Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Boy Who Would Be Kingman

With New York Metropolitans patriarch Fred Wilpon bringing down a media firestorm upon his team with his (harsh but admirably candid and exasperated) comments to New Yorker writer Jeffrey Toobin, the team has found another story to, temporarily, take over the back pages of the tabloids: According to everyone, the cash-strapped Wilpons have sold a minority stake in the team for $200 million.

I'm not sure if this is the beginning of the end of the Wilpon's stewardship of the franchise or if it's the move that keeps them afloat until the Madoff mess can be settled. Regardless, for the first time in a longtime someone else owns a substantial piece of the Mets (the deal does not include SNY). That person is David Einhorn.

Back when the financial world was collapsing around in 2008, he famously called out the Lehman Brothers for being on death's door (when they were still claiming to be healthy as a Bear Sterns horse. He was right. In any case, it seems he's got a tendency to speak his mind in high-profile situations about other high-profile folks or entities. In other words, he probably loved the New Yorker story.

Just as important as his business acumen to many of the paying customers is that Einhorn was a Mets fan when he was a kid. There has been a widely circulated shot of him dressed up as sometime Met slugger Dave Kingman.


A hedge fund manager, Einhorn made his fortune short selling. I keep my money in a jar beneath my bed so I'm not entirely sure what that means. But I do have suspicion that he may be banking on the Wilpons failing and being able to take over the team himself at a depressed price. Again, he should fit in fine around here.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Who Sang For Davey Moore?

Davey Moore's father was the pastor at the Jesus Only church in Urbania, Ohio. The Jesus Only church was a Pentecostal group asserting the primacy of Jesus at the expense of the Trinitarian theology that was - and continues - to be the norm in Christianity. Rather than baptising in the name of "The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit," Moore's father put all his faith in the Son.

From April 1957 through in St. Patrick's Day 1960, the pastor's son certainly seemed infallible. He ran off an 18-fight undefeated streak as a boxer, picking up the Featherweight world title along the way by upsetting Hogan "Kid" Bassey in March 1959 in Los Angeles.

Just five decisions into his win streak in early 1958, Moore was described by Sports Illustrated boxing scribe Gilbert Rogin, in not entirely complimentary fashion, as “a chunky, clubfighter who punches solidly but does not always maintain the pace.” By the time he defeated Bassey the following year, Moore's profile had risen and his notices were much more favorable. Dubbed "the Springfield Rifle" for his place of residence and for his bullet-strong punches, boxing writers and fans gravitated toward Moore, the rare American excelling in the Featherweight division, where fighters cannot weigh more than 126 pounds.

During Moore's career, the division was populated mostly by Hispanic and European fighters. Bassey hailed from Nigeria, and was the country's first boxing champion. The polyglot composition of the Featherweight ranks had Moore traveling the world to find fights. Not one to duck an opponent, Moore had unseated Bassey with infected tonsils and a 101 degree fever. After granting Bassey a chance to regain the top spot in the Featherweight division, Moore successfully defended his title an additional four times (while taking and winning many non-title bouts along the way).

Moore won a title decision over Kazuo Takayama in Tokyo in 1960. He then knocked out Danny Valdez in the first round in Mexico to keep the crown in April 1960 in Los Angeles and before winning a unanimous decision over Takayama in a return to Tokyo later that year to keep the world title. After a pummeling left-right combination to the jaw left Takayama essentially out on his feet in the thirteenth, Moore eased up in the last two rounds with the triumph assured and his foe visibly dazed. In August 1962, Moore again put his championship on the line against Olli Maki in Helsinki, Finland (where he had participated in the 1952 Olympics). He stopped Maki by TKO with three knockdowns in the second round.

By the time that the 29-year-old Moore climbed through the ropes of the ring situated above the pitcher's mound at Dodger Stadium on March 21, 1963, he had amassed a career record of 59-6-1. The WBC and the WBA Featherweight titles were on the line back in Los Angeles as were world titles in two other weight classes. It was big night for boxing in one of America's newest sporting venues, which had opened up less than a year earlier in Chavez Ravine. The opening fight paired welterweight champ Emile Griffith against No. 1 contender Luis Rodriguez. Griffith had regained that title a year earlier in a match at Madison Square Garden in which he inflicted mortal injuries on his opponent, Benny Paret. The death of a prominent fighter in a prominent fight that was televised nationally on NBC brought down a firestorm of criticism on the sport, with many seeking to ban it altogether.


In the opening match of the tripleheader, Rodriguez relieved Griffith of the welterweight crown, to the delight of the largely Spanish-speaking crowd, some of whom were likely displaced as the Dodgers bought out Chavez Ravine residents in advance of building their new home. Up next, Moore and Ultimo "Sugar" Ramos, a Cuban fighter by way of Mexico, took center stage.


The 21-year-old challenger started timidly against the established champion but grew into the match to the delight of the partisan crowd. Moore rocked his younger pursuer in the second round with a combination of punches but the crowds chants of RA-MOS, RA-MOS seemed to keep his feet beneath him. Thanks to a rapid-fire left jab, Ramos loosened several of Moore's teeth and shattered his mouth guard. For his part, Moore's right hand would pummel Ramos, swelling one of his eyes. Ramos' assault culminated in the 10th round, when series of upper cuts forced Moore across the mat to the ropes on the center-field side of the ring. Once his retreat route was hemmed in by the ropes, Ramos landed a left hook that knocked Moore to the seat of his shorts. As he fell, his head snapped back against the lower rope. Referee George Latka quickly approached Moore and began his 10-count. The battered but proud champ was up by the time Latka reached three. He returned to his corner after the bell sounded the conclusion of the 10th round. Before the 11th began, Moore's manager Willie Ketchum signaled that his fighter was done for the night.

Fully under his own power, Moore trudged to his locker room, where he chatted amiably with the press. Aside from a bloodshot left eye, he hardly looked like a man who'd had to throw in the towel a full five rounds before the fight was scheduled to be over. Defeated but not deflated, Moore told reporters "I'll take the rematch, you better believe it. Look, you guys know that when I'm right nothing gets to me. Not nothing. I was off. That's it. plain and simple."

Moore would go on to laugh and joke with reporters: "Just like you writers, if you'd only admit it. Can't write a lick some days. Well, that was me tonight. I just wasn't up to my best."

To the press, the 5-foot-2 Moore may have sounded like an aging fighter trying to explain away his inevitable decline like so many fighters before and since. After all, Father Time remains undefeated in all weight classes. When those reporters rushed back to their ringside seats for the third bout of the evening, they may not have believed that Moore would regain his belt from Ramos, but they likely believed that they would be there to see him try. And they certainly didn't expect that he was about to die.

Shortly after Moore was left alone with Ketchum and sparring partner Ronnie Wilson, he began experiencing sharp headaches. He called for his manager. Moments later, he collapsed into a coma. Seventy-five hours after the fight he was dead at White Memorial Hospital. The cause of death was massive trauma to the brain stem, presumably suffered when the back of his head hit the bottom the rope in the 10th round.

California Governor Pat Brown seized on Moore's death to (again) call for the abolition of boxing. Even the Pope spoke out, proclaiming the sweet science was "contrary to natural principles." Of course, most people were convinced that boxing was actually too close to the sort of base and violent natural principles that English philosopher Thomas Hobbes laid out in Leviathan. One of the voices that rang out in the aftermath of Moore's death belonged to a young folk singer named Bob Dylan, who wrote and performed a song entitled "Who Killed Davey Moore?"

The song was never on any of Dylan's officially released albums during the 1960s but was an occasional part of his live act. When introducing it to a crowd in New York on Halloween 1964, Dylan, in prototypical ironic fashion, said:

"This a song about a boxer...
It's got nothing to do with boxing, it's just a song about a boxer really.
And, uh, it's not even having to do with a boxer, really.
It's got nothing to do with nothing.
But I fit all these words together...
that's all...
It's taken directly from the newspapers,
Nothing's been changed...
Except for the words."

The prominence of topical songs during the 1950s and '60s and in Dylan's early folk/protest work made such a subject far less unusual than it might seem from the distance of nearly 50 years. Because other than Tom Morello, formerly of Rage Against the Machine and now of The Nightwatchman, I can't fathom any serious contemporary musician devoting an entire song (and space in their setlist) to asking "Who Killed Dave Duerson?"

"Who Killed Davey Moore?" by Bob Dylan:

Who killed Davey Moore
Why an’ what’s the reason for?

“Not I,” says the referee
“Don’t point your finger at me
I could’ve stopped it in the eighth
An’ maybe kept him from his fate
But the crowd would’ve booed, I’m sure
At not gettin’ their money’s worth
It’s too bad he had to go
But there was a pressure on me too, you know
It wasn’t me that made him fall
No, you can’t blame me at all”

Who killed Davey Moore
Why an’ what’s the reason for?

“Not us,” says the angry crowd
Whose screams filled the arena loud
“It’s too bad he died that night
But we just like to see a fight
We didn’t mean for him t’ meet his death
We just meant to see some sweat
There ain’t nothing wrong in that
It wasn’t us that made him fall
No, you can’t blame us at all”

Who killed Davey Moore
Why an’ what’s the reason for?

“Not me,” says his manager
Puffing on a big cigar
“It’s hard to say, it’s hard to tell
I always thought that he was well
It’s too bad for his wife an’ kids he’s dead
But if he was sick, he should’ve said
It wasn’t me that made him fall
No, you can’t blame me at all”

Who killed Davey Moore
Why an’ what’s the reason for?

“Not me,” says the gambling man
With his ticket stub still in his hand
“It wasn’t me that knocked him down
My hands never touched him none
I didn’t commit no ugly sin
Anyway, I put money on him to win
It wasn’t me that made him fall
No, you can’t blame me at all”

Who killed Davey Moore
Why an’ what’s the reason for?

“Not me,” says the boxing writer
Pounding print on his old typewriter
Sayin’, “Boxing ain’t to blame
There’s just as much danger in a football game”
Sayin’, “Fistfighting is here to stay
It’s just the old American way
It wasn’t me that made him fall
No, you can’t blame me at all”

Who killed Davey Moore
Why an’ what’s the reason for?

“Not me,” says the man whose fists
Laid him low in a cloud of mist
Who came here from Cuba’s door
Where boxing ain’t allowed no more
“I hit him, yes, it’s true
But that’s what I am paid to do
Don’t say ‘murder,’ don’t say ‘kill’
It was destiny, it was God’s will”

Who killed Davey Moore
Why an’ what’s the reason for?


(Happy 70th birthday, Bob)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Monday Mudita



Friday, May 13, 2011

Monday, May 9, 2011

Lakers Make Jet-Fueled Exit

(Or, perhaps, "Terry Slingshoots Lakers Out of Playoffs")

I was conflicted about constructing the headline for this post with "Lakers" being the subject. Because Kobe Bryant and Co. surely weren't the dominant nouns in Dallas yesterday. The Purple and Gold were throttled by the Mavericks, who were wrapping up a 4-0 sweep of the Phil Jackson-coached two-time defending champs. Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs were hungrier, deeper, classier and just flat-out better in every measurable way in Game 4.

Nevertheless, the story, at least for today, is about the Lakers. Just like, I'm going to guess, that the back pages of the sports section in Gath and various other districts in Philistine were about the fallen Goliath rather than the victorious David after that famous upset victory.

Admittedly, it's a bit of a stretch to portray any assemblage of athletes bound together by Mark Cuban's purse strings as an underdog. Yet, I don't know many folks that were tapping Dallas to outlast Portland let alone unleash their brooms (to borrow a phrase from Stephen A. Smith) on a team featuring a reality television personality Lamar Odom.

IIf we are going to cast Dirk in the role of David here, then I'm going to go ahead and select Jason Terry to play the part of the slingshot. Or maybe Dirk is the slingshot and Terry is the handful of stones that David brought into battle. Or maybe Terry is the slingshot and the nine three-point shots that he hit in Game 4 are the stones. Or maybe all of these things are not these things unless you are stoned.

Regardless, Terry played an inspired ballgame.



Below are the game situations for each of Terry's nine made three-point shots. The scores indicate the state of the game before each made three-point shot (with post-shot score in parentheses).

First Quarter

19-19

Terry 3-point field goal breaks tie puts Dallas ahead, 22-19. The Mavs never relinquish the lead. (22-19)

Second Quarter

27-23

The opening score of the second period keeps late first quarter momentum rolling for Dallas, pushes lead to seven points, 30-23, to give Dallas just a bit of breathing room. 30-23)


34-27

With Lakers center Andrew Bynum scoring four quick points to hold the line for the visitors, Terry hits another three-point shot, pushing the lead to 10 points at 37-27. Traditionally time-out averse L.A. coach Phil Jackson use a full time-out to try to rally his troops. The American Airlines Center is hysterical. (37-27)

39-30

The Skeletal Steve Blake hit what seemed a pivotal three after the aforementioned timeout to raise the Lakers' flagging hopes. But less than a minute (and a J.J. Barea jumper) later, Terry knocks down another three to get the lead back into double digits. Another Lakers' run is snuffed before it can ignite. Phil Jackson calls a 20-second timeout. (42-30)

44-32

Buckets are traded between Terry's consecutive timeout-inducing three-point shots and this one as the margin maintains at a dozen, still the largest of the game thus far. Off a pass from Dirk, Terry shoots the Mavericks ahead by 15 points with just over seven minutes remaining in the first half. The rout is on. Shortly, Terry will assist on a Peja Stojakovic triple. The Lakers will take another full timeout. Rumors of their return to the court are highly exaggerated. (47-22)


60-38

After Peja briefly took control of the game from Terry, the Jet takes it back. Before this latest treble, he'd assisted on a bucket by Dirk and knocked down a two-pointer of his own. With just a tick past 30 seconds remaining in the half, Terry does his best to kill this game off before the intermission. (63-38)


Third Quarter

65-46

After Ron Artest reels off an inspired 7-2 run to open the second half, Terry stops the run before it can get too. (68-46)

68-46

And, on Dallas' next offensive possession, Terry leaves no doubt that the second half will only include more of the same. The Lakers call a full-timeout. (71-46)

78-54

With the Mavs' lead living healthily above 20 points, this Terry three-pointer puts them on the short road to a 30-point bulge with less than three minutes to play in the third. (81-54)

Fourth Quarter

Offense-first Jason Terry did not (need to) attempt a shot in the fourth quarter.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Thursday, May 5, 2011

¡Qué Buen 5 de Mayo!


If you needed an excuse to drink a post-work margarita or order takeout from that great Mexican place near your house then you'll be pleased to know today is Cinco de Mayo.

Little known fact, today is NOT actually the Mexican independence day (which is in September), rather it is anniversary of a victory over French soldiers in the Battle of Puebla in 1862. This battle only slowed down the French, though, who would occupy Mexico City just one year later. Moreover, Cinco de Mayo is not celebrated throughout Mexico. Although it is commemorated in the state of Puebla where the battle took place it is really an American holiday that spread from Southern California to tex-mex chain restaurants around the country. Americans took to the holiday because it brought together our disparate loves for salsa, pinatas and seeing the French lose at stuff.

(A version of this post originally ran in this space on May 5, 2008)

Jose Canseco, 1989 World Series

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

WWOD? Non-Sequtir

(image pulled from the awesome-as-a-dog-with-sunglasses TV blog Warming Glow)

Jeremy Scahill (author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army) has a fascinating look at the Black Ops force that took out Osama bin Laden posted over at The Nation's website. These details may only scratch the surface when it comes to SEAL Team Six, also known as the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, but it is the most that I've seen so far. To sum up: these guys wipe their asses with Chuck Norris' beard.

Since I learned the news from a text message from my brother, I've been absolutely riveted by the details of the attack on bin Laden's suburban fortress of sort-of solitude. From the way in which a courier was tracked to find this spot to the fact that the SEAL teams didn't lose a single soldier during the operation right through the burial at sea, to avoid creating a terrestrial shrine to the terrorist leader, it appears that President Obama and his intelligence and military advisers absolutely nailed every aspect of this thing.

To put President Obama's decisive use of these special forces to go after bin Laden in perspective, head over to The New Republic (by way of Longreads.com) for a detailed look at the way in which U.S. indecisiveness (not to mention too many resources being devoted to planning the Iraq invasion) squandered the first best chance to take bin Laden at Tora Bora in December 2001.

And, lastly, watch these clips from Monday night's episode of The Daily Show. Being not nearly as witty or articulate as Jon Stewart, I'll let his slightly-tempered glee stand in for my own reaction to the news that bin Laden was killed by American soldiers in a ninja-like attack orchestrated by President Obama.



Gaucho Still Got It

Monday, May 2, 2011

Better Know a Jets Draft Pick: Muhammad Wilkerson

Ever since the NFL Draft adopted its current Thursday through Sunday format, I've found it much harder to generate and/or maintain interest in the event (as a television program). With NBA playoff games airing daily this time of year and baseball a weeknight staple, I generally haven't caught the first night of the draft on television over the past few years which, of course, makes it's hard to muster enthusiasm to tune in to separate telecasts during the weekend when the name-brand talent is off the board. Given the current state of the NFL, I assume that the draft is much more profitable in this revamped state. Luckily for the teams, the importance of the draft in terms of roster construction is unchanged whether or not I find the it suitably packaged as television programming.

With several key free agents on both sides of the ball and a recent history of prioritizing quality over quantity in recent drafts, the New York Jets entered the 2011 Draft looking to stock the cupboard. They were especially needy in the defensive front seven and addressed that need with their first two selections. At No. 30 overall, the Jets drafted defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson out of Temple University. The Linden, NJ native stands 6 foot 4 inches and tips the scales around 315.

Rather than just trusting the Hair (Mel Kiper) and the Heir (Todd McShay) to tell me about Wilkerson and the rest of the newest Jets players, who were but a handful of the hundreds that they've studied over the past few months, I decided to contact Brian Dzenis, the Sports Editor of The Temple News, who has watched and covered Wilkerson for a lot longer than any talking head on television who we're likely to hear from this week. Dzenis came through in spades, answering a bunch of questions as he studied for finals and adding in some details that I hadn't come across anywhere else. For example: Against UCONN, Wilkerson caught a 3-yard pass on a fake punt play and didn't look too shabby doing it. Far and away, my favorite detail is that this defensive end wore a single digit number as part of the honor of being designated a "Temple Tough Guy" by a coach.

WWOD?: What was your initial reaction to hearing that the Jets had called for Wilkerson at No. 30?

Brian Dzenis: I'm not a huge mock draft guy, so I don't read into where players might go too much, but I certainly thought he deserved to be drafted in the first round.

WWOD?: Much of the pre-draft coverage of Wilkerson focused on his family and calm demeanor. Does that fit with the perception of Wilkerson on campus?

BD: Wilkerson is a very low-key, down to earth type of guy. In the two seasons I've covered the team, I never heard a peep about his character. He may not be the most exciting guy to talk to, but he works hard and his teammates and coaches respect him. He's a lot like his predecessors on the Temple D-line that have made it to the NFL, Terrance Knighton and Andre Neblett, they were quiet, but they always got the job done on the field.

WWOD?: Can you recall a particular game when it became clear that Mo was a bona fide NFL talent?

BD: The Penn State game this year certainly sticks out. Nine total tackles (four solo, five assisted) against a PSU O-line that gave him double teams multiple times is nothing to laugh at. His impact in a given game sometimes can't be measured on the box score, like when they played UCONN (and won), he didn't have a great game statistically, but the other guys around him on the D-line did because he could just take up so much space and create room for his teammates to make plays. He just always seems to find a way to make himself useful, whether it's the occasional multi-sack game or he'll just eat up double teams so his teammates can get to the quarterback/running back.



WWOD?: How many grains of salt, if any, should his stats and highlights be viewed given the level of MAC competition?

BD: I'm no fan of the MAC, but when he went up against Penn State and UCONN, two BCS schools, he handled himself pretty well. I think when evaluating him as a player, the thing that sticks out about him is that he's a 6-5, 300-plus pound guy who is FAST and is really consistent with his play. I imagine Rex Ryan was more impressed with his size/speed than the fact that he had three sacks in a game against Kent State.

WWOD?: Greatest on-field strength? Weakness?

BD: The guy wins nearly every one-on-one battle with offensive linemen and when he gets loose, he will end plays. I don't know how he'll adjust to being a defensive end in the NFL as opposed to a defensive tackle in college. I imagine there will be times when in NFL games, he'll be left on an island with a offensive tackle and that tackle will just get victimized by his speed. All the physical tools and work ethic is there, it's just a matter of how he'll pan out as a defensive end.

WWOD?: What's the story behind him wearing No. 9?

BD: When Al Golden was coach, he reserved the single-digit numbers for his "Temple Tough Guys," guys who exemplified Al Golden football, team values, etc. As for why he got No. 9 in particular, I have no idea.

WWOD?: On a scale of "It's a dream come true just to be in the NFL" to "We'll talk over Blue Hawaii cocktails before the Pro Bowl," how would estimate Wilkerson feels today?

BD: Definitely "It's a dream come true just to be in the NFL," He'll probably do his thing with the media when they first see him, but he likes to fade into the background and just let his play do the talking.

Gaudi's Lucious Sweet