Tags: Sports

The End of RG3


This Thanksgiving, spare a thought for Robert Griffin III, who at just 24 seems to have reached the end of his career with the Redskins and may be washed up as an NFL quarterback. An impossibly promising rookie, a guy born to be a franchise QB (and, I’ve always suspected, a secret conservative), RG3 has been plagued by injuries and one of the rottenest strings of games in living memory. He’s now been benched in favor of Colt McCoy, an older thrower who has, it must be said, one of the coolest football names imaginable. Given that this is his second season of bitter disappointment, Griffin’s demotion is looking less like a temporary setback than the end of an epoch.

Getty Images

A page-one eulogy in today’s Washington Post by Dave Sheinin and Liz Clarke is that rare thing: a piece wherein the melodramatic and pretentious stylings of sports writing are actually appropriate for the heartrending material:

The enormous cost of the Griffin era can be measured in cold football terms: from the three first-round and one second-round pick the Redskins had to surrender to the St. Louis Rams to secure his draft rights in March 2012 to the firing of Mike Shanahan as head coach at the end of last season to the unsightly 4-14 record Griffin has compiled as a starter the past two seasons.

But what makes Griffin’s downfall an athletic tragedy worthy of Shakespeare is human cost. Far from the magnetic superstar with the sprinter’s speed and a persona that made him millions from Madison Avenue before he took his first NFL snap, he now appears a shell of his former self, broken of body and spirit.

“You hate to see anybody beat up the way Robert has been beat up,” Joe Theismann, arguably the last Redskins signal-caller to earn the title of franchise quarterback, said in a telephone interview. “He is being beaten physically; he’s being beaten mentally. And in the court of public opinion, he is being destroyed. It’s a fickle business. The only way to keep the lions at the gate is to produce.”

Griffin has so far been paid almost $18 million by the ’Skins, so there are plenty of people more deserving of your sympathy. But there is something tragic about seeing a young superstar transformed from what Sheinin and Clarke call “an Olympic-caliber athlete” into “a halting, limping man who has been sacked four times per game this season and who seems to get up more gingerly with each crushing blow.”

“I am always thankful for all of my successes, but along with that comes my failures,” Griffin wrote in a Thanksgiving piece for Time last week. “Without the latter, I would not be able to learn from my mistakes and correct my path to create success. Going through the highs and lows of life has made me the man that I am today, and I am very thankful for that.”

Better times:

Tags: Sports

Google: You Will Be Made to Care About the World Cup


Why is Google Doodle marking World Cup through June?

The international search leviathan, as you have no doubt noticed, has been doing FIFA World Cup promotions on its main page since the global soccer competition began early this month.

Google has repeatedly landed in hot water over “Google Doodle” decisions that are apparently meant to be whimsical but more often come off as bizarre. Google notably failed to acknowledge Memorial Day and famously snubbed a billion or so Christians on Easter Sunday in favor of the United Farm Workers labor union. Untroubled by this history, Google has devoted its storied “Doodle” throughout this month to providing free advertising for what is essentially an international trade group: the Fédération Internationale de Football Association. Why?

If you ask the question above at, you’ll get a bunch of breathless articles on World Cup news. You’ll get more or less the same thing at

These articles are not necessarily uninteresting. The sport of international love and brotherhood has lately generated an on-the-field cannibalism episode that was totally ignored by officials. The Islamist terror group now rolling up the Levant has reportedly “hijacked World Cup hashtags in English and Arabic to share pro-ISIS content” — proving that while this reporter thought calling soccer the “official sport of terrorism” was just an over-the-top troll of soccer fans, it was in fact a letter-accurate description of the sport.

Of course, you must win the victory over yourself. You must love World Cup. That is the real purpose of the Doodle campaign: to extinguish the most precious of all human rights: the right just not to care about something Big Brother insists you take an interest in.

Just so, using Google (and ask yourself: do you have any way of finding information anymore, other than googling it?), you can find a few negative takes on the Google Doodle World Cup extravaganza. But these are the kind of false-dissent gestures Late Capitalism is willing to tolerate in order to stave off the uprising of the proletariat. At no point are you allowed to opt out of World Cup entirely.

“Google World Cup doodle scores sour note on social media” says the Kansas City Star’s Lisa Gutierrez, but her actual story is just a recitation of social controversies any red-blooded American would be ashamed to take seriously: over Brazil’s favelas and so forth. An even more grotesque gesture of non-dissent dissent is Barry Schwartz’s “Are You Getting Tired Of Google’s World Cup Doodles?” This piece turns out to be five sentences of text followed by a gallery of more than a dozen favorite World Cup doodles, advertising for the event disguised as controversy. You may be tired of World Cup, but World Cup is not tired of you.

As always, the apparent gesture at freedom is in fact another link in the chain of bondage. You can get mad about a World Cup result. You can object to a detail of World Cup advertising. What you can’t do is stand up boldly and say what Patrick Henry, Nat Turner, Anne Hutchinson, the guy with the shopping bags at Tiananmen Square, and history’s other great dissenters didn’t quite say but all meant: I just don’t give a 5h1t.

Tags: Sports

Suggestions at #NewRedskinsName


The Washington Racecards
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Tags: Redskins Obama NFL , Sports

‘Feeling Tremendously Full of Running’: Happy Diamond Anniversary to the Four-Minute Mile


On this day 60 years ago, medical student Roger Bannister put the myth of the unbreakable four-minute mile into the dustbin of history with the sound barrier and the Earth’s  1 billion–population “carrying capacity.” Watch as the fleet-footed Englishman makes history, and narrates his own story in an impeccable Oxford accent:

Six decades later, around a thousand men have broken the four-minute mile; and the record, held by the great Hicham El Guerrouj, now stands at three minutes, forty-three seconds. But the one-miler remains among the most grueling of track events. Too long to be a sprint, too short for anything but flat-out mad-dogging, it’s a race that still separates the men from the boys. (Or at least separates the men from the women; the world is still waiting for the first woman to break four minutes.)

Tags: Sports

Decency — and Smart Politics! — Require Us to Passionately Denounce Sterling.


From the Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Decency — and Smart Politics! — Require Us to Passionately Denounce Sterling

A lot of us rightfully lament the knee-jerk playing of the race card and the public campaigns, usually driven by the Left, against anybody who says anything that they can interpret as racist. But every once in a while you run into old-fashioned, straight up, unadulterated racism. And in the comments of L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling, it appears we’ve found it, presuming the tape is authentic and not doctored. Listen to the audio if you wish.

At least for the first few days, the scandal wasn’t a huge issue on the Right, except for a few folks hunting down his old donations to Democrats to argue that he can’t be tied to the GOP, and the Left then high-fiving because he’s a registered Republican.

If you’re not African-American, put yourself in the shoes of an African-American right now. This jerk [insert your preferred stronger term of derision here], banging some multiethnic hottie about a third of his age, is berating her for letting the world know that she associates with African-Americans — in this particular case, former Lakers star Magic Johnson.

In the audio, it’s clear that Sterling’s objection is not that she’s hanging around with a famous Laker (the other team in LA), as I’ve seen some folks interpreting his remarks. There’s nothing about Johnson being a Laker, but there is this:

“It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?”

– “You can sleep with [black people]. You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want. The little I ask you is not to promote it on that . . . and not to bring them to my games.”

– “I’m just saying, in your lousy f******* Instagrams, you don’t have to have yourself with, walking with black people.”

Intriguingly, as the conversation progresses, he is convinced that his stance isn’t racist, and that she’s being hurtful by accusing him of being so.

This guy’s got more entitlement issues than the federal government.

I’ve seen some folks lamenting that a private conversation is the trigger for a world of hurt coming down on Sterling. That’s troubling, but something of a side issue at the moment. If you tell your multiethnic girlfriend that you don’t want blacks coming to your team’s basketball games, there’s always the chance that she’ll repeat it or someone will overhear you. We can have side discussions about our Brave New World of ubiquitous personal recording devices or the habits of wealthy elderly men behaving spectacularly unwisely when involved with attractive women a third of their age.

But for now, issue one — and I’ll bet it’s huge in the African-American community — is this racist SOB owning the Clippers and secretly — or perhaps not-so-secretly — disdaining so many of his employees and customers. There’s enormous anger about this. I’ve seen a few righty bloggers grumbling about Obama’s statement on the controversy from Asia, asking, “Who cares about this?” My guess is, a whole lot of people; this is a story that broke on TMZ and is heavily covered by the sports media. The existence of other important news doesn’t mean that this isn’t important news.

Remember Obama beating Romney, 81 percent to 18 percent on the characteristic, “Cares about people like me”? This would be a good time for Republicans to show African-Americans we care. (Actually, it’s always a good time for that.) They’re furious about this. We can probably spare some fury, too, for a guy who’s perfectly happy to take money from African-Americans for tickets, and pay African-Americans to play so they’ll put fans in the arena seats, but draws the line at his girlfriend posting a picture on Instagram with a black man.

And the evidence is mounting that this isn’t such a private matter:

In 2006, Bomani Jones wrote a piece for with the headline, “Sterling’s racism should be news.” At the time, Sterling was sued by the Department of Justice for allegedly refusing to rent apartments in Beverly Hills and Koreatown to black people. He paid $2.73 million to settle that suit in 2009, a lawsuit which quoted Sterling as saying, in sworn testimony mind you, “Hispanics smoke, drink and just hang around the building,” adding, “Black tenants smell and attract vermin.” Behind the scenes, dozens of NBA players, coaches, and executives have alleged racism from Sterling in their interactions with the Clippers owner.

If the Righty world’s primary or loudest response to Sterling is to say, “well, what about Harry Reid’s ‘negro’ comments, huh? Or how about Robert Byrd? You’re all just a bunch of hypocrites!” then some African-Americans may conclude that Republicans are more upset about the hypocrisy of the Left on race than actual racism. They may even be right.

I was discussing this with a few other conservative bloggers and activists and Ali Akbar said I could quote him:

Earlier today I took on one of our own who made the stupid, and ridiculous, comment that Sterling shouldn’t lose his team. 1) They clearly don’t understand how the NBA or any club is organized, 2) They apparently don’t believe in the law, courts, code of conducts, or contracts, 3) they forget that the market argument always allows for context, which in this case includes the NBA and other owners protecting their brand/franchise, 4) they don’t seem to give a damn about anything except pissing off the Left even at the cost of their own intellectually honesty. There are just a few conservatives making the case that Sterling is a victim of the thought-police, but it’s not conservative at all. It’s reactionary traditionalism. It’s instinctual and driven by the gut instead of the brain.

Burn Sterling to the ground. Let the public know that we, a political minority, don’t have any tolerance for his crap. Be he a Democrat donor or a registered Republican or both.

Other takes:

Jonah on public character and private character. One minor point — if your conversation involves other people, i.e., whether your girlfriend can bring African-American friends to the game, then is it really so private?

NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar declares “the whole country has gotten a severe case of carpal tunnel syndrome from the newest popular sport of Extreme Finger Wagging. Not to mention the neck strain from Olympic tryouts for Morally Superior Head Shaking.”

NAACP Los Angeles president Leon Jenkins: “God teaches us to forgive, and the way I look at it, after a sustained period of proof to the African American community that those words don’t reflect his heart, I think there’s room for forgiveness. I wouldn’t be a Christian if I said there wasn’t.”

Tags: race , Sports

Identity Politics, Coming to the NFL Draft


From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

Identity Politics, Coming to the NFL Draft

Good luck, Michael Sam.

Those of us who are sports fans are going to have a fascinating couple weeks ahead, as the national political and cultural media insists upon interpreting the events of the National Football League draft through the lens of identity politics. They will attempt to shoehorn events into a made-for-TV movie storyline about Michael Sam, defensive end for the University of Missouri, and aspiring NFL player.

Our media used to writing one kind of identity politics story: a person comes out of the closet and becomes the first openly-gay person to achieve a particular goal, gets saluted for bravery, is elevated to hero status, and then spends the next few years going to black-tie awards dinners and being the subject of overwrought documentaries.

Ellen DeGeneres represents a good, early example of this. She was a fairly successful comedienne back in the 1990s, excelling in stand-up with an awkward, nervous, why-did-I-just-say-that persona and starring in what was, in retrospect, painfully ironic romantic comedies like “Mr. Wrong.” She came out, her sitcom character of the same name did so shortly thereafter, and . . . no one remembers much after that, because the sitcom was never that good.

The Onion’s AV Club dissects the breakout episode, and notes in passing:

“The Puppy Episode” drew 42 million viewers and won a Peabody Award, but it also, in the short run, caused more turmoil than it solved. Ellen lost its identity as its storylines became dominated by gay issues, and was canceled the following year. . . . My husband and I were fans of DeGeneres’ comedy and had watched Ellen from the beginning; it was painful to watch her simultaneously stand up for herself and lose her way.

Ellen DeGeneres deserves all the success she’s enjoyed with her much more popular daytime talk show, but let’s not pretend that her old sitcom was ever particularly standout or a ratings smash.

You may recall Jason Collins was invited to the State of the Union, and you may recall references to “NBA star Jason Collins.” The term “journeyman” is more accurate, as he played for six teams, four since 2009. His career averages are 3.6 points per game, 3.8 rebounds per game, .9 assists per game, .5 steals per game. Undoubtedly, you have to have talent to play 12 seasons in the NBA and play 713 games in those seasons, starting about two-thirds of them. He averaged 20 minutes per game (an NBA game is 48 minutes). He’s good, but not a star. Collins was a free agent when he came out of the closet, and no team has signed him since. Some will insist that reflects league-wide homophobia, but that interpretation neglects the fact that age 35 is the end of the shelf life of an NBA center. But “journeyman NBA player discloses his sexual orientation at end of his career” is a less dramatic story, and so most of the media deemphasized those aspects of the story.

The NFL Draft comes with its own movie-ready drama. Unlike the Super Bowl or any other sports championship, the draft is a major annual event that involves every team, as every almost every team has a first-round draft choice. (Sorry, Washington Redskins fans.) There’s a near-complete reversal of fortune, as the league’s worst team has the first and most consequential choice, making a selection that could ignite a quick turnaround back to respectability or be remembered as one of the all-time flops. Every fan of every team has a reason to tune in, to see who their team picks, hoping to have gotten a future star. The NFL draft is one of those rare high-drama sporting events with no real losers.

But there are indeed big winners. For the players, draft day is their real graduation day, where they stop practicing their craft to ensure the prosperity of a university and finally cash in on their years of effort with, in most circumstances, a multi-million dollar, multi-year contract. Guys who grew up with next to nothing bring their mothers and their whole families to New York City, where they learn where they’ll be living for the next few years, pursuing their dream of stardom. Genuine tears of joy flow. At age 20 or 21 or so, these young men have achieved their childhood dreams.

I suspect most fans’ biggest question about Michael Sam is, ‘if my team drafts him, how much better will our pass rush get?’ NFL fans care about the off-the-field behavior of their favorite team’s players to a certain degree; nobody likes rooting for a thug and a player prone to off-the-field trouble represents a higher risk of getting himself suspended or in legal trouble someday. But it’s hard to believe that NFL fans who can come to terms with a one-man population explosion at cornerback or shrug off drug busts, assault charges, DWIs, public intoxication, and all kinds of other misbehavior will stop rooting for a team with a gay defensive end.

A large chunk of the media will insist upon interpreting every triumph and setback for Michael Sam through the lens of his homosexuality and their belief that he’s a flashpoint in a battle between “tolerance” and “intolerance.” But the career of an NFL player can rise or fall on a thousand different factors and twists of fate. Do the coaches use him correctly? How complicated is the defensive system, and how quickly can he pick up the signals, terminology, and strategy? Is he in a system designed to showcase his natural skills, or are the coaches trying to use him in a new or different role that takes time to learn? How good are the other players on the team at his position? Does he twist an ankle or tear an ACL? Sam seems to have a good head on his shoulders, but how does he handle the pressures of being a professional athlete?

Nobody really knows the answers to any of these questions until the players put on uniforms and start playing. In 1998, coaches and scouts deemed two quarterbacks to be potential superstars. Peyton Manning lived up to all the hype and more; Ryan Leaf is remembered as one of the all-time flops. Fourteen of 20 general managers rated Leaf the more promising prospect.

Greg Bedard of Sports Illustrated watched game tapes of Sam and saw a player with definite potential for the NFL, but by no means a sure thing:

There’s no question that Sam had major production this season, as he led the SEC in sacks and tackles for a loss (which includes sacks). This is probably why he was named SEC defensive player of the year by the media, and co-DPOY (with Alabama linebacker C. J. Mosley) by the coaches. However, you have to look at the circumstances of his production. Namely, most of it came in three games of a four-game stretch against inferior competition: Arkansas State (three sacks), Vanderbilt (three sacks) and Florida (three sacks). Sam had a total of a half-sack in his final six games, until he made a huge play on basically the final play of the Cotton Bowl . . . 

So basically in his final five games plus 40 snaps against Oklahoma State — the best competition Sam faced all season — he had no splash plays. The right tackles he faced (as a left end he didn’t go against Texas A&M left tackle Jake Matthews, a projected top-10 pick) in that stretch were more of what he will see in the pros. The right tackles he beat up to gain his production likely wouldn’t be on NFL training-camp rosters. Four of his sacks came with lesser opponents desperate and behind by large margins in the fourth quarter, in obvious passing situations. In addition, Florida’s offensive line was one of the worst I’ve ever seen. Lastly: Sam’s sack against South Carolina in overtime was on an unblocked stunt . . . 

To me, Sam looked below average against the run. He can’t get off blocks when engaged, and I saw him get cut several times by offensive linemen. For that reason it’s tough to see him as a 4-3 end. Against Auburn, a premier team, Sam was often blocked, and effectively, by a fullback. That’s a bad sign if Sam is going to have to convert to standup linebacker in the NFL. Plus, rookies in the NFL most often have to be special-team stalwarts, and those are most often very good athletes. The marginal athleticism that I saw will be a problem in Sam’s fight to earn a roster spot.

Bedard concludes that while it’s possible some team sees more potential in Sam than he does, he thinks Sam grades out to a mid- to late-round pick, or he could go undrafted. (There are seven rounds of the NFL draft, and players who aren’t drafted are free to sign with any team that offers them a contract.)

If that scenario occurs, we’ll hear a lot about the rampant homophobia and culture of hate within the NFL — regardless of whether or not it reflects the facts of what actually happens.

Tags: Sports

Rob Parker


ESPN has announced that contributor Rob Parker “has been suspended until further notice.  We are conducting a full review. The comments were inappropriate and we are evaluating our next steps.”

In case you missed it, Parker said on air Thursday morning, during a discussion of Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, “Is [Griffin] a brother, or is he a cornball brother? He added, “We all know he has a white fiancé. There was all this talk about he’s a Republican, which, there’s no information [about that] at all. I’m just trying to dig deeper as to why he has an issue.”

This stems in part from ESPN’s desire to have

Around the Horn, Pardon the Interruption,. A large chunk of ESPN’s programming is a combination of columnists, anchors, and former players in suits sitting around a table and arguing. That’s fine; the audience watches it, and it echoes the arguments ; I’ve been listening to sports radio since the early days of “Mike and the Mad Dog” on WFAN up in New York.

The Wall Street Journal’s Jason Gay wrote:

Tebow was a contentious, unsettled question. When an athlete is undeniably good, it doesn’t take long for the conversation to fade into a dull haze of superlatives. (Listening to announcers discuss Tom Brady is like listening to newlyweds talk about a Hawaiian honeymoon). Tebow, on the other hand, was far from a sure thing—even his own team questioned his viability as a pro QB. ESPN was happy to stir this debate. The network already had done the same with other prolonged over-shares like Brett Favre’s post-Packers un-retirement and LeBron James’s escape to Miami. Tebow fit the blueprint. He wasn’t a player. He was an argument.

So far, Robert Griffin III is playing exceptionally well for a rookie at the game’s most challenging position.

Tags: Sports

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