Divided They Stand (via ESPN The Magazine)

Ferguson, however, is not Gaza. For millions of African-Americans, it is not theoretical but personal. Professional athletes know the Ferguson dynamic too well, very likely better than most. The sports world is populated by hundreds of players who come from places similar to Ferguson, with similar tensions and hostilities, where the police have never been allies but an entity to fear. If ever there was time to hear from the players, for them to peek out from behind the tinted glass of their Escalades and for their teams and handlers to have the courage to encourage them to actually speak about their experiences, it is now.

The most immediate consequence for voicing such sentiments is to be greeted with the chilling chorus of “stick to sports.” But that chorus is not just patronizing; it ignores the reality that sports hasn’t been sticking to sports for nearly a generation. More than a decade ago, after Sept. 11, sports relinquished its traditional ground as a generally apolitical entity. It joined the war movement, codified politics into the quiet pastime of going to see a ballgame. In so doing, the games contributed to the growing culture of militarism that is now everywhere in America, a movement that has manifested itself in the mine-resistant armored vehicles that were employed by Ferguson’s 53-member police force. … Read More

(via ESPN The Magazine)

Braves Break Ground on Baseball Boondoggle

The Atlanta Braves broke ground this morning on their new Cobb County stadium, which makes today a good day to remember that the whole thing is a shameful crock.

The new field will be known as SunTrust Park. The only things I know about SunTrust are that they provided bad customer service once and now are providing material support to baseball terrorists.

At the unveiling of the brand-new park, the (almost) brand-new MLB commissioner, Rob Manfred took the opportunity to say something nonsensical:

I think what is special about this project is the scope of the project itself. It could geometrically change the economics of this particular franchise and really provide it with a great foundation for being competitive for a very long time.

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Finally, a reminder that the traditional justification for publicly funded sports stadiums is a sham. SunTrust Park is no exception.

The (Walking) Death of Sports on Earth

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Last month, in a story that was poorly reported to the then-staff of the site Sports on Earth, to say nothing of the general public, it snuck out that, in some order, USA Today had pulled out of its partnership with MLB that supported the site and ninety-five percent of the site’s staff had been let go. The soldiering-on of “senior writer” Will Leitch (which is far from nothing) aside, SoE exists today at best as a sort of undead shell of the vibrant self Leitch and its former staff had built in what I called an important “second chapter” of the site’s history.

As David Roth, Keith Olbermann, and even Leitch himself have commented, the whole thing came as a surprise even to the writers, many of whom found out about the great “unwinding” for the first time on Twitter.

We have tracked the rise of Sports on Earth since its birth, and we’ve highlighted plenty of their many well-done stories in the past. From a technical standpoint, SoE was designed for optimal reading on a tablet, and, for me, it held the position of go-to breakfast-table reading for a long time.

I was just a reader. For The Classical’s David Roth, the whole thing was more personal, as he was friends and colleagues of many of the dispatched writers, many of whom also had written for The Classical. I learned about Sports on Earth’s demise from Roth’s extended obituary, which also expounds upon the challenges of sustaining and supporting interesting sports writing in today’s media landscape.   Continue reading

College Football Week 2: Two Questions

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College football’s second week didn’t go so well for some of the teams on which we keep a closer eye here at ALDLAND. No controversy or arguments, really. Just poor performances and bad outcomes. Two days later, I’m left with two main questions:

1. Can Michigan State fix its leaky secondary?

Saturday night’s Michigan State-Oregon game lived up to the hype, through the end of the first half, anyway. During the intermission, the Ducks figured out that the one, very real weakness of the Spartan defense was its secondary. Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota was having no luck creating much of anything on his own, but if he could get the ball out of his hands, his receivers often were very open and had an easy time tacking on extra yards. Everything else seemed pretty good for Michigan State, and I’m not worried about how they’ll handle their conference schedule. At least against Oregon, though, the secondary looked like a real and easily exploitable problem. My question is whether this is a quick fix or a season-long problem.

2. How soon is too soon to fire Derek Mason?

I have an extremely selective (read: poor) memory, but I don’t think Vanderbilt has had two games as bad as the two they’ve played this season in three or four years. A 37-7 loss to Temple and a 41-3 loss to Ole Miss pretty much says it all. USA Today called the latter “just total destruction.” Yes, the team lost its starting quarterback and a pretty good receiver named Jordan Matthews, but these guys look like the caught World Cup fever in the offseason and thought they were out for the soccer team. I don’t think David Williams should take the kneejerk reaction of firing head coach Derek Mason in Mason’s first year on the job, but Commodawg raised the question while we were watching the game, and the regression VU fans are seeing really is shocking. I think it’s okay to ask: If Vanderbilt continues to follow its current trajectory, would you consider firing Coach Mason in the 2014 calendar year?

ALDLAND Archives: Equal Justice Under College Football Playoff

ALDLAND’s 2014 college football preview, belated as it is, rolls on with AD’s close look at the new playoff system, in place for the first time this season. – Ed.

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Equal Justice Under College Football Playoff

December 11, 2013

With college football’s 2013 regular season complete, the die has been cast for the final bowl pairings under the BCS system. Next year, the College Football Playoff © will be in place. With the death of the BCS effectively accomplished, this is a good time to consider how the college football world will be different…. Read the rest… 

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Related
Quack Preview: Michigan State vs. Oregon
Football: America’s Sport
Book Review: Paul Finebaum’s Conference has Beaten Your Conference (Probably)
Think you understand the new college football playoff system?

Quack Preview: Michigan State vs. Oregon

In easily the biggest matchup of the young college football season, Michigan State visits Oregon tonight. (6:30, FOX.) Both teams are very much in contention for a berth in the brand new College Football Playoff, and the outcome of this game figures to go a long way toward determining whether the Spartans or Ducks will find themselves in college football’s new final four.

Despite their dynamic style, Oregon essentially is a known quantity, at least in broad terms. That doesn’t mean they’re easy to handle, and their junior quarterback, Marcus Mariota, is a strong Heisman contender.

Due to some key graduations and departures (e.g., Darqueze Dennard), coupled with an added year of experience for the younger players, Michigan State figures to remain about as strong as last season, while trading a little defense for a little offense.

The question remains: can Michigan State’s defense stop Oregon’s offense? In what I thought was a neat video that included actually understandable game scheme film clips, ESPN’s Trevor Matich explains why the Spartan D might have a chance:

He doesn’t pick MSU to win, of course, and Vegas has the visitors as twelve-point underdogs. Michigan State is better than the Stanford team that ended Oregon’s undefeated run last year, though, and with Jacksonville State as their week-one opponent, Mark Dantonio, Pat Narduzzi, and everyone else in East Lansing has had all spring and summer to prepare for this one. You, on the other hand, have just a few hours to prepare for what should be a fun game.

In the meantime, join Michael Weinreb, now apparently of SB Nation, for a very nice look back at the last time these two teams played each other.

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Related
Equal Justice Under College Football Playoff

Book Review: Paul Finebaum’s Conference has Beaten Your Conference (Probably)

IMG-20140814-00138For someone who spends twenty hours a week on national airwaves as the host of an eponymous radio show, now simulcast on cable television, and makes regular television appearances on a major network, Paul Finebaum sure does manage to keep himself hidden.

I am not a longtime listener of Finebaum’s show by any means. I first remember hearing about him when I moved back to SEC country during the 2012 football season and he was still broadcasting on Birmingham’s WJOX. Due largely to my own preconceived misconceptions, I was surprised when I first heard the show following its move to ESPN Radio in 2013 to find that it was an extremely caller-driven show, to the point where Finebaum rarely asserted his own voice for purposes other than briefly sparring with or otherwise egging on his admittedly bombastic callers. At that time, the majority of those callers remained Alabama-based, and the Alabama-Auburn football rivalry served as nearly every item on the host’s go-to menu.

While a lot of this struck me as fairly standard cheap talk radio tactics, I remained intrigued by this person, who had risen to such prominence and reported influence, despite, I thought, hardly taking active steps to exert much in the way of influence. I therefore read the then-recent and still-surprising long feature on Finebaum in The New Yorker with great interest and anticipation. I found the piece to be more an introduction for Manhattanites to the other SEC and its attendant culture than a deep dive on Finebaum himself. Finebaum as access point, rather than Finebaum as subject. (A long Deadspin feature from the same year had a similar effect.) It’s a worthwhile read if you like college football. Still, I did not feel like I knew or understood this man, though, or why he was so widely regarded.

Fast forward (the lazy blogger wrote) to August 14, 2014. The SEC Network, an ESPN entity, launches (on Tim Tebow’s birthday, naturally), and Finebaum’s book, My Conference Can Beat Your Conference: Why the SEC Still Rules College Football, arrived in my mailbox.

Continue reading

Flying Tigers: The State of Baseball in Detroit

The Detroit Tigers, once unequivocal favorites to run away with the AL Central, today find themselves clinging to a wild-card spot. And today is a good day. A if-the-season-ended-today-the-Tigers-would-make-the-playoffsish day. Not all days are those days these days.

Even with a 7-3 record over the last ten games (you’re glad I didn’t write this post ten games ago), Detroit has a losing record so far in the second half of the season (23-24, -4 run differential). While the offense, unaddressed before the trade deadlines, continues to be a problem, injuries to Anibal Sanchez, Justin Verlander, and Joakim Soria effectively negated any defensive gains resulting from the team’s only two late-season trades.

The group of “rational Tigers fans” beat back even the slightest hint of worry with blanket appeals to the greatness of the historically great members of this Tigers team. “Don’t read too deeply into the struggles you’re seeing because this team has MIGUEL CABRERA, who can’t possibly lose” or whatever. It’s important to vent, though. And to be honest (and, you know, rational). Cabrera can barely walk right now. Yes, he’s leading the sport in doubles this season, but that’s because his power has evaporated (i.e., he’ll probably finish the year with half as many homers as he hit last year and, at very best, the third-worst HR season of his career). His injuries mean that Victor Martinez has to spend more time playing first base. At age thirty five, Victor’s having a breakout power year, but he has no knees, which makes it tough for him to defend first. J.D. Martinez and Ian Kinsler’s bats have cooled off after hot starts. None of the various replacement-level players filling time at short can hit, and there’s a noticeable problem with catching the ball to tag out base stealers.

How do things look with a month, twenty-four games, to go? Continue reading

Big Leagued: Durham Bulls comeback fails, fall to Charlotte 6-5

IMG00547-20140816-1931Nobody hit the bull and won a steak, but there was plenty of offense, and not quite enough defense, in Durham on Saturday night, where the Bulls (AAA-Tampa Bay) lost to the Charlotte Knights (AAA-White Sox) 6-5.

There was a decent helping of recent, and probably future, MLB-level talent on display too. The Bulls’ starting lineup featured David-Price-trade-acquisition Nick Franklin, rehabbing 2013 AL rookie of the year Wil Meyers, and former Detroit Tiger and Atlanta Brave Wilson Betemit. The Knights sent out former Tigers outfielder Matt Tuiasosopo.

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The game was so tight through the first five innings that when Charlotte finally plated the first run of the night with two out in the top of the sixth, the Knights’ 1-0 lead felt insurmountable. They built it to 3-0 in the top of the seventh, seemingly sucking the energy out of the home crowd.    Continue reading

Tony Stewart and Our Need to Know (via Sports On Earth)

tonystewartWe have become a culture that is obsessed with knowing. Our age, with the technology we have at our disposal, is supposed to be different than the ones that came before. There is a sense that all the mysteries of the past can be solved, that gaps in our knowledge are the result of insufficient resources and incurious, casual minds. If there’s anything the information age has brought us, it is the implicit understanding that information, because it is everywhere, can thus tell us everything.

This is the single organizing principle of our age: The sense that there is an inalienable truth, and that we can find it. DNA evidence. Targeted micro-marketing. Cognitive profiling. Data journalism. Instant replay. An undocumented incident that might have been dismissed as folklore or happenstance in the past is pored over for clues now. A meteor appears out of nowhere? Dozens of Russians have dashboard cameras to document it. A plane falls from the sky and lands in the Hudson River? Photos of it are loaded to Twitter before 95 percent of the country even knows what Twitter is. A couple doesn’t give a foul ball to kid who wants it and they’re excoriated on the Today show the next day. Not knowing is not acceptable. We can access our collective power to find out what happened, and why.

And a nightmarish accident happens on a dirt racetrack on Saturday night. A man — a boy, really — dies. Someone captures it with a cellphone. This has to provide us answers. This has to give us some truth. This has to give us some justice. … Read More

(via Sports On Earth)