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Mental Illness and the NFL

This weekend, Bears receiver Brandon Marshall wore green shoes to promote Mental Health Awareness week. Marshall suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder and has been very public about how much treatment has helped him. While much of the NFL was wearing pink for Breast Cancer Awareness month, Marshall was fined ~$5,000 for promoting an issue that doesn’t help the NFL’s bottom line.

Jeff Hughes, writer of Da Bears Blog, does an amazing job breaking down the NFL’s disgraceful treatment of mental illness and lack of priorities. I couldn’t recommend this article enough. It’s a great piece of sports journalism.

The Most Amazing Bowling Story Ever

This story is for bowling fans and bowling agnostics alike, as it’s really about a dude obsessed with perfection and competition. It’s also really well written and one of the best things I’ve read this year.

I was reminded of the story when I saw this Kickstarter, inspired by the article, show up in my inbox. I backed it (obvs).

Jeremy Lin, the Surprising Knickerbocker

The Knicks have had some trouble at point guard. They were also coming up quickly on a deadline where they had to make a decision about players with non-guaranteed contracts. Enter, Jeremy Lin. He led the Harvard basketball team, but was not drafted by an NBA team. After floating around the team for a year, the Knicks picked him up.

In the first 23 games, he averaged 2.3 minutes and 1.4 points a game. In the last two he has averaged 40.5 minutes and 26.5 points. He’s now the starting point guard for the Knicks and the talk of the city and American Chinese/Taiwanese community. It’s pretty amazing.

His contract, potentially worth nearly $800,000, was not even guaranteed until Tuesday afternoon. So for the past six weeks, Lin, 23, has been sleeping in his brother Josh’s living room, waiting for clarity and career security.

“He has his own couch,” Josh Lin, a New York University dental student, said cheerfully.

And to make it even more interesting:


Five Wins, One Huge Loss

The Bears won their fifth straight game last night, but Jay Cutler, their quarterback, is down for around 6 weeks with a fractured thumb on his throwing hand. What’s crazy about it is that no one knew until after the post-game press conferences. Peter King explains how it went down:

Early in the fourth quarter of Chicago’s 31-20 win over the Chargers, Cutler threw an interception to Antoine Cason. Trying to tackle Cason near the sideline, Cutler flailed at him while being blocked, and his right hand slammed on the ground. When Cutler got up, he looked at his hand and flexed it a couple of times. But he stayed in the game and finished, throwing two more passes. After the Bears’ fifth straight win (and third straight game scoring in the thirties — the first time the Bears have done that since 2005), Cutler greeted some Chargers on the field as he normally does with foes after game. Nothing said about a sore thumb. A Bears’ PR man escorted Cutler to talk with NBC Sports’ Alex Flanagan. Nothing said about a sore thumb. Cutler showered and did his local press conference. Nothing said about a sore thumb. Coach Lovie Smith did his press conference. Nothing said about a sore thumb for Cutler.

Cutler had gotten a lot of shit about his injury during the NFC championship last year, so he probably felt the need to act a little tougher, but this is kinda crazy.

Now, I don’t think the season is dead. In fact, I think the Bears have a pretty good chance to make the playoffs. They play five bad teams and one great team. Going 3-3 puts them in good position and going 4-2 should secure them a spot. I’m probably being overly optimistic, but I think this will be a great finish to the season and the Bears will end up the top wild card spot.

Update (11/21/11): If you’d like to know more about Caleb Hanie, Cutler’s backup, National Football Post has a good summary. He had a really good preseason, which is part of the reason I’m optimistic.

Five Thirty Eight Double-checks the NBA's Ledger

The NBA has locked out their players, claiming an operating loss of $370 million. Nate Silver looks at data from Forbes and elsewhere that shows they have a profit of $182 million. If the NBA is trying to prove they need to cut player salaries to make more money, it’s going to be a lot harder knowing they’re doing just fine.

Women and the NFL

Posted February 21, 2011

Late last month, it was revealed that NBC’s Sunday Night Football was the third most popular television show amongst women aged 18-49. Katie Baker wrote an article for the Times to explain why women were so enamored with football and it started out strong.

Like many other “real” fans, I got into sports in large part for the characters, stories, rivalries and heartbreak. We saw interpersonal drama where casual fans saw only supersize freaks of nature battering one another. True enjoyment was the province of the devoted.

Yes! I totally agree. When I was young, I cared much more about loving Walter Payton and Michael Jordan than I did about their stats. I was young and played catch in the backyard and wanted to be like them when I grew up — famous and talented. I also wanted to be able to relate to my dad and my friends. Sports was a great gateway.

But now that I’ve been a sports fan for 25 years, I watch sports primarily because I admire their skill and enjoy unlocking the puzzle of success by learning formations and tracking trends. And since I still love connecting to a community, I’ve remained a fan of Chicago sports teams. It also helps that it’s a lot easier to follow a couple teams instead of 30.

This is a roundabout way of saying that Ms. Baker is not giving women enough credit. Over at the Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates does a good job of setting up the issue.

I don’t want to discount the narrative element, but I’d actually submit that football’s appeal to women, is pretty much the same as its appeal to men. I can think of few other athletic endeavors that combine balletic grace, keen intellect and brute strength in the same way. Frankly, I never understood why more women didn’t watch football. I strongly suspect that it’s because they are told that it’s “a guy thing.” That could never fly in my house.

Now that’s what I’m talking about. My only beef is the “never fly in my house” business. For better or worse (mostly worse), there is a whole lot of male aggression in sports, which makes the players more competitive, but is also frightening. For a long time I convinced myself that players contain their violence to the game, but folks like Kobe Bryant and Ben Roethlisberger have shown otherwise. I certainly don’t condone it or root for these players, but it hasn’t yet stopped me from enjoying sports.

That being said, Coates is right to push his wife into giving it a shot. Yes, there is unchecked, concentrated male aggression, but that’s not unique to sports (check out Wall Street) and shouldn’t keep women from enjoying the positives. But we all should be quick to call out the NFL when they think a 4-game suspension is enough to offset rape.

Rob Neyer on Community and SB Nation

Mr. Neyer is a well-respected baseball writer and has brought his talents to the people. There are some great quotes in his first post and I think David found the best two. Thus, I am going to steal one of them.

At my last job, some years ago, I once added something to the comments section below a colleague’s story. This colleague, like nearly all of my colleagues, was a real sweetheart of a guy. But even though my comment was innocuous, suggesting that perhaps one posited explanation for a particular phenomenon might have been better than another, I heard through the grapevine that my colleague was unhappy about it.

Without meaning to, over the years I’d annoyed most of my other colleagues … and nearly all of them with reputations as incredibly nice guys. So I figured it must be me. I hastily e-mailed this particular colleague to apologize.

His response: “Rob, no problem at all. I just thought the comments section was for them, not for us.”

Ah, and now I want to write a post about the death of comments. I’ll save that for another day.

20100920knuckleball.jpg A Knuckleballer's Glove

David and I were just discussing the active knuckleball pitchers in MLB when I came across an article about the glove used by those who catch for R.A. Dickey. It’s no surprise that it’s different, but I love the idea of a pitcher carrying around a specific glove because no one else has them.

Because there are so few knuckleball pitchers, Rawlings had only one [knuckleball glove] on hand. It was sitting in a closet in the company’s headquarters in St. Louis, and Cohen had it shipped overnight to Cleveland, the Mets’ next destination.

And I was going to let you just go to that Wikipedia article yourself, but I can’t help but post about the active pitchers using the knuckler.

As of 2010, [Tim] Wakefield of the Boston Red Sox and R.A. Dickey of the New York Mets are the only knucklers in the big leagues, though minor leaguers Charlie Zink of the Rochester Red Wings and Charlie Haeger of the Albuquerque Isotopes also throw the knuckleball. In November 2008 it was announced that 16 year old knuckleballer Eri Yoshida was drafted as the first woman ever to play in Japanese professional baseball for the Kobe 9 Cruise of the Kansai Independent Baseball League. On March 2, 2010, she trained with Tim Wakefield at the Boston Red Sox minor league training facility. and on April 8, 2010, she signed with the Chico Outlaws, debuting on May 29, 2010. Detroit Tigers reliever Eddie Bonine also throws a knuckleball, though he does so infrequently as compared to pitchers who use it as a primary pitch. Lance Niekro, son of Joe Niekro, attempted to convert from a position player to a knuckleball pitcher. He started the 2009 season with the Gulf Coast League Braves but is currently listed as a free agent.

The photo is copyright Tony Dejak/Associated Press

Sam Smith: No one tougher than Scottie Pippen

Sam Smith paints a portrait of Scottie Pippen on the eve of his induction into the Hall of Fame. Here are some choice nuggets.

It’s told famously by his high school and college coaches, but truly defies explanation. The supermodel skinny kid who didn’t play much in high school and wasn’t even sure he wanted to play in college, even if he could. But his high school coach called in some favors just to get him a look at NAIA Central Arkansas. Pippen, maybe 135 pounds then and 6-1, couldn’t get a scholarship and wasn’t recruited by even a junior college. He became team manager and went to school on a Pell grant before a scholarship came open late in his freshman year and he got it in more a charitable move. He cleaned the locker room and handed out the towels. He said he enjoyed that because he could just hang out with the guys.

And now he’s going into the Basketball Hall of Fame. C’mon, you cannot even make that up.


[Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant’s] friendship was legendary at the time as they were inseparable. They’d call each other a dozen times a day and agree on clothes to wear to the game. They purchased the identical cars, dogs and lived on the same street. They were each other’s best men at their weddings, a few months apart. They had the same agent and vacationed together. In the Bulls’ yearbook in answer to the question, “Who would you take if you were going to the moon?” Pippen responded, “Horace Grant.” One of my favorite stories was when Pippen’s cat died and Grant called in saying he’d be late for practice because he had to mourn with Scottie.

Bill Simmons on Lebron James' Decision

You must read this in the next 10 hours because, after that, Lebron will no longer be a free agent. Here’s my favorite bit.

Red Flag No. 1: Wade and Bosh (who have the same agent, by the way) hired documentary crews to follow them around. As any reality-show junkie knows, if there’s no drama, you have to manufacture it. Well, how could a free-agency documentary (or reality show, or web series, or whatever they do with this footage) have drama if both guys decided where they were going weeks ago? You’d have to center it around Wade’s upcoming divorce, or Bosh struggling to decide whether to stay with his girlfriend or hook up with those gorgeous half-Cuban, half-who-the-hell-knows models that only exist in South Beach. And neither guy would ever do that. So what works? Indecision. Meetings. More meetings. A lot of “agonizing.” If this footage ever sees the light of day, I bet the acting is worse than your average episode of “The Hills.” You wait.

Sports Highlights in Online Video

Posted June 22, 2010

With the NBA Final, Stanley Cup and World Cup all happening around the same time, I’ve been taking in a good number of recap, live-streamed and highlight videos. It turns out people are getting a lot smarter about how they surface interesting moments in a game.

NHL Highlights

I find it annoying that recaps for games I care about are sometimes only 30 seconds long. Sure, 30 seconds of a Cubs game is enough for most people, but I’d like at least a couple minutes. The NHL has solved that with their game highlight videos (pictured above). While there’s no commentary, they show you ever goal and a selection of exciting saves and hits. This is great for finding your favorite moment from a game or getting a sense of everything that happened. MLB’s At Bat app let’s you watch a condensed version of the game in 10 minutes, but I’d like a version with just the good parts.

ESPN World Cup Highlights

On Friday, we watched some of the US World Cup match on I don’t remember if these showed up during the game, but right as the game ended, I noticed all of the little tick marks on the timeline. Those were highlights for each of the teams. This is a great way to go back during the game and review some of the choice moments. I’d also love if they kept a marker of where you were when you left live time.

Have you seen any other original ways of displaying sports highlights online?

Dock Ellis and the LSD No-no

In 1870, Dock Ellis threw a no-hitter while under the influence of LSD. Listen to him tell the story with some fantastic illustrations by James Blagden. I could have linked to Youtube, but this site is really, really nicely designed.

My Football Play Ideas, by Claire Zulkey

"Run and throw: The quarterback throws the ball to a guy who is running away but doing so in a way so that no one can get him. Hopefully you are already near the endzone but if not you might have to do some running, I hope that is OK." I LOLed.

OchoCinco is a Smart, Entertaining Man

Posted November 16, 2009

For the last couple months, I've been following Chad Ochocinco's tweets (he's a wide receiver on the Cincinnati Bengals). Chad is known as a bit of a clown* but is a really hard worker and an excellent receiver. He's known for his inventive touchdown celebrations and desire to be loved by everybody. He's definitely succeeded in converting me as a fan.

Unlike Terrell Owens, a fellow clown who is a phenomenal talent but toxic in the locker room, Chad is liked by his team and loved by fans. Since joining Twitter several months ago, he's started to give back to his fans. For each of the home games, he flies one of his Twitter followers out to watch from the stands. Originally the idea was that they would tweet in his stead, but that didn't seem to happen.

He's also not afraid to announce his location (especially when he's at a mall, which is often). In fact, he'll often ask fans to give him a lift or meet him for dinner when he's out of town. When he's at home, he often offers to bring 100 fans to a movie (and they show up!).

You could argue (accurately) that's excellent at marketing himself, but after following along for a bit, I just think he's a good guy. He seems to hang with fans and work hard on he enjoys it. To me, it's a typical case of a perosn putting in hard work at something they love and having the success follow.

* See: his last name, which used to be Johnson, but is now officially his nickname, a poor Spanish translation of 85

Baseball Salaries as a Percentage of Total Revenue

Typically I look at the Yankees payroll and scoff — I prefer league parity via hard salary caps (aka sports communism) — but putting their salary in the context of revenue makes it an easier pill to swallow.

Shut Up, Old People: In Defense of Jay Cutler

Posted April 22, 2009

I've talked before about my favorite sports blog, Da' Bears Blog, but I wanted to quote a slightly longer passage from his recent missive about middle-aged writers complaining about Jay Cutler's nights out:

It's not just sports, of course. We live in a "you must have a wife and kids" culture. Happiness need not apply. And since I'm about to spend an entire year apologizing for every mistake Jay Cutler makes, I think this is the right time to point out that being young and having fun is not a mistake. Not at 26. Not in April.

Like Jeff (the author of the blog), I've long disliked reading into a public figure's private life. If Cutler shows up on day 1 and throws 5 touchdowns and 400 yards, everyone will be sending him jello shots and Long Island Iced Teas.

The Hardest Job in Football: Recording a Game

The Atlantic follows the intricacy of shooting a football game. I love this line, "'There were seven steals!' he says. 'Seven! Five of them resulted in baskets!' The team repeatedly stealing the ball was Kentucky, 'and everybody knew that they always applied a full-court press after a basket! The steals were critical to their success in the game, and the audience didn't even see them!'" [via kottke]

Video: Backflip on a Big Wheel

Holy jeebus. That ruled. [via bb gadgets]

NBA Basketball Team Heat Maps

The maps graph wins over losses, as well as the strength of the win or loss, over 5 years. At the bottom of each season it shows the team's most used players. [via infosthetics]

Da Bears Blog

The author (Jeff) has such an unabashedly optimistic tone, it makes me happy. He sticks it to the Bears when they fuck up, but every Friday he picks the Bears to win. It takes a little while to appreciate it, but he has a unique, non-whiny style that sticks out amongst team blogs.

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