Snarky Behavior

Entries tagged as ‘sports’

Chad Ocho Cinco

September 10, 2008 · Leave a Comment

This guy is why modern sports are awesome.  I didn’t catch this earlier, but he officially changed his name to “Ocho Cinco,” his spanish nick-name for himself (after his uniform #85).

Now Reebok is demanding that he buy back the stock of jerseys they made this season that say “Johnson” on the back… at a cost of $4 million.

Licensing deals suck.  I’m sure Ocho Cinco will find a way to turn this into a publicity thing.  Perhaps he’ll sell his 50,000 jerseys on a secondary market, or massively donate them to charity.

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In Defense of Kobe

November 1, 2007 · 5 Comments

“Leadership: the art of getting someone else to do something that you want done because he wants to do it.”
–Dwight D. Eisenhower

This week while I watched the Lakers’ opener, I was very unsurprised to find that Kobe Bryant was being booed. Kobe’s off-season included a very public trade demand, a leaked video of him trashing the Lakers’ management, and a terrible music video with Tyra Banks.

Nope wait, that last one was some time ago. But he still deserves to be booed for it.

What Kobe doesn’t deserved to be booed for are his contributions on the basketball court. He is hands down the best all-around player in the NBA, which means he is the best living basketball player on the planet. How many people can (pretty unarguably) state that they are the best at what they do? Him, Federer and Tiger? Outside of sports, it’s pretty hard to measure.

Chuck Klosterman made a pretty important point about the NBA in his most recent Page 2 article: namely, the NBA is never as good as we’d want it to be because it’s never as good as we think it should be. Let’s explore that for a moment.

We want the NBA to be exciting. We want the outcomes of the games to matter to the players, for rivalries to form, for the regular season to be meaningful. That is to say, basketball is not the ballet: you’re not necessarily there to see the human body performing at its highest level (although that’s certainly part of it), but to see what happens when these bodies compete and struggle, when there is a clash of wills and ability played out in a structured, competitive environment. (Incidentally, this is why I prefer college basketball to the pros: even though the talent level is incredibly higher at the pro-level, the meaning behind the competition is much greater for the college game.

The endemic problem with the NBA is just what Klosterman identifies: the season is too long to give any one game significance (as is the case in football); the back-and-forth scoring dynamic too monotonous to rev up the intensity of the environment (which soccer and baseball enjoy); and the players too highly paid and contractually insured to demand full intensity on any given night (hence the comparative appeal to the college game).

For its part, the NBA tries to fix structural and systemic problems with a polish and luster that smears lipstick all over its own snout. It tries to engage its White audience by making its employees dress more “suitable” for a business environment. It hypes up the “entertainment” value of its product by promoting individual players over their teams. By creating video montages and all-star festivities centered around high-flying dunks and breath-taking displays of athleticism.

Again, those are the things offered by the circus, by the ballet. I can watch SportsCenter to see the highlights. What I want out of the NBA, what compels me to watch the game, is its competition.

Which brings us back to Kobe.

Kobe Bryant is a competitor. He is a leader. He is a cocky ass-hole, assuredly, but he is a leader.

Different contexts require different leadership positions. Previously this week I posted a clip of Alec Baldwin (the greatest actor of all time!) undercutting the confidence of a group of salesman by pulling the alpha male “brass balls” leadership technique. In a cut-throat industry like sales, where you “f*ck or walk,” it’s important that the employees be constantly challenged, constantly pushed. Their salaries are too good to incentivize their work ethic in any other way. That is to say, when you’re making a good living (and basketball players make millions for working 9 months out of the year), it’s easy to become complacent and push yourself short of your potential.

Kobe Bryant has brass balls. He is Alec Baldwin, undermining the confidence of his teammates, expecting them to expect more from themselves. He drives an $80,000 BMW (in 1980 dollars) and has a gold Rolex that costs more than what some of his teammates (ahem, Jordan Farmar) make in a year. And he is pulling all the strings he has available to him to make himself and his situation successful. He is pushing the buttons of management (who are also easily complacent with a financially viable and successful franchise living off the laurels of its tradition and market)… and he’s doing all of this without giving a flying you-know-what about what sports writers think of him.

Billy Crystal (paraphrased) said that a Jewish boy’s true Barmitzvah is the day he realizes he’s more likely to own an NBA franchise than ever play for one. The same could be said of a sports writer. He is a fan first, and a journalist second. Sports writers want their stars to be good guys, to be the heroes they idealized growing up. And there is a strong degree of cynicism when the writers realize that some of these alpha male competitors are Alec Baldwin ass-holes. So they openly begrudge the players for being “selfish,” for being “bad character guys.” They likewise chastise coaches perceived to be “too tough” on NBA players, who do not respond well to the expectation of self-discipline, hard-work, commitment, etc.

Kobe Bryant certainly could rest on the laurels of his previous 3 titles. He could certainly flash his boyish grin and be friendly with the media. He could play the rest of his career as the best player on a mediocre team, he could garner scoring titles and lavish shoe contracts, and he could secure a legacy in the pantheon of the greats. But Kobe doesn’t want to be one of the greats. He wants to be Ali. He wants to supplant Jordan. He wants to be the greatest.

So why do we begrudge him for it?

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Do My Tears Surprise You Sir? Strong Men Also Cry…

September 5, 2007 · 2 Comments

I’m always quietly amused whenever I check my Yahoo! account (strictly for fantasy football purposes) and the homepage is some news story (in the loosest definition of that term) that gives just enough information to pique the interest of a readership which is only two rungs higher on the evolutionary ladder than that of the New York Post.

Yesterday the headline was so utterly hilarious that I admit I rubbernecked into a click-through… “Bush Tells Biographer: ‘I Do Tears’”.

Here’s exactly how this “biography” came to pass:

[Advisor]: Sir, you have historically low approval ratings, lower than any president in history.
[Bush]: Wapner.
[Advisor]: Sir, we’re going to have to do some intense public relations to make you a more sympathetic person, without having to reveal your dimensia.
[Bush]: (Wookie noise)

The ridiculously transparent and pathetic nature of this public image makeover attempt got me thinking: where does this rate on the “Ridiculously Transparent and Pathetic Public Image Makeover” scale???

The Ridiculously Transparent and Pathetic Public Image Makeover Scale

(Note: Ratings are from 1 to 10, 1 being “understandable and necessary” and 10 being “you’re making me uncomfortable and embarrassed just watching you trying to sell yourself in a new light.”)

1. Ellen Degeneres buys Converse, wears bed head pomade and white dress-suits with pants to reenter public sphere as “spunky funny lesbian” and not “emo Melissa Etheridge lesbian.”

2. Isiaah Washington goes on Larry King to say “I HAD A FREAKING GAG ORDER AND THEY STILL FIRED ME,” which he can’t actually say, because ABC would sue him.

3. Jason Giambi “apologizes” to the New York media, without actually saying what he was apologizing for. You know, just that he was sorry. For the wink wink nudge nudge. And the flick flick poke plunge lift recover pick your bacne.
4. Kobe apologizing for getting caught… er, cheating on his wife.
5. Vanilla Ice goes on “The Surreal Life,” because his “agent” (i.e. his boy Lil’ Dookey) told him the best way to stop people from making fun of him for being a wigger idiot 15 years ago is to establish his relative sanity in an environment of washed and boozed up D-list celebrities (on camera).

6. Paula Abdul launches a reality TV show so that the world can see the “real” her… only to discover that the “real” her is just as we all expected… a rich crack-whore on valium, 24/7.

7. Dave Chappelle goes on “Inside the Actors Studio” and “Oprah” to try to explain how he gets really, really high so much that he thinks crazy thoughts that nobody else could possibly relate to, and while we all think it’s hilarious, he is racked with inexplicable guilt and self-doubt.

8. Bush admits to crying, abandoning his tough cowboy demeanor as a pre-emptive application of vaseline for the wide loaded girth historians will leave behind while discussing his “legacy” for the next 18 months.

9. Clint Eastwood REALLY cries in “Million Dollar Baby,” instantly losing 7 decades’ worth of respect and admiration, so that he could win an Oscar. End of Western genre is officially demarcated shortly thereafter with the release of “Brokeback Mountain.”

10. Tom Cruise jumps up and down on Oprah’s couch, yelling “I’m in love!” If you could see beyond his widely set grin and squinting eyes, you’d find a self-loathing homosexual alien-robot.

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Learning from Your Elders

August 13, 2007 · Leave a Comment

My grandma hates sports.

More specifically, she hates sports fanatics. She hates men who paint their faces. She hates tribal affiliations to symbols, colors and mascots. And she hates irrational hooliganism.

You see, my grandma lived through Nazi Germany. She witnessed her friends and family irrationally buy into the political fervor of social democracy. She chaffed at the nationalistic pride, later deemed facism, that was embodied by Nazi propoganda.

To put it bluntly, sports fanatics remind my grandmother of her shame for being part of a society that could exterminate 6 million Jews. The face painters and obscenity yellers remind her of a time when her individual voice, her conscience, was drowned out by irrational group-think.

In this context, social identity theory would classify my grandmother as a CORFer : Cutting Off of Reflective Failure. She has lived the second half of her life– the part as a German-American immigrant– distancing herself from her portion of the collective shame of WWII.

It’s fascinating to me how huge of an impact the experience of Nazi Germany had on my grandmother’s self-esteem, and really, the self-esteem of all Germans. The historical embarassment and shame of a failed and despicable facist state is deeply damaging to one’s personal narrative; so much so, in fact, that my grandmother was compelled to write her memoirs about how powerless she felt during that period of time.

The American narrative, of course, is spun in a much more positive light (Basking in Reflected Glory), despite Manzanar and the two atomic bombs we dropped on Japan. We constantly hear about how “history has judged Harry Truman much more favorably” than his popularity would’ve indicated at the time he left office; and this is presumably how George W. Bush contextualizes his own legacy.

So in today’s context, it seems the contemporary role of the American president has become advancing a foreign policy agenda abroad while managing the collective ego of the American public at home. That is to say, we can tolerate being duped into supporting a war, if it means replacing a dictator and promoting freedom/democracy in the Middle East.

However, as the success of a stable democracy becomes increasingly unlikely, are we strong enough as a society to accept and sustain the blow to our collective ego of a reflective failure? Or will we blast the Iraqis for their inability to manage the fledgling democracy we “provided” for them?

…if America were a sports team, we would all be Yankee fans.

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Barry Bonds: Was Cheating Worth It?

August 2, 2007 · Leave a Comment

Ugh. Two nights ago I got engaged in a heated conversation with a random Yankees fan about whether it was worth it for Barry Bonds to have ingested bull’s testicles or rubbed baboon semen on his skin or whatever it was he took to make his head swell to the size of Ken Griffey’s in the episode of the Simpson’s when Homer is “the natural” on the company softball team full of major league ringers (see visual to the right).

The conversation started innocuously enough, and the details are fuzzy because we ended up closing down 4 bars with shots of Jameson and drinking Magic Hat in my living room until 3:30 am (NO ALLISON I AM NOT GAY, IT’S A PERFECTLY STRAIGHT THING TO DO). But the crux of our arguments were as follows:

Shared Positions – We don’t dislike Bonds because he cheated, but because he’s an asshole about it.

We realize that everyone in major league baseball at that time was juiced. It was no big secret. And if you weren’t juicing, you were at a competitive disadvantage. Being at a competitive disadvantage in baseball can sometimes amount to a 8-figure difference(!). So, it’s a big deal. And it’s MLB’s fault for allowing a permissive environment and forcing players (who are natural competitors) to put their bodies at risk to stay ahead of the pack.

According to Game of Shadows, in 1998 Bonds watched Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa both shatter the home-run record, and was none too pleased about it. He knew that he was a better natural talent than either of them. And he knew that they were both juicing– lifting, playing every day, recovering faster– and hitting balls further because of it.

So Bonds (who in 1998 was already a first ballot Hall of Famer) basically said “fuck this love bath for Big Mac,” went to the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO), got himself some bacne-maker, and had 4 of the most impressive seasons in the history of professional sports. The rest, as the say, is history.

So, we don’t blame Bonds for cheating. At least he did it the right way, under the supervision of an organization dedicated to sports medicine, working with track athletes like Marion Jones.

But was it worth it? Was cheating, getting caught, and lying about it worth obtaining the crown of “All-Time Home Run Champion” and, arguably, “Greatest of All Time”?

That’s where we differ:

My position – Absolutely not. History and literature are chalk full of tragic heroes who flew too close to the sun: Icharus, Midas, Achilles, Oedipus, Macbeth, Napoleon, Marie Antoinette, Gatsby. The Greeks especially elucidated the trappings of “the pride before the fall”… hubris — the idea that honor achieved at the price of shame is a zero-sum game.

And that’s what Bonds has achieved for himself. He has begrudgingly elbowed his way into the record books, carved out his glory(hole) on top of Cooperstown, where he will firmly stand as the greatest of all-time… or at least until A-Rod wins a world series or demolishes the home run record in 10 years. But, no matter what happens, Bonds’ legacy is forever tainted by our collective recognition that he cheated to get there. He blatantly disenchanted the quintessentially American obsession with record-keeping (that Bernard Henri-Levy speaks to in American Vertigo) by removing our ability to make worthwhile comparisons between past and present.

For all intents and purposes, Barry Bonds killed baseball. He post-dated a once timeless sport. He will go to his grave with that asterix on his soul, even if it’s not in the record books.

Yankees Fans’ Position – Of course it was worth it. We have one opportunity — on life, to have an impact, to leave a lasting legacy. Of the billions of people in existence in the history of the world, there is only an infinitesimally small percentage of those whom history has remembered. And Bonds has achieved that for himself. Everyone else- the writers and sports commentators and lesser players- are either consciously or subconsciously jealous that they will never experience the same elite-level of greatness that Bonds now embodies.

Is it egotistical? Of course! But the mark of a great man is someone who is not humbled when he realizes his insignificance in the presence of the universe. The mark of the great man is the Prometheus who strives for glory and recognition among his fellow man despite the admission that the gods are even greater; and even if his life is just a blip on the radar screen of the totality of existence, it’s still a bigger and brighter blip than anyone elses’.

So what say you? Should we qualify our admiration of glory with a moral lens? Or should we applaud greatness, even if it turns our stomachs?

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Things that are more attractive than Joakim Noah:

June 29, 2007 · 1 Comment

This isn’t a comprehensive list, but off the top of my head:

  • The Bush twins.
  • Walrus sex.
  • Smegma.
  • A crowning, amniotic newborn.
  • Ugly Betty.
  • My grandmother’s mustache.
  • Ru Paul.
  • The fiber-optic cable that checks for colon cancer.
  • Gollum.
  • The bottom of your shoe after having stepped in gum, dog doo-doo and a used condom.
  • Body lice.
  • Michael Jackson’s (alleged) penis.
  • This guy:

  • Flesh-eating bacteria.
  • Rosie O’Donnel giving Star Jones a massage in a sauna.
  • The dead seagulls that float in the Shamu tank at Sea World.
  • Fat Bastard.
  • Car crash victims.
  • Hillary Clinton.
  • The nude wrestling scene from Borat
  • Sin.

Things that are less attractive than Joakim Noah:

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ESPN is US Weekly for Dudes

June 22, 2007 · 2 Comments

Pacman Jones makes it rain.

More accurately this post title should be “Deadspin is US Weekly for Dudes.” But as consequence of the majority of friends being some combination of female, corporate, hipster, and/or gay, I’m pretty sure few readers would get the reference.

Although I don’t follow sports as regularly as I once did, I still maintain a casual interest, even though (again) there are so few people I regularly interact with who actually give even a semblance of a crap.

Being conversational about sports helps me interact in testosteronal environments (like the gym, poker tables, etc.), since I don’t really jive in the milieu of “recounting sexual escapades.” (Read: I’m not comfortable with lying).

I’ve often asked the question of my female friends: “what do you do with your spare ‘thought’ time? Why are you not infinitesimally more productive than I am!?” That is: what are the distractive components of the female mind that prevent them from taking over the world while men ponder money, sports and girls (i.e. money, cash, hos)?

Here’s a breakdown of what I’m thinking about during the course of a day:

I’ll unscientifically give girls the roughly equivalent percentages for Money, Boys (actually higher, since I’m fairly asexual), Deep Thinking (I’ll take the high road and leave Larry Summers out of this argument), Task at Hand, and Nothing at all.

That leaves an unexplained 15% of the active mind! What the hell are you thinking about?

My hypothesis: Girls are thinking about US Weekly. They’re thinking (or more precisely, reading or watching) about Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, Lindsay Lohan’s boobs, Britany Spears’ snatch, and so on and so forth. It’s the only logical explanation. I refuse to consider otherwise.

The SCARY part of this phenomenon is when you project forward: While part of the male aging process results in a dwindling interest in sports and an increased interest in money (which is a fairly natural transition in terms of cognitive process, from analytical, tribal competitiveness to provisional security and status), the “Britany’s Snatch” cognition MORPHS INTO MATERNAL INSTINCTS!

That is, girls think, “I’ll never be a stupid spoiled whore of a mother like Britany, dropping her baby in her own drug-induced bulemia-spew.”

How scary is that????

Just as sports figures like PacMan Jones, Terrell Owens, Kobe Bryant, and the entire Cincinnati Bengals have become “anti-role models” for the ethos of team play, cooperation, friendship, and patience, Britany has become the anti-role model for motherhood!

It’s the rise of the anti-role model!

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NBA Cares

June 15, 2007 · 2 Comments

Canada’s finest.

Bill Simmons of Page 2 has an extremely interesting observation about the current state of the NBA:

We’ve reached a point with the NBA when its offseason somehow became more interesting than its actual season(…)the point [when] it’s more enjoyable to watch GMs tinker with their teams than watching those teams actually play. Isn’t this a major, major, MAJOR problem? You could even call it a crisis, right?

From my perspective, the short answer is: no, it’s not a crisis. But for me to take interest in the NBA it would require the following formula:

Jon’s Interest = Slam Dunks([Players' Interest* + structured offenses + team passing - zone defenses - primadonnas - flopping - grabbing] + 4[Lakers Being Good]**)/(1/Competition Level of Games)

*Players’ Interest = [(Salary)(Effort + Pride - Habitual Marijuana Use]/(years left on contract)(# games per season)
**I’m a Laker bandwagoner, what can I say?

Now, I’m pretty sure that most sports fans’ “personal interest equations” in the NBA are some variation of the above. Nobody’s watching Game 4 of the Finals right now (myself included) because the Spurs are a dirty team and the Cavs are a crappy team. It’s pretty simple. I watched game 1 just to see what LeBron might do, but Bruce Bowen grab-(har)assed him for 40 odd minutes, and that was that.

I’ll be honest: the only really compelling characters in the NBA right now are: Steve Nash, Shaq, Mark Cuban and Charles Barkeley. And to a lesser degree, Allen Iverson, Bill Simmons, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Eva Longoria and David Stern.

Now, you may have noticed: Of the above mentioned, only five of the ten actually, you know, play in the NBA (and Shaq’s on his way out). The others are: a retired NBA legend-cum broadcast analyst, the Commissioner, an owner, a sports-writer and a desperate house-wife.

I’m not going to offer a prescription for the NBA because I don’t care enough about the league to put forth the effort. I think that it’s been over-managed, the salary cap is too low, and the players are piss-poor role models. College basketball may not be as pure as some might like but it’s clearly the superior alternative.

What I will do is offer some reasons for the current reality (as observed by Bill Simmons):

1.) Marketing players over teams: This was discussed on by Paul Shirley (author of Can I Keep My Jersey?). When you market players over teams, you’re neglecting 99% of your product, and putting all of your eggs in one basket. Look what happened to the Wizards when Gilbert Arenas went down… can you imagine if that happened to LeBron? Or Steve Nash? And as the Spurs have proven, great teams ALWAYS beat great players… but when you’re not hyping great teams, then you get stuck with “boring” Finals (aka Spurs, Pistons) when the great players get shut down. There was only one Michael Jordan and he happened to play in an era when the NBA just didn’t have any great teams.

2.) Fantasy basketball: Now, I know that fantasy permeates every sport, and it certainly has been a boon to football. But football is still inherently a team sport. The Redskins (and lately, the Yankees for baseball) have proven that chemistry, leadership, preparation and all of those other intangibles are incredibly important and can’t be evaluated on paper. Everything in basketball can be played out on paper: Tim Duncan + Tony Parker + Manu Ginobli = an extremely good team. In fact Tim Duncan + virtually anyone = an extremely good team. Which leads me to my next point:

3.) Valuing potential over skill: When you start getting involved in drafting 18 year old kids out of high-school for their “upside,” you’re playing to a dangerous trend that values the future over the present. The danger here is that when you’re constantly looking forward, you tend to get far-sighted. This is what happened to the Lakers, and why Kobe is demanding a trade. They had a championship caliber-team, and could’ve locked up 2 to 3 more rings depending on Shaq’s conditioning. But Jerry Buss decided it was too much of a risk to lock up a past-his-prime Shaq, and tried (and failed) to get equal value via trade. Well, we all know Dwayne Wade (a poor-man’s Kobe) and Shaq go on to win a ring in Miami. So fuck you, Jerry Buss.

Honestly though, there are too many problems to list, and I’m losing steam. But at least the NBA cares.

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