2018 Rapid Review

The year 2018 was a year. Here are some of our favorite things from the year that was 2018.

  • Atlanta United winning the MLS Cup, at home, in their second year of existence.
  • America’s women’s hockey team beating Canada to win gold at the winter Olympics.
  • Phish summer tour. My first time seeing them three nights in a row. That they never repeated a song during that stretch was notable but not terribly surprising. What was remarkable and never received the treatment at this site that it deserved was the overall quality of the performances, especially on Friday, August 3 but really consistently throughout the weekend, where a wide array of songs from across their thirty-five-year catalogue provided launching pads for fresh, collaborative jams time after time. It feels like the band has reached a new level.
  • Hamilton College’s Francis Baker, the American hockey goalie who stood up to Hitler. This was your most-read story posted on this site in 2018.
  • Steve McNair: Fall of a Titan. This, from Sports Illustrated, was my first foray into the true-crime podcast genre. The gist: what we were told was an open-and-shut case probably has a lot more to it than what the investigating police department allowed to meet the public eye. Story had some additional resonance for me because I had been living in Nashville at the time.
  • Maryland-Baltimore County beating Virginia to become the first-ever sixteen seed to beat a one seed in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
  • Justify‘s dominant Triple Crown achievement.
  • Baseball Hall of Fame adding Alan Trammell. Still no Cooperstown spot for teammate Lou Whitaker, though.
  • The Supreme Court clearing the way for states to authorize sports wagering.
  • J.R. Smith delivering the most memorable moment of LeBron James’ final series with Cleveland.
  • Shohei Ohtani making his major-league debut.
  • The Vegas Golden Knights reaching the Stanley Cup Final in their first year of existence.
  • Vanderbilt beat Tennessee in football again. The Commodores have won five of the last seven games in this series. (If you’d lost track of him, Derek Dooley’s currently working as the quarterbacks coach at Missouri.)
  • Baseball Prospectus revised its flagship bating metric and now concedes that Miguel Cabrera, not Mike Trout, deserved the 2012 and 2013 AL MVP awards.
  • Tiger Woods winning the PGA Tour Championship at East Lake.
  • In personal news, I published my first article at Baseball Prospectus, which took a look at whether MLB teams were colluding to depress player wages.
  • In memoriam:

Thank you for your readership this year. Look for more great content here in 2019.

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Surprise: One Fox News segment reminds me of another Fox News segment

We don’t really do politics around here, and mention of any of the major cable news channels tends to operate as mere verbal code for divisive political partisanship. Some of you reading this probably hate Fox News. I propose that even those of you who fall into that group would have to admit that there are producers working at that channel who have a sense of humor. Or maybe it’s just me, the person who always thought The Colbert Report wasn’t as funny as its parodied target, The O’Reilly Factor.

If you’re still with me, enjoy this segment from last night’s The Ingraham Angle, “Millennial Vaper Faces Off With Doctor“:

The segment instantly reminded me of one that aired on Fox News Live twelve years ago:

Laura Ingraham closed out last night’s vaping debate by saying, “We’re going to check in with Tommy Smokes in about six years and see how he’s doing.” If you have the same questions about Lydia and Craig from the streaking segment, which aired in 2006, I’m happy to report that one’s a published author and the other is a surgeon.

Queen Jam

Aretha Franklin died this week in Detroit at the age of seventy-six. Her accomplishments are too many and great to capture here in words, at least mine anyway. Remembrances from Doc Woods and Patterson Hood follow related selections from her soulful catalogue.

It was just two months ago that Franklin appeared in this space in a clip memorializing her Blues Brothers scene-mate Matt “Guitar” Murphy, who passed in June. Naturally, that scene, like any other in which Franklin appeared (e.g., supra), belonged to Franklin.    Continue reading

The U.S. Hockey Goalie Who Stood Up To Hitler At The 1936 Olympics (via WBUR)

walletphotoolympicteam1936Francis Baker attended Hamilton College in upstate New York during the mid-1930s. He studied the German language, among other things, and he was the goalie for the hockey team. Hamilton head coach Albert Prettyman was selected to lead the U.S. Olympic ice hockey team. In early February 1936, on the eve of the Winter Games at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, Coach Prettyman had a problem to solve, according to hockey historian Stan Fischler.

“The regular goalie had taken sick before they left to take the boat across to the Continent,” Fischler says. “And when that happened, Prettyman got hold of his backup goalie, Francis Baker.”

Baker agreed to join the team.

“And they arrived in Garmisch-Partenkirchen only three days before the Winter Games officially began,” Hood says.

Baker practiced with the team as they prepared to compete amid a political climate in which U.S.-German relations were rocky at best.

“Well, they weren’t cordial,” Fischler says. “Certainly by that time, even though the United States under President Roosevelt was still an isolationist country, the dislike for what was going on in Germany was pretty widespread in the States.”

That dislike found its way into the opening ceremonies on Feb. 6, 1936.

Following Hitler’s declaration before a crowd of 40,000 that the 1936 Winter Games were officially open, delegations from 28 nations marched into an open-air stadium. It was a typical display of Olympic pageantry, except for the ubiquitous Nazi flags.

Hitler had told the IOC of his demand to have athletes from all nations salute him in the customary Nazi fashion, with right arms extended and rigid.

“And the American team did not do that,” Hood says. “Their arms were to the sides.”

“They didn’t acknowledge the ‘Führer,’ ” Fischler says. “And the ‘Führer’ responded by being furious. So we had a furious ‘Führer.’ ”

“And that’s what triggered Hitler to come down into the locker room,” Hood says. … Read More

(via WBUR)

Frank Deford’s final public words

Almost fifteen years ago, I attended a public lecture by Frank Deford, who applied his winding wit and signature vocal timbre to the athletic matters of the day: drugs, collegiate sports, and, of course, soccer culture, his great nemesis. At that time, in the fall of 2004, I probably was as far as I have been from the person who would later start a sports-focused website, but I knew well Deford’s voice through his NPR essays, which he began delivering in 1980, and didn’t want to miss the opportunity to meet one of the greats in person. Knowing him only from his radio work, Deford’s striking physical presence, upon seeing him for the first time, immediately both impressed and made exact sense; the vocal and corporeal likely never have been more perfectly combined.

His authority in the field was obvious, but it wasn’t until later that I would discover the source of that authority: his print work, including a trove of articles for Sports Illustrated, where he started after graduating from Princeton in 1962, and, arguably even more influentially, his role as editor-in-chief of The National Sports Daily, the forefather to the more recently revered Grantland. Deford also wrote for Vanity Fair and Newsweek, produced novels and screenplays, and contributed to CNN and HBO’s Real Sports.    Continue reading

Monday child (slight return)

Saturday night’s primetime college basketball matchups saw both visiting teams come away with victories. In the early game, Michigan State beat Ohio State, ending the Buckeyes’ thirty-nine game home winning streak with a comfortable ten-point victory. In the late game, Vanderbilt erased a thirteen-point halftime deficit but were unable to close in the final minutes, losing to #1 Kentucky 69-63. (More on this game later.)

We’ve so far resisted the seemingly linfinite opportunities to write about New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin– he isn’t even my favorite Lin brother— but his 38-point effort against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers deserves mention.

Finally, while MSU ended OSU’s home win streak, the cross-state Detroit Red Wings came from behind to beat the Flyers in Hockeytown for their twentieth consecutive home win, which tied the record set by the 1929-30 Bruins and matched by Philadelphia’s 1976 crew.