The Absurdity of Eating Competitions As 'Sport'

Great 2012 piece by Michele Catalano for the now-defunct American McCarver:

When did eating your weight in nitrates and meat-by products become a sport?

[...]

What does bother me about the whole IFOCE (yes, competitive eaters have their own federation) is that the people who partake in this stuff take themselves so seriously as to refer to themselves as athletes. Eating is not a sport. A competition, sure, but it’s not a sport, in much the same way that high school dance squads are not a sport. Yet ESPN wants you to believe they are, just so they can fill their programming slots with something besides paid advertisements from companies wanting to sell you souvenir coins imprinted with the number of your favorite NASCAR driver. Pounding back food, whether it be hot dogs or burgers or burritos or ice cream, is not a sport. Yes, it takes training and determination and discipline, but so does being a car bomber, and no one considers that a competitive sport.

Relevant today because Joey Chestnut won another Nathan's hot dog-eating contest.

‘Remember When the Warriors Stunk?’

Scott Cacciola, writing for the New York Times:

Given the events of more recent seasons, few people on the planet have greater perspective on the team’s emergence as an all-universe juggernaut than Roye and two colleagues who have been staples of the Warriors’ radio and television broadcasts for decades: Jim Barnett, who has worked as the Warriors’ TV analyst since 1985, and Bob Fitzgerald, who has done play-by-play of the team’s games since 1993. They appreciate the highs.

“Because we know what the bottom looked like,” Fitzgerald said.

The bottom looked like 12 straight losing seasons, from 1994 to 2006, a period Fitzgerald assessed as “general hopelessness.” The bottom looked like nightly opportunities to set records for offensive futility. The bottom looked like the coach getting choked at practice by one of his players. The bottom looked like a sad stream of 20-point deficits and endless amounts of airtime to fill.

I’ve lived in the Bay Area my entire life, and Barnett has been the only Warriors color analyst I’ve ever known. Aside from the Run TMC years in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, the Warriors were bad for a long time. Now, they’ve won two titles and the NBA juggernaut.

Using ARKit at the Ballpark

Jason Snell got to try out MLB At Bat’s new AR features at a Giants game:

If you don’t know about Statcast, here’s the deal: Every major-league ballpark is equipped with imaging equipment that allows MLB to measure, at a rate of 60 frames per second, the position of every player on the field, as well as the location of the ball. It’s a technological revolution that is allowing teams and researchers alike to understand aspects of baseball that were previously thought to be unmeasurable, because they go beyond traditional stats that simply measure the outcomes of individual plays.

That data is available in real time—and it’s being tapped by the MLB At Bat app to power its augmented-reality view. Sitting at AT&T Park in San Francisco, we were able to look at an iPad pointed at the field and see floating icons with pictures of each player on the field—and the icons that moved as the players moved. Tapping on the shortstop’s icon added a colored shape indicating his fielding range, the area where he’d be expected to stop a ball and make an out. When a runner took a lead, the app could display the length of his lead.

As a huge tech and sports nerd, I highly enjoyed reading Snell’s story. From an accessibility perspective, I’m curious to see how visually accessible MLB’s implementation of ARKit is. Baseball is my favorite sport, and this is one use case for augmented reality that has strong appeal to me.

Chicago Cubs Give Steve Bartman 2016 World Series Ring

Julie Unruh, reporting for WGN News:

Steve Bartman has received an official Chicago Cubs 2016 World Series Championship ring as a special gift from the Ricketts family and the Cubs organization.

Arguably the team's most infamous fan, Bartman is remembered for tipping a foul ball that left fielder Moises Alou unsuccessfully tried to catch in Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series.

[…]

Bartman received the ring before noon Monday in Ricketts' office. Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and President of Operations Crane Kenney were also present. Ricketts then showed Bartman around Wrigley a bit, so he could see what was new since he'd last been to the park.

Here’s the play that made Bartman infamous. Kudos to the Cubs for the cool gesture.

'The SF Giants Are Zapping Their Brains with Electricity'

Lesley McClurg, writing for KQED Science:

The San Francisco Giants, with the worst record in the National League, could probably use a shot of electricity about now.

Actually, they’re already getting a shot of electricity—literally.

A third of the team is using tDCS headsets, which deliver an electric current to the brain in order to improve performance, says the Giants’ official sports scientist.

The Giants are playing terribly (11–22 thru 33 games) so far this season. If they turn it around, maybe we'll be able to attribute their better play to this electric shock therapy.

On Baseball Encyclopedias

Rob Neyer, writing for FiveThirtyEight:

One of those print compendiums of baseball information was a 6.5-pound behemoth nicknamed “Big Mac,” and it changed how people think about the sport. A world without the Big Mac might not just mean a world without Baseball-Reference.com, it might also mean a world without Bill James, which might mean a world without sabermetrics, a world without “Moneyball,” a world without the analytics that have transformed so many other sports. As John Thorn, Major League Baseball’s official historian, says today, “It was a revolution. This was the ‘Moby-Dick’ of baseball statistics, not only for its size, but also for its place in baseball history.”

[…]

“The whole genesis of Baseball-Reference,” site creator Sean Forman told me, “was taking what was in ‘The Baseball Encyclopedia’ and making the pages connectable. In the printed books, if you wanted to find Joe DiMaggio’s teammates, you would have to go to DiMaggio, then flip to the team roster somewhere else, then flip back to each of his teammates.”

I have a few print baseball encyclopedias on my bookshelf, including one from Neft & Cohen. The best thing about the Neft & Cohen books were they had a little synopsis of every season—you could read about how the NL was a pretty tight race in 1927, which is nice to know in a season largely known for the Yankees' dominance of the American League.

ESPN Hires Adrian Wojnarowski

Peter Kafka, reporting for Recode:

Sources familiar with ESPN’s plan say Wojnarowski will begin working for ESPN in time to cover the June 22 NBA draft. I’m told the network also intends to bring aboard some of the staff of The Vertical, the NBA site Wojnarowski launched for Yahoo 2016.

[…]

Wojnarowski is the highest-profile reporter covering pro basketball and is a one-man scoop machine, best known for tracking player trades and signings; he is famed for dispensing his scoops in real time on Twitter.

Big get for ESPN—as Kafka writes, Wojnarowski is the preeminent NBA reporter.

MLB, NHL Apps Add Support for Alternate Icons in iOS 10.3

Sarah Perez, reporting for TechCrunch:

The MLB.com At Bat and NHL iOS applications have been updated today to take advantage of one of the new, but still under-the-radar features available in the just-launched version of Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS 10.3: personalized home screen icons. That’s right — you now can replace either of these apps’ default icon with one featuring your favorite team’s logo instead.

The ability for developers to offer alternative icons was spotted earlier this year in the beta builds of iOS 10.3, but it wasn’t clear at the time how the technology would be put to use.

As Perez writes, apps like MLB At Bat are a perfect fit for this feature. I bet other leagues (the NFL, NBA) will make use of this API eventually. I've seen speculation on Twitter that Apple built this API at the request of MLB. It's a neat touch; I tweeted about it this morning.

Apple, NHL Close to Finalizing 'Major Partnership'

Rick Westhead, reporting for TSN:

The National Hockey League has informed teams that it is in late-stage negotiations to strike a partnership with Apple that could see the company’s iPads and other technology become commonplace on team benches, TSN has learned.

Three sources familiar with the matter told TSN that the NHL briefed teams as recently as last week about the development.

The NHL has been in talks for several years with Apple and its competitor Microsoft, one source told TSN, adding that the talks with Apple have accelerated after similar talks between the company and the National Basketball Association failed to lead to an agreement.

“It’s possible it could collapse, but it’s pretty far down the path for that to happen,” the source said.

This deal is reminiscent of the one Apple struck with MLB to put iPads in teams' dugouts.

(via MacRumors)

Bill King Wins 2017 Ford Frick Award

Susan Slusser, reporting for the San Francisco Chronicle:

Late A’s broadcaster Bill King, known as the best three-sport announcer in history, was named the winner of the 2017 Frick award Wednesday after finishing as a finalist for the honors seven times.

King, beloved in the Bay Area for his superb work on the Raiders and Warriors, as well as the A’s, was championed for the Baseball Hall of Fame’s broadcasting award by current A’s play by play man Ken Korach.

“It’s just incredible,” Korach said by phone. “A lot of tears, to be honest with you. It’s so heartwarming, I’ve heard from broadcasters, writers. It’s really emotional. This is going to be such a wonderful celebration for A’s fans and that’s the definition of a Hall of Famer - someone who had that kind of impact on so many people. Bill King was a one-in-a-million person.”

If you, like me, grew up a baseball fan in the Bay Area, you know how great Bill King was.

Slusser's headline for this piece could not be more appropriate—"finally," indeed.

'The Legend of Tecmo Super Bowl'

Alan Siegel, writing for The Ringer:

Released 25 years ago next month, Tecmo Super Bowl provided the ultimate in sports geek wish fulfillment. Using only two buttons and a directional pad, children of the late 1980s and early 1990s could turn their favorite players into whirling superhumans. Though the 8-bit classic featured all 28 NFL teams (this was 1991), expansive rosters, and a detailed playbook, TSB’s not-so-realistic quirks made it the best sports game of all time.

You could kill off an entire quarter with a single Barry Sanders touchdown run, launch a 100-yard pass with Dan Marino, and send Bruce Smith out to maul blockers en route to crushing a ball carrier halfway across the field. The game never aspired to true-to-life simulation, but it was as addictive as Tetris. As former 49ers running back and Tecmo weapon Roger Craig put it, “That shit was fun.”

I have memories of playing this against my brother in the early '90s. I thought the game was cool because it had real players, you could play a full 16-game season, and it kept basic stats. Aside from football, the same developer made a basketball game in the same vein, called Tecmo NBA Basketball. I liked that one a lot too, and would switch between sports depending on my mood.

One quibble with this piece: "The best sports game of all time" is NHL '94. Hands down.

'Perpendicular Philosophy'

This article by Jason Snell at Six Colors was a highlight of last week's Apple event coverage:

So when we look at the MacBook Pro and the Touch Bar, we’re seeing a very Apple approach to the problem. The Touch Bar exists because Apple doesn’t believe that making the Mac’s display a touchscreen makes the Mac a better computer. Instead, Apple created a new kind of control surface, powered by a custom processor and with extensive additions to macOS to support both system controls and contextual commands in the Touch Bar.

Apple's approach is a stark contrast to Microsoft's, which essentially is TOUCH ALL THE THINGS!

On California School for the Deaf Football

ESPN covered a recent California School for the Deaf-Fremont (CSD) football game versus Woodland Christian. The network used 9 cameras to capture all the action, instead of the usual 5. In the video, the highlights were accompanied by an ASL interpreter.

I have strong ties to CSD. I worked there for a little while in 2001, and my parents were alumnus of the school when it was located in Berkeley. It was there when they first met. (CSD has two campuses: one in northern California (Fremont), one in Southern California (Riverside). Students attend whichever campus is closest to their home.)

Apple's Project Titan Shifts Focus

Mark Gurman, reporting for Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. has drastically scaled back its automotive ambitions, leading to hundreds of job cuts and a new direction that, for now, no longer includes building its own car, according to people familiar with the project.

[...]

About a month later, Mansfield took the stage in a Silicon Valley auditorium packed with hundreds of Titan employees to announce the strategy shift, according to people who attended the meeting. Mansfield explained that he had examined the project and determined that Apple should move from building an outright competitor to Tesla Motors Inc. to an underlying self-driving platform.

So much for an Apple Car's potential for accessibility.

'This is What Light Years Ahead Looks Like'

Danny Chau for The Ringer, "By Adding Kevin Durant, Golden State Scorches the Earth":

This is Golden State’s moment of undeniability. With Kevin Durant, the Warriors have undergone a transformation of intent, like when Uber went from a circumvention of an antiquated taxi system to a harbinger of an unthinkable, driverless transportation portal. They aren’t here just to change the way the game will look, they’re here to take everything. We had a few weeks to laugh at Joe Lacob’s “light-years ahead” proclamation after the team’s postseason collapse. With one move, the discourse has shifted once again. The myth has become the monolith.

Kevin Durant Joins Warriors

Durant announces his decision to sign with Golden State at The Players Tribune:

The primary mandate I had for myself in making this decision was to have it based on the potential for my growth as a player — as that has always steered me in the right direction. But I am also at a point in my life where it is of equal importance to find an opportunity that encourages my evolution as a man: moving out of my comfort zone to a new city and community which offers the greatest potential for my contribution and personal growth. With this in mind, I have decided that I am going to join the Golden State Warriors.

A couple of good takes on the significance of Durant's choice:

WSJ: Apple, MLB Ink Deal for IPad Pros in Dugouts

Nathan Olivarez-Giles, reporting for the Journal:

There will be a new player in Major League Baseball dugouts this season: the iPad. Apple Inc. and MLB signed a multi-year agreement to equip every team with iPad Pro tablets to help coaching staffs make better use of data.

Teams will be able sift through performance stats from current and past seasons, weigh potential pitcher-hitter matchups, look at “spray charts” showing where a player is likely to hit a ball, even cue up videos of plays from previous games.

[...]

The league will issue team managers and coaches Apple’s 12.9-inch iPad Pros fitted with rugged cases displaying the league’s logo. The software centerpiece is a custom app called MLB Dugout, built by MLB’s New York-based Advanced Media division, with assistance from Apple.

'2014 Was a Rotten Year for Pro Football'

Ian Gordon for Mother Jones, "The NFL's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Year":

Famous for his "protect the shield" mantra and disciplinarian ways, Goodell has seen his reputation get battered throughout the controversy-filled 12 months since Super Bowl XLVIII. So, as Ballghazi rages on and the big game approaches, here's a look back at the recent firestorms and missteps that made 2014 such a rotten year for the league and its commish:

This season was the first season that I can remember in which I didn't follow the league. I barely watched any games, instead keeping track of happenings via Twitter. I like football as a sport, but the modern NFL has me losing interest. It's not just about the scandals Gordon writes about either; the offense-oriented, pass-happy, QB-favoring style of play is, to me, one-dimensional and boring.