contract for this season, right?

Hall is in the last guaranteed year of a four-year, $24 million deal that will pay him $8.4 million next season. The Mariners, according to a major-league source, will pay $7.5-8 million of his salary — essentially sending the Sox the same money that was given to Seattle by the Brewers when the M’s acquired Hall last summer.

Hall’s contract is evaluated for luxury tax purposes as being worth $6 million in 2010, based on its AAV. But the full amount of the cash transfer — call it $7.5 million — will be deducted from the Sox’ payroll as determined for luxury tax purposes. That being the case, Hall will actually reduce the Sox’ payroll in calculating the competitive balance tax by roughly $1.5 million dollars. Overall, then, the Sox were able to sign Beltre and add Hall and a player to be named at a cost (for CBT purposes) of roughly $2 million in 2010.

Via Dave.

Bill Hall’s Expiring Contract

6 Tips for Tiger Woods

This week, Bill Simmons takes on the Tiger Woods saga in a 2 part Tiger Zoo mailbag. One interesting section at the end is an extended look at the Tiger Woods/Don Draper similarities (they’re both the best and have beautiful wives, etc, etc). This list of 6 tips on how Tiger can rehabilitate his image, from PR pro turned filmmaker Dan Klores, also caught my eye. Especially #6:

1. If you can’t tell your wife the truth from the get-go, recognize immediately that you shouldn’t marry again, and that the grass isn’t always greener from the other side.
2. Hit the links, start giving huge bucks to African-American charities, show up at church, double your dose of Viagra and use it for your wife, understand “it’s never going to be the same,” see a shrink two to three times per week minimum, do Larry King, then a few weeks later do Leno.
3. Demand your money back from The Enquirer, and demand your money back from any of the girlfriends.
4. Ignore every so-called “crisis communication” expert who sought a headline by claiming you didn’t get out in front of the story, because they have obviously never been caught cheating on their wives.
5. Attend the NBA All-Star Weekend’s slam dunk contest.
6. Tell the world that Sarah Palin is an idiot so at least 52.9 percent of Americans will agree with you.

6 Tips for Tiger Woods

The Future of Media – Howard Stern, Bill Simmons, Adam Carolla

A couple weeks ago, Jeff Jarvis picked up on a bit of the Howard Stern show where Stern mused about what could come next for him:

Tomorrow I could go on the internet and start my own channel with my own subscribers. You’d be able to click and watch us on TV, watch us in the studio live, streaming. You’d be able to listen to us streaming. You’d be able to get us on your iPhone. You’d be able to do everything right at the click of the internet. I wouldn’t even need to work for a company. I’d be my own company… So true it’s ridiculous

Jarvis then went on to say:

Entertainers (radio, music, comedy, books, columnists, even filmmakers) will have direct relationships with their audiences. Like Stern, they won’t have to work for companies or go through them for distribution. That’s already happening, of course, on the web for creation, distribution, and monetization…It returns to the age of patronage, only now the kings don’t fund the artists, the public does and less money is wasted on middlemen.

I think he’s exactly right about this and I think I’ve talked about this before. Another entertainer I figured might be heading towards this model is Bill Simmons, and 10 minutes after I read the Jarvis piece on Stern, I read this Huffington Post interview of the Sports Guy. Simmons and ESPN had a dust up a couple years ago when he had the opportunity to interview Obama during the primaries, only to have it nixed by ESPN. This lead to less frequent posting and a general ‘work to rule’ feel to his columns for a bit. Just last week, Simmons was told to stay off Twitter for two weeks after an impolitic comment about one of ESPN’s partners. These wrist slaps, combined with his enthusiasm for and embrace of new media in the form of podcasts and (after some initial derision) Twitter, combined with the release and success of his new book combined with the below quotation lead me to think Bill Simmons is done with ESPN.

Part of me can’t shake the temptation of being the underdog again — like, launching my own sports site, hiring some talented writers and designers and trying to compete with the big guns. Like what Frank Deford did with the National. All right, the National lost $100 million. Bad example.

But I could see doing something crazy like that. I like taking chances, I am not afraid to fail, and beyond that, I am not afraid to fail violently and miserably. So anything is possible. A really good prediction would be, “Simmons is going to fail violently and miserably with a super-ambitious idea within the next five years.” Lock it down.

He’s either going to walk or make ESPN bend pretty hard to keep him. With the podcasts he’s created another platform for himself, and Twitter allows a channel of communication to his fans independent of ESPN. He’ll continue to grow his brand with or without ESPN.

Earlier this year, Adam Carolla’s insanely popular morning show ended when the station he was changed formats. He decided to start a daily podcast, and because his contract ran until the end of this year, there were no ads or sponsors. It quickly became one of the top podcasts on iTunes, and he continued to attract guests that had appeared on his radio program.

Aside from Bill Simmons and Adam Carolla bringing podcasts mainstream, which is another post, they’ve also presented a pretty clear model for their future. Couldn’t Stern, Simmons, and Carolla start an entertainment website next year with streaming shows, podcasts, sports columns, etc and charge users $2 a month for access? They couldn’t get 500K – 1 million subscribers? New media, baby!

The Future of Media – Howard Stern, Bill Simmons, Adam Carolla