Openings and links to recent writing I’ve done for Splice Today:
As NBA teams play their last of the 82-game season, the Western Conference standings are a mess. Every team other the Golden State Warriors is floating in a blender, which pulses nightly. The healthiest and the hottest teams rise to the top. Welcome to the 2nd seed, San Antonio Spurs. Welcome to the 5th seed, Memphis Grizzlies. The playoff match-ups refuse to be determined. Let’s switch over to the Eastern Conference, where things might not be as glamorous, but they make a bit more sense.
The Boston Celtics (40-42) have enjoyed themselves since the All-Star Break (20-11; 20-9 in last 29 games). Coach Brad Stevens has the team buying in to the wise Buddhist (and sporting) philosophy to stay in the present moment, rather than get ahead of themselves and overanalyze their success. The hunger this group plays with is palpable. Refreshing to see a collection of undervalued players pull together in only a few weeks. As GM Danny Ainge explained on Tuesday night’s broadcast, the new-look team has barely had practice time together since the All-Star break, and the cohesion is remarkable. The flurry of mid-season trades is in the rearview, and the Celtics have cemented their collective identity. Start with guards Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley. Toss in the constant-motion and physicality of Jae Crowder and Jonas Jerebko. Finish it with the mighty-might offensive force of Isaiah Thomas (no relation to the Pistons legend), and you get a team that refuses to be denied.
To continue, hop here: http://splicetoday.com/sports/green-playoff-dreams-become-reality
I’m not sure when it happened exactly, maybe 10 years ago, but ESPN, Yahoo and the rest of the corporate sports media industry, who have always enjoyed quoting athletes saying stupid things, began taking it to the next level, constantly badgering athletes to self-promote and sound like egomaniacal assholes (some don’t need much help), in order for the media cycle to provide easy targets for Stephen A. Smith, Skip Bayless and Colin Cowherd the following day. Amazingly, the hot air has yet to melt ESPN down into the black hole of Bristol, Connecticut.
Growing up in Boston, I understand the cultural phenomenon of sports talk radio and what a “hot take” really is. It’s an easy and provocative way of dumbing-down simple-minded people who see the world in black-and-white. Our political campaigns are filled with gossip-filled plot twists and endless array of talking heads reinforcing the sludge to the masses. Everything is newsworthy in this age. I feel like Andy Rooney, hermetically complaining in my corner.
The Internet avalanche of clickbait now brings these non-stories to our eyes wherever we wander online. The “build your brand” bullshit and the endless self-promotion that has infiltrated the sports world is here to stay, whether we like it or not. Filtering it out becomes paramount for the semi-enlightened sports fan who wants to avoid the swamp of ego-driven despair that comes with enjoying a game, a team or a particular player.
“James Harden claims he’s the NBA’s MVP”
That’s the headline, designed to make you click. As Chris Beck eloquently wrote here, controversy reigns in today’s competitive media climate. Truth be damned, not truth be told. So much garbage designed to provoke reactions, rather than examine with a critical lens. Very few media outlets worry about correcting their false claims. Everyone moves on in an instant.
To continue, hop here: http://splicetoday.com/sports/how-mvp-debates-miss-the-bigger-picture
Opening Day is a holiday. More sacred than Easter or Passover or any other spring day for me. This isn’t about the tropes of fresh starts and green grass and the end of winter, though those are important aspects of Opening Day as well. This is about the lovely impossibility of percentages. One divided by 162.
1/162 = 0.00617.
The first regular season game of the longest season in professional sports counts for roughly 0.62 percent of the season. But let’s be honest: All but the most literal-minded, detached fan does not see Opening Day that way. With all the anticipation of Game #1 comes all of the exaggerated impact that Game #1 has. As is the case with the majority of baseball games, strange things happened.
On Monday, 28 of Major League Baseball’s 30 teams opened their seasons; the Cubs and Cardinals debuted on Sunday night. Of those 14 games, four ended in blowouts. Boston (8-0), Colorado (10-0), Kansas City (10-1), and Oakland (8-0) all began their seasons in glorious style, piling up runs as if they will last forever. Never mind that Kansas City and Oakland may not score more than seven runs in a game for the rest of April. For now, their bats are bright-eyed and bountiful, and the lineup takes on a jovial vibe. Coming into Monday, Red Sox and Rockies fans knew high-scoring games were likely occurrences. I suppose it’s ingrained in those that have ever attended a game at Coors Field to expect a steady flow of hits and runs. Red Sox fans have certainly come to expect doubles off the Monster and “crooked numbers” on the scoreboard, but five home runs on Opening Day? Four solo shots off Cole Hamels? This was only the second time in his career he’s allowed four in a game.
To continue, hop here: http://splicetoday.com/sports/the-glory-of-boston-s-opening-day
Baseball is not entirely unpredictable, but there is a website named for its unpredictability. How many “experts” picked Kansas City to rampage through the post-season last October? How many believed that Mike Moustakas (52 HRs in 1993 regular season plate appearances) would hit five October round-trippers in his 55 October appearances in the batter’s box? Before last October’s AL Wild Card game, how many fans had ever heard of pinch-running maestro Terrance Gore (two plate appearances, five stolen bases last September)?
This is why we love baseball (or why Orioles fans hate baseball). Because the game refuses to allow us to know how it will play out every year, with broken-bat hits and insane running catches in the outfield (Lorenzo Cain). Because of Tommy John and his infamous elbow operation. Injuries that result from dropping boxes on feet (Chris Sale). Every spring training day that passes, more baseball fans are learning more about anatomy and physiology. Fantasy baseball rosters are filled with tiny red-crosses. Let’s get down to it and ask some hypothetical questions.
Boston Red Sox:
- I’d like to make a substantial wager that Mookie Betts will be an All-Star within three years. Yes, I’d like to bet on Betts.
- How many weeks until we see lefty prospect Eduardo Rodriguez replace fifth starter Joe Kelly (biceps injury and up-and-down career) in the starting rotation?
- With all of the defensive shifts that take place in the majors now, why can’t the Red Sox just play their four outfielders, as they do in softball?
- Who needs a first baseman? Pedroia can scamper over there on infield hits.
As always, thanks for reading and sharing.
Onward to the Playoffs!
Go Celtics. Go Warriors.