Sports Forum: FIFA World Cup 2018
Craig Fehrman, writing at Slate:
The NBA has been bad for two years, and it’s Kevin Durant’s fault.
If the Warriors beat the Cavaliers on Friday night, they’ll clinch a second straight title, compiling a playoff record of 32–6 along the way. This team has erased two seasons of potentially exciting basketball as thoroughly as Ted Williams’ military service erased several years of his prime.
The Warriors aren’t the ’96 Bulls. The Warriors were the ’96 Bulls—a 70-plus-win team with a superstar and a championship-level supporting cast. Then they added the second-best player in the league. It’s as if David Robinson decided to join Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen in Chicago and coast his way to some mid-’90s titles.
I love the NBA and have hated this year’s playoffs and finals. It’s not fun to watch. This article really gets to the why and how an un-competitive league is bad for basketball.
Victor Mather, writing for The New York Times:
N.F.L. players will be allowed to stay in the locker room during the national anthem, but their teams will be fined by the league if they go onto the field and kneel, according to new rules adopted by owners on Wednesday in an effort to defuse an issue that escalated last season into a national debate catalyzed by President Trump.
This is so unbelievably stupid.
So why do minor league basketball and hockey players get a better deal than minor league baseball players, despite those leagues’ parent clubs bringing in less money overall? It’s not because basketball and hockey owners are less interested in maximizing profits at all costs—many baseball owners have a stake in another pro team, and even if the people running the NBA, NHL, and MLB aren’t literally the same people, they all went to the same business schools and hang out at the same golf courses.
No, it’s about power and leverage.
Thanks to Jokic, Bell learned earlier than most this important lesson about NBA life: In a sport in which games can last nearly three hours and seasons almost nine months, it becomes essential to save strength for the more important moments. After all, 100 percent effort on 100 percent of plays would sap even the greatest of deities of their godly gifts and transform contests into stumbling slogs.
And so to avoid this descent into the mud, many players strike unofficial pacts with their opponents. Possessions are punted, secrets are traded, game plans are passed along. It’s not that these players don’t care about the outcomes of games. Think of it, instead, as a sort of gentleman’s pact between players, one governing action across the NBA.
I found this article fascinating.
It’s baseball season again, and there’s some good news for people who use MLB TV to watch out-of-market games on their Mac: This is the year that Major League Baseball has finally ditched Flash or Silverlight or whatever they were previously using for desktop streaming. This is nice, because it means I can use Safari (my preferred browser) rather than Chrome (which I keep around for sites that aren’t compatible with Safari or require Flash). But there’s a great side effect: It finally gives Macs the ability to do what iPads have been able to do for a couple of years, namely pop a baseball game into Picture in Picture mode, so it floats above other windows on your screen without any browser chrome getting in the way. […] Still, I was able to enable the Picture in Picture mode by using PiPifier, an app in the Mac App Store that adds a picture-in-picture button to the Safari toolbar.
You can grab the extension here. It works great.
Sports Forum: March Madness NCAA Basketball
March Madness: Join the bracket challenge.
The NCAA basketball tournament is once again upon us. As usual I’ve created a bracket group for members of the website to fill out brackets. The winner will get a free year of the supporter package. Pick some teams, win some Dark Mode. Not a bad deal.
Baxter Holmes, writing at ESPN:
At the Cavs’ morning shootaround before their loss in Sacramento, Wade, sitting along the sideline, about six weeks before being traded back to Miami, is asked who on the Cavs knows the most about wine. Without hesitation, he points at James, who stands across the court. “He knows a lot. It’s just something he don’t want to share,” Wade says. “But when we go out, it’s, Bron, what wine we getting? You ask most of the guys on the team who orders the wine, we leave it to him to order.”
Indeed, among the Cavs, the legend of LeBron’s oenophilia is large.
As Love says, when it comes to wine, “Bron has a supercomputer in his brain.”
This is a really great article.
Scott Detrow, at NPR, looks at this year’s Last Man competition:
We’re going to tell you who won the Super Bowl. Yes, the game happened last week, but there’s an important warning for the eight people still in the running in a contest called Last Man. Competition’s pretty straightforward but a near impossible goal – go as long as you can without finding out who won the Super Bowl.
I first heard about this game in a New Yorker article a few years back:
The game runs on the honor system—pride is the only prize—and deaths are self-reported on Twitter. Those who play refer to themselves as “runners,” and the thing they are running from—the fact that New England beat Seattle—is known as “the Knowledge.” The only real rule is to stay in the country.
Mark Titus, writing at The Ringer:
The most absurd week ever of regular-season college basketball came to a close Sunday night/early Monday morning when no. 4 Michigan State held no. 9 North Carolina to 45 points, no. 16 Texas A&M blew out no. 10 USC in Los Angeles, and no. 1 Duke erased a 17-point second-half deficit to beat no. 7 Florida. There’s no way of fact-checking whether this was actually the most absurd regular-season week in college basketball history, of course, but I don’t think we need to bother. Shoot, these past seven days have been so wild that the “regular season” qualifier might not even be necessary. Wichita State’s comeback to beat Cal in the first round of the Maui Invitational happened last Monday, yet I could easily be convinced that it took place a decade ago because of all that’s transpired since.
This will be Timberlake’s third time performing on the Super Bowl Halftime stage, giving him the distinction of having the most appearances by an individual entertainer. He previously performed at Super Bowls XXXV and XXXVIII.
The NBA All-Star game is getting an overhaul. Paolo Uggetti, writing at The Ringer, describes the changes:
Instead of an East vs. West matchup, teams will be picked based on playground rules, with two captains selecting from the remaining pool of players, according to an announcement by the NBA on Tuesday.
The initial All-Star voting process will remain the same as last season: five players (two guards and three frontcourt players) from each conference will be selected by votes from fans, players, and media, and the remaining 14 players will be chosen by NBA head coaches. But now the top fan-vote-getters in each conference will be enlisted to choose, fantasy-draft style, who among the remaining 22 gets to play for which team.
Seems like a needed fix when most of the All-Stars are now in the western conference. Hopefully it makes the games a little more fun as well.
Mark Schlabach, writing for ESPN:
The FBI announced Tuesday that 10 people, including four college basketball assistant coaches, were arrested as part of a two-year investigation into bribes and other corruption in the sport.
Assistant coaches from Arizona, Auburn, Louisville, Miami, Oklahoma State and USC were implicated in the investigation, and on Wednesday, Louisville announced that athletic director Tom Jurich and longtime basketball coach Rick Pitino have been placed on administrative leave.
And Jay Bilas:
The NCAA states that it protects players from being exploited commercially. Does that ring true to anyone? The NCAA uses the players as billboards for apparel deals and uses their names and likenesses to sell the product, and to sell media-rights deals. The NCAA continues benefiting from this multibillion-dollar business, while the players get only a scholarship, and the only ones exploiting the athletes are the NCAA and the member institutions. When you use a person to make money while at the same time limiting that person from making money, you exploit. Players are certainly not mistreated, but they are exploited.
Jamil Smith, writing for The Washington Post:
No true protest assuages those who are already comfortable. Athletes, especially those who wear a helmet for a living, must know that they have limited windows for communicating their truths to the American public. Protests during the anthem are their best avenue. They know that there are many people in America who don’t give a damn about black people outside of those three hours when their team is on TV. Last weekend, at least for those linking arms, that time was annexed, repackaged and sold.
And Michael Baumann, writing for The Ringer:
That’s what this debate is about: Some say cops shouldn’t be able kill people of color with impunity, and others want everyone else to shut up and go back to watching football. There aren’t two worthwhile viewpoints here, and there’s no greater condemnation of our culture than the idea that both sides deserve equal consideration.
Megan Garber, writing for The Atlantic:
The president had, once again, misrepresented the situation. The players are not, as a whole, protesting the national anthem. (There are bodies in the street, Kaepernick had said.) They are not protesting the flag. They are protesting police brutality against African Americans. They are protesting the lack of legal accountability for the officers who enact that violence. They are protesting, more broadly, the ways racism gets codified in America, the ways it is expanded from a personal evil into a societal one.
Rembert Browne, writing for Bleacher Report:
Here in Turlock, he absorbed every survival skill necessary to live phenomenally among white people, so expertly that they begin to make assumptions—not that you think you’re white, but that you’ve stopped concerning yourself with That Race Stuff, that you are finally content. It is a commonly unfair expectation thrown upon many an agreeable non-white person in a white space in America. But as a black man with a black biological father and a white biological mother, adopted by loving white parents who raised him in a majority white town to become a star three-sport athlete, a God-fearing Christian and a model citizen, this went well beyond the experience of a privileged American jock.
Helluva read. Highly recommended.