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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How to view the Belmont Stakes

Our horse racing coverage has been derelict this year, which is inexcusable, particularly in light of American Pharoah’s chance to score a historic Triple Crown win tomorrow night at Belmont Park. To make it up to you, the very least I could do is tell you when and how you can watch (or listen to!) the Belmont Stakes, which runs Saturday night at about 6:50 pm, and the very least is what I have done.

For only the barest of bones Belmont Stakes preview, gallop, don’t trot, over to my post at TechGraphs.

2013 Kentucky Derby Preview

Due to circumstances beyond our control, ALDLAND’s coverage of this year’s Kentucky Derby will be significantly more limited than it was for last year’s. Among other things, this means that there is no planned live blogging of the race.

Instead, the following is available for your prerace enjoyment:

  • A story about William Faulkner at the 1955 DerbyLouisville; and
  • The last video footage ever taken of Secretariat:

Enjoy the race tomorrow.

Churchill Downs to initiate NASCAR-like regular season in 2013

The Courier-Journal reports:

In one of the most significant changes in the 139-year history of the Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs will determine the 20-horse field for next year’s event through points accrued in selected prep races.

The points system, to be known as the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” and intended to build advance fan interest, will begin this fall, with 2-year-olds able to earn points for the May 4 Derby in designated races.

Churchill’s management believes the new structure, which it plans to announce today, organizes the preps into the equivalent of a regular season and playoffs, to which fans can relate. Ever since the field has been limited to 20 horses, some form of earnings has been used to determine the field. Since 1986, Churchill has used graded-stakes earnings.

The plan calls for 36 races, as opposed to about 185 races worldwide that counted toward Derby selection under the previous arrangement.

The campaign of races leading up to the Derby is being divided into four phases with different point scales.

The first is called the Kentucky Derby Prep Season, typically spanning stakes from late September through late February. That will offer a 10-4-2-1 point scale for the top four finishers.

Next is the first of a three-phase Kentucky Derby Championship Season, which typically will span the 10-week run-up to the Derby. Races in the first phase of the Championshp [sic] Season will offer a 50-20-10-5 point scale.

That’s followed by the most important part of the Championship Season. These races will encompass the biggest events: the Florida Derby, Wood Memorial, Santa Anita Derby, Arkansas Derby, Toyota Blue Grass and Louisiana Derby, while also including the $2 million UAE Derby in Dubai. Those races will offer a 100-40-20-10 point scale.

Finally, there’s a last chance “wild-card setup” — Keeneland’s Lexington Stakes two weeks before the Derby and Churchill Downs’ opening-night Derby Trial a week before the Run for the Roses. Those points (20-8-4-2) could put a “bubble” horse over the top.

I like this idea. I don’t know if the audience for horse racing is growing, and I suspect it is not, but this will help in two ways: 1) it will help people focus on and understand the value and importance of certain pre-Derby races, and 2) it will enhance the experience of watching the Derby and the other Triple Crown races by contextualizing them, familiarizing fans with the participants further in advance of the big races. The further hope is that this will lead to broader television coverage. I look forward to learning more about Saratoga, Santa Anita, Arkansas, and, of course, Keenland. Not so much Pantoji.

Previewing the 2012 Belmont Stakes

This SundaySaturday, at New York’s Belmont Park, Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another will try to become just the eleventh Triple Crown winner, and the first since Affirmed in 1978. (Interesting and surely irrelevant note: I’ll Have Another won the Derby and Preakness by the same margins that Affirmed did in ’78.) Of the twenty-one horses to win both the Derby and the Preakness, eleven have gone on to win the Belmont Stakes. After last week’s post on probability, I’m hesitant to say whether I’ll Have Another has a good shot at winning the Triple Crown after having won the first two races, but his chances have to be better for having done so. That said, I’ll Have Another hasn’t felt like a favorite in any of the two prior races, but neither does he feel like a stranger at this point. With Bodemeister’s withdrawal from the Belmont field, we won’t get to find out what would happen if these two top horses reprised their Derby and Preakness battles. The longer Belmont track would seem to have favored the late-breaking I’ll Have Another over the hard-running Bodemeister, but it could create new timing and endurance challenges for the Triple Crown contender and his young jockey. I don’t know how much Gutierrez keyed on Bodemeister in particular, but one has to expect that the pack’s overall pace will be slower around Belmont Park’s 1.5 mile track than it was in the last two, shorter races.

As with our Kentucky Derby preview (though not so much with the Preakness preview), the following is a collection of online stories and other items to help prepare your viewing experience of this weekend’s Belmont Stakes:

I’ll be on the road this weekend, so there will be no live blog of the race. You’re just going to have to watch it by yourself, without the benefit of alternatively insightful and weakly snarky running commentary.

UPDATE:

I’ll Have Another Bravely Remains A Horse In The Face Of Adversity – SB Nation

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Previously
Preakness Preview Lite
…and down the stretch they come: ALDLAND’s 2012 Kentucky Derby Preview

Preakness Preview Lite

In light of news posted earlier and the fact that it’s the Preakness, there will be no Preakness live blogging this weekend. In lieu of a full preview, please accept the below photograph of Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another, taken by equine extraordinaire Kenny Mayne, along with this note that the official Preakness “mascot” apparently is a fraud.

To what we’re (sort of) listening during the Derby: Stephen Stills and Jerry Garcia

Plenty of people have made good listening suggestions for Derby day (HT: @amention, who also gave us yesterday’s timely jam), but two of the musical selections I most associate with horse racing are strikingly mediocre offerings by two top-tier musicians.

First up is Stephen Stills’ Thoroughfare Gap, a 1978 release that is the lowest-rated of all Stills’ albums on AllMusic. Usually thorough (sorry), AMG’s review is a mere two sentences long: “A rather poor attempt of Stephen Stills’ to adapt to the disco/dance craze. Includes lame covers of Buddy Holly (‘Not Fade Away’) and Gregg Allman (‘Midnight Rider’) along with the semi-hit title track.” Click here for a live take of that title track in which the Texan sounds alternatively tired and British, although his acoustic guitar is expectedly dexterous.

Jerry Garcia’s 1982 Run For The Roses received a few more lines in its AllMusic review, but it really isn’t any more glowing, beginning by noting that it’s the last release for the Jerry Garcia Band and “sadly, it is also Garcia’s most lightweight effort as a bandleader,” and including adjectives like “marginal,” “impotently executed,” “underachieving,” and, with respect to the cover art (pictured above, right), “disconcerting.” Like Thoroughfare Gap, the title track is the best-regarded selection on Run For The Roses. Here‘s a lazy live version from an undated JGB performance.

What’s playing in the background of your Derby party?

…and down the stretch they come: ALDLAND’s 2012 Kentucky Derby Preview

Horse racing is an intriguing pairing of human and bestial talent. And money. The preparation that lasts years is tested in two minutes. Like any endeavour that involves large amounts of resources, extensive preparation, and flashpoint testing, predictability is highly prized. Here, however, it remains elusive. It is that absence of ultimate predictability, however, that keeps the sport and its accordant culture alive.

Since my only possible qualifications for writing a substantive post on horse racing at this juncture come from an evening watching harness racing at Vernon Downs five years ago and spending last week in Lexington, during which I saw plenty of horses and horse farms, but no horse racing, let me direct you to a collection of stories and other online features that will help you get ready for this year’s Kentucky Derby:

Beyond this pre-race coverage (such as it is), we will be live blogging the event beginning sometime on Saturday afternoon. Stay tuned for more details.

Finally, my win-place-show prediction, based on the same thing for which war is good, is:

  1. Union Rags
  2. Gemologist
  3. Take Charge Indy

Two other horses to watch are Daddy Long Legs and Bodemeister. Of course, you can watch all of them at once, and I’d advise that. It isn’t too difficult.

No matter what your style, be sure to check back here on Saturday afternoon for ALDLAND’s live blog of the 2012 Kentucky Derby.

The Invaders: A racetrack, a killing, and the history of organized crime in Hot Springs, Arkansas (via Grantland)

Read More …*
 
(via Grantland)
 
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* I usually excerpt an enticing portion of these longer pieces to get readers to click through and read them. In this case, though, there wasn’t any brief quotation that would serve those purposes, so I’m leaving it to the title and that photograph. The article is more of a (very) short story with two merging temporal threads told in the author’s own, somewhat distant, voice. A good way to pass your lunch break, for example.