1st and Five - The Weekly Tendown Special Halfdown Edition Sept 5-11 2010

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Dear Internet:

1 back.  19 left.  Lincecum goes today.

As I write this, my magical telephone which texts me when the world changes (last week, true story, I received a text that Keira Knightley was changing her official country of residence to the United States.  Suck on that England!  U-S-A!  U-S-A!) just vibrated the following:

                 Giants CF Andres Torres had his appendix removed.  Out 10 days to 2 weeks.

Appendicitis?  Really?  With 19 games left and the San Francisco Giants a game out of first place - arguably our best player over the course of the season just had his appendix taken out.  That's one for the books.  That's one for the Bobby Richardson playing out of position, Game 3 earthquake, 103 wins and no postseason, 5 run lead with 8 outs to go, Jose Cruz's kid dropping the fly ball - books. 

Appendix?  Really?  With 19 games left in the season?  Andres Torres is 32 years old.  What is the historical precedent for a 32 year old starting center fielder to have appendicitis at the end of a pennant race?  What's next - Brian Wilson has his tonsils out?  Aubrey Huff gets chicken pox? 

Giants baseball.  It's torture.

Here's Tendown 43.

First:  Reggie Bush

This week came word that the Heisman Trophy Trust would be stripping Reggie Bush of his 2005 Heisman; this now seems in doubt; Christine Brennan argued this week that the Trophy should not only be stripped but awarded to Vince Young, the runner-up.

She is wrong - the argument that Bush should be stripped rests on the notion that had the money given by a street agent to Bush and his family while he was at USC been known by the NCAA at the time, then it would have ruled Bush ineligible.  My thoughts about this are threefold:

1. Its a helluva erosion of due process - if today, the NCAA were to find that a current superstar player, a potential top 5 overall NFL draft choice headed for a bounty of endorsement opportunities once his college career was concluded was ineligible, the amount of  potential financial harm were he unable to play football would absolutely require a judicial hearing before he was taken off the field.  Maybe that results in Bush being made ineligible (although what would the precedent be - has there ever been a player of Bush's 2005 profile who the NCAA said could not play for a full season?  Do ticket sales fall, are ratings harmed, what about all those USC #5 jerseys that aren't sold, or DVDs, video games, and other ancillary memorabilia that directly traded off of Bush's game and fame - let's put aside whether it's "right" to punish an athlete for accepting money given the billions made in big time college sports off of the labor of those athletes - does it make sense that perhaps the NCAA doesn't want Bush to be made ineligible in 2005?) maybe it doesn't, but there would have been a court fight had it attempted to take him off the field.  Its convenient, 5 years later to say, "in lieu of that fight - let's just pretend that Bush was found ineligible and therefore could not have won the Heisman." 

2. Are we really saying that, in the history of the Heisman, the only winner who took money while he was playing was Reggie Bush?  It has to be yes, right - Christine Brennan has to be saying that, and the Heisman Trust, were they to pull Bush's trophy - has to be saying that, and if they are saying that, that's a level of embarrassing that a sports analyst should not want to reach.  John Salley has a podcast - his answer when asked how many big time college athletes take money while they're in school was "all of them."  Tim Brown went on television and said Bush should give the trophy back - my thought was exactly as is it whenever a former baseball player says that those suspected of PED use should not be eligible for the Hall of Fame or otherwise lose their records - what did you take?  What did your teammates take?  Tell me of all the money/drugs that you are aware of.  If I'm Reggie Bush - I want every living Heisman winner deposed.  Further, there are lots of behaviors that could make one ineligible.  Vince Young, recall, scored a six on the Wonderlic test at the NFL draft combine - let's walk our way through all of his coursework while at Texas.  In the same way that the "give Jose Canseco's MVP Award to Mike Greenwell" fails the slippery slope test, how deeply are we willing to probe the academic careers of the runners-up to the Heisman to begin the process of finding the "true" winner?  If Christine Brennan wants to argue that big time college sports are dirty, completely removed from the amateur ideal - that's fine.  If she wants to argue that it's just Reggie Bush, she should lose her press credential. 

3. This is really the same line of "what happened on the field is illegitimate and you should pretend it didn't happen" thought that has permeated the steroid discussion.  At this year's baseball Hall of Fame ceremony, Hank Aaron was announced as the "home run king."

He is not. 

Barry Bonds hit those home runs.  They happened.  So did Cy Young's 511 wins, and Hack Wilson's 191 rbis, and Ty Cobb's career batting average of .367.  We can view them in context - like we can view Aaron's playing in small ballparks, or Roger Maris hitting 61 against expansion pitching, or Babe Ruth never hitting a ball thrown by anyone other than a white American dude probably born east of the Mississippi, or every baseball clubhouse for decades having jars of amphetamines that the players could pop to give them a little lift for those day games after night games. 

Reggie Bush won the Heisman trophy.  He did it on the field.  Barry Bonds owns both the single season and the career record for home runs.  He did it on the field.  Andres Torres is not on the field.  He's in the hospital getting circumcised or something. 

Appendicitis?  With 19 games left in the season?  Argh.  Argh.  Argh.  Argh.

We're never going to win.

After the jump - the rest of Tendown 43. 

1. The Great Divergence
Tim Noah's writing a series in Slate about income inequality, a favorite Tendown topic and the most important issue of our time.  From the piece.

All my life I've heard Latin America described as a failed society (or collection of failed societies) because of its grotesque maldistribution of wealth. Peasants in rags beg for food outside the high walls of opulent villas, and so on. But according to the Central Intelligence Agency (whose patriotism I hesitate to question), income distribution in the United States is more unequal than in Guyana, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, and roughly on par with Uruguay, Argentina, and Ecuador. Income inequality is actually declining in Latin America even as it continues to increase in the United States. Economically speaking, the richest nation on earth is starting to resemble a banana republic.

2. Meanwhile:
Daniel Gross wrote today about a strike at a Mott's apple juice plant in New York.:

With millions out of work, it's a buyer's market for employees. In the economy at large, wages have risen only 1.7 percent in the past year while corporate profits are up nearly 40 percent. A report by the Washington-based Economic Policy Institute found that between the second quarter of 2009 and the second quarter of 2010, men's wages fell 1.3 percent.

Welcome to the low-ball culture. In a world of sluggish growth, excess capacity, and depressed expectations, buyers of goods and services—labor, houses, and restaurant meals, among other things—have come to believe that desperate sellers should take any offer they make. But that kind of systemic bargain-hunting can create a dangerous spiral: Employers short-change workers, workers buy fewer goods—and the overall economy suffers.

3. What We Learned About Don Draper Last Week

1965 sports became an element of Mad Men (having its best season as we watch Draper disintegrate) last Sunday.  What we learned about Don Draper is that he doesn't like Ali (called him a loudmouth, he bet a hundred bucks on Liston in the rematch) and he doesn't like Joe Namath (he's never even played a real pro football game).

I read Michael Weinreb's Bigger Than the Game: Bo, Boz, the Punky QB, and How the '80s Created the Modern Athlete this week; the thesis is that in the way that Reagan was constructed, a fictional man serving the needs of his time, the types of corporately created athletes, really more product than people, that we see in 2010 had as their genesis the 1980s, where seeming iconoclasts like Brian Bosworth and Jim McMahon were cannily commodified.  I'm uncertain the book really adds to our understanding of contemporary sports history, and the difference between, say John Riggins with his mohawk and Joe Thiesmann changing the pronunciation of his last name to rhyme with a trophy that he wouldn't win (but if it turns out that a booster bought Plunkett lunch in Palo Alto, Christine Brennan would suggest that he be given the trophy) in the 1970s and the Bosworths and the McMahons seems far less about the athletes and more about the increase in corporate machinery; and that seems a difference more in degree than a leap worthy of the book's thesis.

But the book caused me to think about Namath and Ali, which would be the place where most would probably start when looking for the throughline to the modern athlete (I would) and offer the following construction of Don Draper last Sunday night.

Draper's on the wrong side of history, not far removed from Roger Sterling's refusal in a previous show to do business with Honda because of World War II (or Sterling-Cooper's working for Nixon in the '60 election).  It's a generational divide, and that's important in 1965, particularly when your livelihood depends on a finger on the pulse of a purchasing public - Draper scoffs at the name "Muhammad Ali" and not only doesn't care for - but doesn't express any understanding (and more ominously, if you're Draper - doesn't express any interest in understanding) of Ali's personal charisma.  He assumes order will be restored in the form of Sonny Liston, dark - vicious - impenetrable Sonny Liston.  His assumption cost him a hundred bucks - and the reaction of the men in the bar in which Draper, almost accidentally, listens to the fight, was the popular reaction at the time - that it couldn't have been real (that didn't really happen they said - let's find a way to say it didn't happen - they said - like they'd say about Bonds 40 years later - or maybe, like they'd say about Barack Obama) the punch came too fast to be seen, the end came much, much, much more suddenly than the establishment was ready for.  

Draper was wrong about the fight, wrong about Ali, and wrong about Namath from earlier in the episode, when, rejecting the idea that he could be used to sell Samsonite "women don't buy luggage" meant passing on Namath as a pitchman.  Here, Draper's wrong about advertising, and about football - his "he hasn't played a professional game yet" - is the establishment view of the American Football League - the uniforms too colorful, the passing game too advanced, and the numbers of African-Americans on the field too substantial to be part of a game with such military precision as football.  The real professional football league was the NFL - and we know, and Draper doesn't, that he's less than five years away from being proven wrong about that assessment as well.

But Draper (and Mad Men) isn't locked in the grey flannel box just yet.  In the episode where Sterling wanted no part of Honda's business, Draper learned to use chopsticks and read The Chysanthemum and the Sword.  And at the end of Sunday's episode - Draper takes what will become one of the more iconic sports images of the 20th century:

And decides to turn it into the Samsonite ad campaign.

Athlete as commodity.  Not invented by Brian Bosworth - Don Draper created the modern athlete.

4. I Tell the Stories
Not only do I watch Mad Men and read books - I had a busy week right here, at this very blog.

My look at the 100 greatest players in professional football history (through #81, next update is Thursday is here. My preseason NFL picks are
here. And this week's college and NFL picks were
here and
here. And the next chapter in my wrestling Counterfactual is

I also saw some 4 star wrestling matches: Angle/Jeff from last Sunday's TNA PPV was 4 stars; a Sekimoto/Harashima from Zero 1 was 4 1/4, as was Marvin/Ishimori v. Nakajima/Miyahara from NOAH in July.  The two best matches were from NOAH in August - Go v. Nakamura and Go/Morishima v. Kenta/Suguira.  The singles was 4 1/2, and the tag was 4 3/4 - that means both of those matches go on my list of professional wrestling Matches of the Year for 2010, which you can find here. 

If you need more (and I can't imagine that you would) I also had two additional fantasy drafts this week- I went through my first last week in Tendown 42.  I am in, as it turns out, 3 $ leagues this season, and here's who I'm going to war with.  

Draft One
QB McNabb, Cassel
RB Mendenhall, Charles, Stewart, Jacobs, Washington
WR A. Johnson, Bowe, Maclin, Hester
TE Gates
Def Ravens
K Gostkowski

Draft Two
QB P.Manning, Cassel
RB Mendenhall, RBrown, Wells, McFadden, Washington
WR Fitzgerald, Ward, Nicks, Knox
TE Winslow
Def Ravens
K Succup

Draft Three
QB P.Manning, Cassel
RB Mendenhall, Wells, RWilliams, DBrown, Slaton
WR Jennings, Bowe, Knox, Hester
TE Gates
Def. Ravens
K Akers  

5. And this explains Sarah Palin
It's the Dunning-Kruger Effect. 

That's all for this time.  I'll be back next time...if there is a next time...

Your pal,


No comments

Blogger Template created by Just Blog It