Something To Watch While Waiting For Nardwuar’s Sidney Crosby Interview

Posted in Free Expression, olympics at 5:51 pm by

One of the culturally dense contributors to The Sports Section recently described Nardwuar The Human Serviette as “a local (Vancouver) celebrity”. Funny, you’d think New York Magazine had internet access.

Frank Isola Puts His Coaching Record Right Up There With D’Antoni’s

Posted in Basketball at 3:02 pm by

The New York Post’s Marc Berman cited Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni’s “heated 4½-minute explanation on his philosophy about committing intentional fouls when his team is up three points in the final 15 seconds.”  Prior to last night’s home loss to Memphis and the resurgent Zach Randolph, D’Antoni chose not to instruct his charges to mug Wizards C Javelle McGee with 12 seconds left in regulation, with Washington’s Nick Young hitting a game-tying 3 moments later in a contest New York would ultimately win in O.T. Berman failed to mention, however, the cranky reply seemed to be aimed directly at the Daily News’ Frank Isola, who argues, “D™Antoni has been treated with kid™s gloves for almost two years. Only recently have issues like his lack of communication with the players, his lack of attention to defense and the lack of wins come to the forefront.”

This is less about D™Antoni™s strategy and more with how he is dealing with the slightest criticism. On Saturday, D™Antoni grew increasingly agitated when he addressed the matter before finally looking at me and saying, œOh that™s right, you™re undefeated as a coach.

Good one, Mike.

You™re absolutely correct. I have never had the privilege of coaching an NBA game and have never been in position to earn $6 million by making such life-or-death choices like deciding when or if to foul up three.

Not that it matters, but I do have the ultimate respect for coaches since it is their butt that is on the line when things don™t go right.

But if I were an NBA head coach making $6 million a year I would hope that I would understand that second guessing comes with the territory. (Or did the Garden stop teaching œHate and Don™t Trust the Press 101 during their wonderful media training classes.)

I was a little surprised that he felt the need to make a let-me-attempt-to-embarrass-the-reporter-in-front-of-his-peers remark by sarcastically saying that I was œundefeated as a coach.

(For the record, I was an assistant coach when my son™s team won the New Jersey U11 state soccer championship. Does that count? I™m guessing probably not since I was volunteering my time.)

Pete Hamill Ponders Willie Mays, Baseball’s Last Four Sewer Hitter

Posted in Baseball at 1:29 pm by


[Pictured, the real Willie Mays still dwarfed by his mythic image.]

It goes to show you how deeply steroids = baseball itself to some people, when Pete Hamill, reviewing the new Willie Mays bio in The New York Times, writes:

A long time ago in America, there was a beautiful game called baseball. This was before 30 major-league teams were scattered in a blurry variety of divisions; before 162-game seasons and extended playoffs and fans who watched World Series games in thick down jackets; before the D.H. came to the American League; before AstroTurf on baseball fields and aluminum bats on sandlots; before complete games by pitchers were a rarity; before ballparks were named for corporations instead of individuals; and long, long before the innocence of the game was permanently stained by the filthy deception of steroids.

In that vanished time, there was a ballplayer named Willie Mays.

And how.  For the record, ‘Ol Man Hamill appears to approve of desegregated baseball, night games, and (maybe) West Coast baseball.  And as a blogger without a copyeditor, I appreciate his use of sentence fragments throughout his piece.  Still, his dreamy memories and tired nostalgia in reviewing the new James Hirsch Willie Mays biography make your teeth grind all over again re the steroids era.  I’m guessing this is the first thing Hamill ever read about Willie Mays, since his impression of WM derives almost entirely from when Hamill was 12.

I mentioned Mays last week when Ernie Banks went off on steroids and Sammy Sosa.  Do the amphetamine driven ballplayers of Mays’s era deserve the same asterisks and loathing?  Hamill says that San Francisco’s windy Candlestick Park probably robbed Mays of over 100 HRs in his career.  He glosses over how many extra games, hits, HRs, whatever that Mays’ drug use may have brought him.  Mainly, I guess because Hirsch’s book does the same.  Mays nor anyone else from back then needs an asterisk, nor do Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig for never facing a black ballplayer (well, ok, yes, that last era does).   Mays also gained lots of HRs in his lifetime as new ballparks were built as hitters parks …  However, only the adolescent perfection of Hamill’s pre-teen Brooklyn seems to matter as a yardstick here.  To him, steroids are apparently the only thing in baseball history that has “permanently stained” the innocence of the game.  Not segregation (90 years of it?), not pre-steroid era drugs, bans on free agency, the Black Sox, not the pre-union days of discarded and broken players without health care, not the totally arbitrary “golden age” of NY Babe Ruth baseball  v reality in determining records and Hall of Fame ballots or standards of achievement … nope, just steroids.  And Astro-turf.  Guys like Hamill wring their hands over the day they realized baseball is a big business.  For him, it was when the Dodgers moved to LA.  For a lot of us non-NewYorkers, that’s the day NYC finally ceased to be the center of baseball.

Ok, it’s just a game.  For many of us, it’s history, reflecting life in America.  That’s the real value of Hirsch’s book, and why reexamining Mays’ career again is worth while.   It’s not that Mays needs a takedown.  His career makes him worthy of serious treatment.  Not for this Paul Bunyon hooey of Hamill’s:  “The result: Hirsch has given us a book as valuable for the young as it is for the old. The young should know that there was once a time when Willie Mays lived among the people who came to the ballpark. That on Harlem summer days he would join the kids playing stickball on St. Nicholas Place in Sugar Hill and hold a broom-handle bat in his large hands, wait for the pink rubber spaldeen to be pitched, and routinely hit it four sewers. The book explains what that sentence means. Above all, the story of Willie Mays reminds us of a time when the only performance-enhancing drug was joy.”

If memory serves, that four sewer moment of Mays playing ball on Sugar Hill was staged for Life magazine.  It’s why people recall it so vividly. The press was there to cover it for a national magazine, as PR, to inform kids like Hamill of a myth that they still hold dear and insist on selling us today.


A Nation of Sports Journalists Won’t Have Chico Harlan To Kick Around Any More

Posted in Baseball, Sports Journalism at 7:17 pm by

The Washington Post’s Chico Harlan achieved a modest level of national celebrity last year, telling another publication “I don’t like sports. I am embarrassed that I cover them.” At the time, CSTB’s David Roth said of Harlan’s gig — beat reporter covering the hapless Washington Nationals — “it’s either an amazing job or something much shittier, depending on how you feel about interviewing Austin Kearns 190 times a year.” As he’s bolting Spring Training to become the WaPo’s Tokyo correspondent, Harlan admits he’s endured a grind of sorts (“in my tenure as the Nats writer, I’ve seen 205 losses, two GMs, two managers, one ‘deliberate, premeditated fraud,’and at least one pitcher released when the GM got ‘tired of watching him'”), but waves goodbye to his old job with equal parts contrition and gratitude.

The stuff I said last year, I deserved everything that followed. Covering baseball is a privilege; I learned that too late. Keeping your mouth shut and working hard is a duty; I learned that too late as well. Since the publication of those Washingtonian quotes, I’ve apologized to people, and I’ve asked the tough questions about why I got myself in trouble (ego? hubris?), and I’ve obviously taken another job that has nothing whatsoever to do with food writing, a venture that probably sounded good at the time only because it didn’t involve Daniel Cabrera. I learned this too late, also: A man should start talking only when he knows what to say.

It is for others to judge, eventually, but I hope I am leaving this job as a better, wiser person than the one who began it. This job, everything about it, has been worthwhile.

Luke Scott, Would-Be Gilbert Arenas of the Big Leagues

Posted in Baseball, Firearms, General at 7:14 pm by

Luke Scott is something of a CSTB favorite, both because of his proud evangelizing for concealed-carry firearm-related heroism — original version here, enhanced-danger remix here — and improbable at-bat music. But mostly because of a degree of loud-and-proud gun nuttery intense enough to get Charles Bronson added to the “Most Similar” listings on his Baseball Reference page. Brendan Flynn delivers the news — as well as what I’m going to more or less run as a guest post — on Scott’s newest cause. Namely, Scott’s fervent hopes to exercise his right to bear arms in the Baltimore Orioles locker room, as reported by the Baltimore Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec. Here’s Zrebiec, quoting Scott:

“There is a good reason behind the rule, I can’t deny that,” Scott says. “The reason is you cannot trust 25 guys in a locker room to have the same respect and training as I do with a weapon. That I do understand. I’ve carried a gun for 10 years. I’ve carried them in the locker room, and nobody really knows about it. I know how to handle myself, and I stow it away where nobody really knows about it.

The ban was actually put in place in July, largely in response to the Plaxico Burress situation in which the former New York Giants wide receiver accidentally shot himself in a New York City nightclub in November 2008. However, MLB recently sent out reminders to players and the ban has also been posted in clubhouses for the first time…

“We have good security,” Scott said. “It’s hard to get in here. Barring a tactical entry where terrorists come in and hold us hostage, that’s about the only thing that could possibly warrant me carrying a gun in the clubhouse. That’s highly unlikely, and I admit that. But my personal belief is I don’t want to suffer from the poor choices of others.”

And here’s Brendan:

If Scott’s statements–that he had guns in the clubhouse and no one knew–are taken at face value, I wonder how he got a conceal and carry permit in MD. They have a pretty strict standard that for personal use includes the following requirement for personal permits: “Personal Protection: There must be documented evidence of recent threats, robberies, and/or assaults, supported by official police reports or notarized statements from witnesses.”

I’m not sure Scott’s rationale for need meets this standard… It’s sure possible personal threats have been made against Scott, but I’d guess Aubrey Huff, Glenn Davis and Jeffrey Maier have a greater need for such permits.

Good points all. Well, not Luke Scott, although I gather he’s right about the “tactical entry” bit, probably. The thing with concealed-carry gun permits is that while they strike me as an implausibly bad idea, they’re also kind of not something I concern myself with, as I live in a city that does not really want people wearing guns to the deli or Quizno’s or whatever. Most of what I know about Concealed Carry of Weapons I learned last week, in this excellent piece by Abe Sauer at The Awl. Luke Scott, I sense, has spent a lot more time thinking about this issue — and fantasizing about Red Dawn style “tactical strikes” on Camden Yards before some June game against the Blue Jays — than I have.

Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey : Theismann To Ryan Shawcross’ L.T.

Posted in Football at 3:45 pm by

Squeamish persons who’ve not yet seen the vicious tackle (above) from Arsenal’s 3-1 win at Stoke earlier today…don’t worry about it. You can’t really see anything in this clip.

Hideki Okajima Pretends He Has No Idea Where To Eat In Boston

Posted in Baseball, Food at 3:11 pm by

It’s been a long time since the Pizza Pad and the HooDoo Barbeque were amongst Kenmore Square’s pre or postgame grub choices, but is that any excuse for a well paid member of the Boston Red Sox to feign ignorance over the city’s myriad fine dining choices? The Globe’s Peter Abraham claims reliever Hideki Okajima “has yet to partake in any of the city™s charms, outside of Fenway Park…he is there to throw strikes, not see the sights.”

“I haven™t really looked around that much. I came to Boston to play baseball, not to be a tourist,™™ Okajima said this week during one of the extended interviews he has granted since coming from Japan in 2007. œWhen there™s a day off this year, maybe I™ll go out some more than I have. I have heard the city is nice.™™

Okajima couldn™t even come up with the name of a favorite restaurant, tilting his head and thinking while interpreter Ryo Shinkawa waited for a response.

œI usually eat at home, my wife™s cooking is the best,™™ Okajima finally said. œThat is my answer. But I have had some good Italian dinners in Boston.™™

Pete’s new to the Boston beat, so I’ll cut him some slack in not knowing Okajima — a noted gourmet — originally signed with the Red Sox after reading an incorrect CSTB item claiming Buzzy’s Roast Beef would be opening a new Charles St. superstore after an extended absence. Buzzy’s is legendary through the Far East and Okajima, being a man of principal, refuses to tear up his Red Sox contract (accurately described by Abraham as a huge bargain for the club), despite the almost crippling disappointment he must feel everytime he checks Urban Spoon for news of Buzzy’s’ revival.