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

The Truth About the 25 Greatest Rickey Henderson Stories

Recently, Rickey Henderson was on ESPN radio. As part of the show, the announcers had a list of The 25 Best Rickey Henderson Stories Of All Time and asked him to true or false some of them. As I mentioned in my Appreciation of Rickey Henderson – Stories, Thoughts, and Links post from a couple months ago, that list is plagiarized from this 2003 Sports Illustrated article (which is why I didn’t link to it originally.

The 6 anecdotes clarified by Rickey below the jump…
Continue reading “The Truth About the 25 Greatest Rickey Henderson Stories”

The Truth About the 25 Greatest Rickey Henderson Stories

Appreciation of Rickey Henderson – Stories, Thoughts, and Links

Rickey Henderson is going to get a call from the Hall of Fame today telling him to pack his bags for Cooperstown. I spent a couple hours yesterday looking though old articles about Rickey because he’s always been one of the more enjoyable and enigmatic players in the game of baseball. (And hey, he played for the Red Sox in 2002, so he could be called one of my favorite Sox, right?)

Take a second to click through and enjoy Rickey being Rickey:

Joe Posnanski made a great argument that Rickey should be the first unanimous selection to the Hall of Famer, including the mindboggling statistic:

“He walked more times just leading off an in inning than Lou Brock, Roberto Clemente, Luis Aparicio, Ernie Banks, Kirby Puckett, Ryne Sandberg and more than 50 other Hall of Famers walked in their entire careers (more than Jim Rice, too).”

Of course, a writer 70 year old sportswriter left him off and now wishes he hadn’t. The BWAA might want to have some editorial control over writers who use their ballots to make a point (or in the case of Corky, just goof).

Rickey was nonpareil as a leadoff hitter, and according to this short collection of stories about Rickey, he agreed. “There ain’t no other leadoff hitter but me.”

In 1982 Rickey’s manager, Billy Martin, wanted Rickey to get the season stolen base record at home in Oakland. This is a Rickey anecdote I hadn’t heard.

“Billy told that Chicken (Stanley) to get his butt thrown out, so he wouldn’t be on second in my way,’ Henderson said. ‘But I hit the ball too hard, and he had to stop at second. Billy wants me to run, but Chicken’s in the way. So Billy tells him to get picked off. Get caught. So they throw a pitch and Chicken is way off base, and they don’t even try to get him. We’re playing Detroit and (Tigers manager) Sparky (Anderson) didn’t want me to get it. So he wouldn’t let them tag Chicken. He’s way off the base, and no one’s even trying. And that old Durwood Merrill (the second-base umpire) is getting madder and madder. He knew what was going on. He didn’t like it. He made them make the play on Chicken. I think Sparky was mad. I go on the next pitch. And I make it, I’m in there. And that old Durwood, he called me out because he was still mad at Billy and Sparky.”

He finally got the record in the next game. Over the years, Rickey’s speech after getting the record has become something critics touch on proving he was selfish and arrogant. This, because the last lines of his speech are, “Lou Brock was the symbol of great base stealing. But today, I’m the greatest of all time.” Interestingly, the article from Time has no reaction to the speech and Lou Brock helped him write the speech before the game. Also, most of these article are full of teammates (like Don Mattingly and Dennis Eckersley) praising Rickey as a teammate. (Update: Via the comments, the speech was after he broke the career record, not the single season record, so that’s why it wasn’t mentioned in the article. My point remains, though, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with his speech and “Rickey is selfish” is a media driven storyline, not borne out by facts.)

Also, via the comments, for those who say Rickey is selfish, there’s one girl in Oakland who would disagree.

See, I told you Mattingly liked Rickey.

“When Rickey was traded back to the A’s in the late 80’s, I remember watching a game the Yankees were playing in Oakland. Before the game, Rickey was hitting off the tee, and Mattingly was sitting there setting up the balls for Rickey. Mattingly liked Rickey. This was the moment that I realized that all the negative writing about Henderson was wrong. Don Mattingly was the most respected player in baseball at that time. If Don liked Rickey well enough to sit there and tee up balls for him when he was playing for the opposition, Rickey must be okay.

Rickey suffers from being inarticulate and a lack of education, just as Roger Clemens does. When they speak to the media, they have a hard time expressing themselves clearly, so they come off as jerks. I’m glad this article shows Rickey talking in a comfortable setting. It gives us a new insight into the man.”

In reading several of these articles, I found that Rickey was able to turn on and off the Rickey speak that made him seem inarticulate. And especially earlier in his career, he didn’t appear to use it at all. Roger Clemens was just a dumbass, but for Rickey, it seems like it was more of an act. “ He needed no coaxing to cruise into Rickey-speak, a mixture of a streetwise preacher and an eccentric professor.”

Here’s Eck relating a story about Rickey having trouble with R-E-S-P-E-C-T. His fondness for Rickey is clear.

This Sports Illustrated article from 2003 is overflowing with Rickey anecdotes. I’m going to go out on a limb and call this article the definitive compendium of Rickey Henderson Anecdotes. (There’s a ’25 Greatest Rickey Henderson Stories’ meme out there that you can find with Google, but this article is the source for it, and it has more than 25 stories so you may as well read IT instead.) One of my favorites, Rickey griping about his contract, “If they’re going to pay me like [Mike] Gallego, I’m going to play like Gallego.”

There’s also the ‘tenure’ story, the Olreud story (which is untrue), and TWO uncashed check stories, among several others.

The first mention of Rickey I could find in SI was when he was awarded Player Of The Week in October 1980 for having 12 steals.

Rickey was on the cover of SI 4 times:
In 1982, when he broke the single season stolen base record. In the accompanying story, “Medich and his catcher, Ted Simmons, had the downcast aspect of persons about to become answers to a trivia question.” Also, we find out that Kirk Gibson was once considered one of the faster major leaguers, which blew my mind. I had no idea.

In 1986 when Peter Gammons previewed the All-Star game by comparing Rickey to the other preeminent leadoff hitter of his time, Tim Raines.
Obviously, I’m going to snip the Rich Gedman quotation. Rich Gedman was one of my first favorites.

“Boston catcher Rich Gedman looked at Rickey Henderson, who was getting dressed. “He’s built like Superman,” Gedman said of the Yankee centerfielder. “When you play against him, you try to say, ‘Don’t let him bother you,’ because there are times there is nothing you can do to stop him from doing whatever he wants to do. He’s from another planet. Unfortunately, you can’t help thinking about him. We’re only human.”

In 1989 when he took over the Post Season. (Remember the earthquake that disrupted the Series? Rickey was apparently on the toilet for that one.) Gammons writes

“In the seventh inning, after getting such a jump on his steal of second that Whitt couldn’t make a throw, Henderson pulled up a few steps short of second and walked to the bag. “That kind of hotdogging isn’t right,” said Whitt (box, page 34). The A’s went on to win 6-3, and the next day Henderson was quoted in the papers as saying, ‘I can steal on Whitt whenever I want.'”

And in 1990 for an article about Tony LaRussa written by George Will.

Bill James’ response to Rickey setting the single season stolen base record in 1982 was exactly what you would expect. Curmudgeonly grumbling about how the stolen base isn’t an extremely effective offensive weapon and then plenty of statistics to back it up. The early Bill James byline was an exciting find, though. And, in 2001, James made his feelings for Rickey’s game clear, “Somebody asked me did I think Rickey Henderson was a Hall of Famer. I told them, ‘If you could split him in two, you’d have two Hall of Famers.'” (It’s important to note that Bill James was correct in his assessment of Rickey’s use of the stolen base because in the same year that he set the record for steals (130), he set the record for caught stealing (42).

Though Rickey and Bill James may have been of a closer mind than they knew. In this 1989 NY Times article, Rickey wants a new contract from the Yankees and is refusing to waive his no-trade clause. ”My average is down, but with a leadoff hitter, you don’t consider average,” he said. ”On-base is what’s important and mine is right up there.” I don’t think ANYONE was talking about on-base percentage in 1989 EXCEPT Rickey and Bill James.

Check out Rickey’s Wiki. He played 2 or 3 years of Independent ball after leaving MLB. Rickey was there doing his thing, hoping to get another job in the majors. Incidentally, he had an OBP of over .450 in his Independent league career.

And finally, here’s the obligatory New Yorker profile on Rickey complete with a story about getting thrown off an airplane and the quotation defining his last couple years playing for crowds numbering in the hundreds and low thousands. “I just don’t know if Rickey can stop.”

And, of course, a hearty congrats to Jim Ed Rice, as well. I’m glad he finally got in.

Appreciation of Rickey Henderson – Stories, Thoughts, and Links

New Red Sox Uniform Design

The Red Sox unveiled new uniforms this week and the natives are restless. In an unscientific poll on Boston.com, about 80% of those who voted don’t like the changes or only like some of the changes. I don’t like the new hats at all, but I like the new road uniforms. They remind me of the 1986 era Dave Henderson/Don Baylor ALCS uniforms, though the font was more boxy.

I’m curious what the designers out there think. I also wonder if these changes were made to get the team’s merchandising revenue through the economic down turn. These fonts/designs aren’t completely new, the Sox have been selling merch with the ‘hanging socks’ design for years. Were they using those designs as tests for this type of situation?

Home and Away
New Red Sox Alternate Uniforms

(Images via The Red Sox Boston.com)

New Red Sox Uniform Design