Monday, December 21, 2009

Some excerpts from the latest Bill Simmons-Malcolm Gladwell mashup

Years ago, I did a story on Tupac, and I tracked down some poems he wrote when he was in high school. They were all about flowers and sunsets and warm kisses. Before there was thug life, apparently, there was hug life. Who knew?--Gladwell

By, the way, that Derek Jeter and not [Tom] Watson was Sports Illustrated's athlete of the year was a crime. For Jeter to have had the year Watson did, he would have had to lead the Yankees to a World Series title in 2033.--Gladwell

Leonard Little left a party, got into his car and hit and killed a young woman. He blew .19 on the Breathalyzer. What happened to him? He did 60 days. Six years later, he was arrested for drunk driving again. He still plays for the Rams. Michael Vick did bad things to dogs and went to jail for two years and become the personification of evil. I mean, I love dogs and I was appalled by Vick's behavior. But in what universe is it a bigger crime to fight pit bulls than it is to get wasted and kill an innocent person?--Gladwell

What can't be explained is why some athletes get more leeway than others for those indiscretions. I thought the reactions after the Rodriguez/Ramirez/Ortiz PED controversies this season were fascinating. Only A-Rod got raked over the coals. Only A-Rod was serenaded with steroid chants in every opposing stadium. Only A-Rod was ridiculed on radio shows and blogs with particular zeal. And really, it came down to the fact that America genuinely liked Big Papi and believed Manny was a lovable, harmless goofball. They didn't have that same affection for A-Rod. It's the same reason so many forgave Bill Clinton a long time ago, but Eliot Spitzer and Rod Blagojevich can never work again unless they're co-directing a "Girls Gone Wild" video for Joe Francis.--Simmons

My son is a wrecking ball and has one of those ripped little-kid bodies that makes him look like a 1780s blacksmith. (Important note: These genes came from my wife's side. I am built like Play-doh with bones.) He also has a hard head. And he's tough as nails.In the old days, I would have said, "Yes, a future middle linebacker!" Today? I have to be honest … if he wants to play a sport where he can run around and wallop people, I'd much rather see him play lacrosse. Same principles, safer, more fun to play, easier on your body. --Simmons

For me, the sport stuck most in the past is baseball. It took them 15 solid years and a forearm growing out of Barry Bonds' head to start handling the PED epidemic. They still don't have a salary cap or revenue sharing; nobody is going to give a crap until Joe Mauer signs with the Yankees for $270 million next winter and the entire state of Minnesota tries to light itself on fire. The games routinely last three-plus hours -- death for the Short Attention Span Generation -- and they just don't care (although Bud Selig did just announce a committee that will investigate ideas to improve the game). The African-American talent pool is dwindling to 1960s-level numbers, and only Torii Hunter seems to be bothered by this. We have the technology to create computer-generated strike zones and remove human error from pitch to pitch, only they would never dream of changing the game like that. Same for outlawing pickoff throws (and making a rule that you can only lead 4-5 feet off every base) to speed up games, or preventing batters from stepping out of the box after every pitch, or giving pitchers a time limit to deliver every pitch.--Simmons

Whole thing starts here.

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