Happy Tuesday WFNY!
I often like to start my WWWs with a cold open. Perhaps it’s because I like a lot of TV shows that have used them really well over the years, or else I just enjoy a good anecdote. Whatever the case, I enjoy them, but I was struggling to think of one for this week.
So I figured I’d start this week with a question for you readers, as I am by nature curious about the things that other people are curious about. So the question is this: If you could travel back in time to one specific year/period, when would you travel to?
There are so many amazing stories throughout Europe’s rich history that would be fascinating to visit. Or maybe it would really be amazing to journey back to Judea in the ancient Roman Empire and find out first hand what that Jesus of Nazareth guy was all about. I think an obvious time to travel back to would be the birth of the American Revolution and watch the uprising unfold first hand.
But my answer would be something different. I think I would like to be there when the Pilgrims first came to America. Granted, I know how especially brutal that first winter was for the new settlers, so maybe I don’t need to be there when they first land. But I would love to see what this land looked like when it was untouched by European explorers. While, yes, there were some areas of swamps and rough wilderness, the pilgrims actually experienced a rather peaceful looking countryside with many parts not all that unlike what they knew back home in England. I just think it would be awesome to see what America was really all about before it was America.
Are anonymous sources bad for sports?
Over the weekend, Sam Amico delivered a pretty fascinating piece on his disgust for rumor-mongering in the NBA, and he placed much of the blame on a combination of anonymous sources and NBA players and personnel not talking to the press.
You can count me as one of those who have grown exhausted with all the rumors that have persisted in this offseason. I’ve always been someone who has loved following NBA rumors and trying to decipher which ones are grounded in truth and which ones are complete nonsense. But with the pervasiveness of media today, the rumors are inescapable and suffocating.
So how much are unnamed sources to blame? And if they’re a problem, how do we go about fixing them? Well, there isn’t an easy answer. As Amico wrote:
Back to those ever-present unnamed sources. It’s a problem with today’s NBA coverage — and yes, guilty as charged. But the NBA can work on changing that. I don’t know how. I’m not running the league. I’m just some dude who writes and occasionally goes on TV.
I think a big reason why I enjoyed Sam’s piece so much is that he was upfront and honest that he himself has relied on and used unnamed sources in his reporting. One of the things I like the most about Sam is that he’s unafraid to admit what he doesn’t know. Just because someone doesn’t have the answers, it doesn’t mean a problem doesn’t exist.
Twitter is littered with some of the worst offenders of spreading false rumors. It often exists to serve the role of the proverbial wall upon which rumors are thrust to see what sticks. Fake Twitter accounts pop up all the time proclaiming themselves insiders. If they rumor they spread comes true, they stake their claim in the glory. If the rumor turns out to be false? No problem, they can just create a new Twitter account and start all over and try to guess right the next time.
I don’t know how to feel about it all. On one hand, these are real people’s lives that are being discussed and thrown into chaos because someone decided to start spreading a rumor. On the other hand, as Amico points out, a little more transparency would go a long way toward squashing some of the more baseless rumors.
From rumors of Kyrie Irving’s discontent in Cleveland, to rumors of Dion Waiters punching Kyrie in a players’ only meeting, to talk of LeBron’s return, and all the various rumors of multiple Cavaliers being sent to Minnesota for Kevin Love in a trade, this past calendar year has been a cesspool of rumors in Cleveland. This is yet another reason why, at this point, I am more eager than ever for this offseason to be over and for the season to start. I just want to talk about basketball again and get away from the soap opera side of sports.
23 it is
At least one mystery has been settled. Over the weekend LeBron James took to Instagram to announce that he will indeed go back to wearing number 23 on his jersey again in Cleveland. On the list of things I care about, the number that adorns LeBron’s jersey ranks awfully darn low. As long as it says “Cleveland”, “Cavaliers”, and/or “Cavs” on it, I really couldn’t care less what number he wears.
But I still surprised to see some light backlash to this decision. Some of it was national, but a fair amount of it came from Cavs fans. Yes, when LeBron initially announced he was changing numbers from 23 to 6, he cited his belief that nobody should be allowed to ever wear the number 23 in the NBA again. So sure, he went back on what he said at that time. Who cares?
I once proclaimed that I would never own an Apple computer. And yet here I sit writing this on my Macbook Pro, which I consider my favorite computer I have ever owned. When I first heard Radiohead’s album “Kid A” back in 2000, I initially hated it with a passion. I found it offensive and an affront to what that band was capable of. Today, it will make any list of my Top 5 Favorite Albums of All Time. I once said that I was done with TV forever, with the exception of sports and news. I vowed I would never watch another sitcom or drama, and even called them poison of the mind. Today, I am complete TV drama junkie. I went back on my word and dove head first back into watching TV.
I have a feeling I’m not the only one to say I thought one thing or was going to do one thing, only to later go back on that proclamation. It seems like such a bizarre thing to criticize LeBron for, even if the criticism was pretty mild. Players who wore the number 23 last season include Allen Crabbe, Anthony Davis, Austin Daye, Draymond Green, Kevin Martin, Toure’ Murry, and Marcus Thornton. So it’s not like LeBron’s initiative was working anyway.
Or maybe there’s a more sinister explanation. Perhaps LeBron’s real reason for switching was due to Miami having retired the number 23 and LeBron already knew he was going to Miami when he announced the number change. I mean, that’s probably not the case, but who knows. I just know that any angst over what number he wears is awfully ridiculous.
A quick word about baseball’s big Hall of Fame weekend
I admittedly don’t discuss baseball much on my Tuesdays, but this was a pretty incredible weekend for baseball’s Hall of Fame. They inducted one of the best classes I can remember with Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Bobby Cox, Joe Torre, and Tony La Russa all going in. It was an all around excellent weekend for MLB and the Hall of Fame.
But there were some undertones that perhaps bothered me a bit. The Hall of Fame announced a change in the ballot. Now, players can only be on the ballot for ten years, as opposed to the current fifteen year limit. This was a move obviously designed to make it harder for any of the steroid era players to get in. As some of the more hard line voters get older, there was some thought that the younger generation of voters might start voting some guys in. The Hall was having none of it.
I’ve always felt that players like Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire deserve to be in. I know what they did, but these were still two of the best players I have ever seen in my life. Barry Bonds doesn’t deserve to be the Home Run King. There’s no question steroids helped him reach that level. But I do not think steroids made him a Hall of Fame player. I think he got there on his own. I personally would rather just see these guys get in. It’s not like we’re ever going to forget the steroid era and what all went on. As long as Bonds holds the records, which he probably will for a very, very, very long time, nobody will ever forget.
But we also don’t know who all was using. How many pitchers were also using? We just don’t know.
Another thing that wasn’t lost on me was Tony La Russa owing a decent amount of his success to guys like McGwire and Jose Canseco. I find it hard to believe that La Russa was completely in the dark about what was all going on. This isn’t meant as a criticism or to say he doesn’t deserve to go in. Just that it feels a bit “off” to me that he was able to reap a lot of the benefits of players using steroids without the accountability.
Finally, a word about Maddux. I remember the tail end of Nolan Ryan’s career. I vividly remember the freaks of nature that Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens were. But for my money, the best pitcher I have ever seen was Greg Maddux. He didn’t rely on other-worldly velocity to get guys out. Instead, he was an artist on the mound, painting the corners and pinpointing the ball exactly where he wanted it. The guy was completely untouchable on most nights.
Having said all that, I am a little surprised more isn’t made of the fact he supposedly used to pee on rookies in the showers. That sounds made up, I know. But it’s a story that’s been around for a while. Then a couple weeks ago, David Fleming wrote a brilliant piece talking about the culture of showers in sports, particularly in relation to Michael Sam being the NFL’s first openly gay player. In Fleming’s piece, he mentions Maddux’s ritual of casually walking up to rookies in the shower and peeing down their leg. I guess that’s supposed to be a form of team bonding, or something. Or maybe it was just another way for Maddux to exert his dominance, I really don’t know.
The only reason I bring this up is because Fleming’s piece reminded me of it, and it’s put into a different context when you consider the Jonathan Martin situation last year. He walked away from his team over incessant verbal harassment and financial burden, yet Maddux peeing on teammates is told as a light hearted and “funny” anecdote.
The point is, sports are weird. It’s not always easy to distinguish where the lines exist. What makes some athletes the good guys and others the troublemakers? In society, peeing on people is frowned on while using illegal substances is often bragged about. In sports, the opposite is sometimes true. I’m no moral authority and I’m not here to tell anyone what is right or wrong. I can only speak for myself and say that while this was an amazing weekend for the Hall of Fame, it also somewhat illustrated to me how strange the culture of sports can be at times.
Dawn Griffin, a long time friend to WFNY, is a top notch graphic designer, artist, and illustrator. She has done all kinds of work, including some work for WFNY, but I’ve always enjoyed her Zorphbert & Fred comic series. Dawn recently came up with this great LeBron comic centered around the idea that “there’s no place like home”.
If you would like to see more of Dawn’s work, check out her website at http://dawngriffinstudios.com/.
An attempt to find an album of the week
Finally, July is almost over. I know I’ve mentioned this in previous WWWs this month, but July is historically an awful month for new music releases. The music industry seems to take their vacations in July and only a small handful of good releases trickle through. But this July has been especially brutal. There are a couple albums I’m looking forward to in August, but for now, we still have one final new music Tuesday in July to get through.
This week is no exception to previous weeks. Not a whole lot out there to pick from. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have a new album out today, and former Rilo Kiley frontwoman Jenny Lewis releases her first solo album since 2008’s “Acid Tongue” today. Her new album, “The Voyager” is a nice indie pop album and I do highly recommend it. In fact, I had planned on this being my pick for new album of the week. But I’m going to go in a slightly different direction.
I’m sticking with the indie pop theme, but for my new album of the week, I’m going with Hooray for Earth’s new album, “Racy”. Hooray for Earth are, of course, a Brooklyn based band which utilizes large quantities of synth pop and tries to reformulate them into indie rock context. You’ll hear comparisons to the likes of MGMT and Yeasayer tossed around, but I don’t find either comparison to be all that appropriate. At their core, Hooray for Earth write more tightly constructed songs and everything is wrapped around the hook of the song. And yeah, this band is super catchy when they want to be.
That’s it from me this week. We are just ten days away from the Browns’ first preseason game of the year. It’s so close I can feel it. Football season is right around the corner! Have a great week everyone!