#sports

Tyler Kepner on the sad state of baseball signatures and how Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew tried to fix the issue:

When young Twins players signed baseballs, Killebrew watched closely, said Tom Kelly, a former manager of the team. If their penmanship did not meet his standards, he corrected them until it did.

“I had a swerve like everybody else — a T and a line, a dot dot, an H and a line, and something like a t,” said Torii Hunter, a veteran outfielder who now plays for Detroit.

But, he added, Killebrew told him a story.

“Think about this: 150 years from now, you’re dead and gone, and kids are playing in a field,” Hunter recalled Killebrew saying. “A kid hits a home run, hits the ball in the weeds — far. They’re looking for the ball, they find it, and it says, ‘T, line, dot dot, H.’ They don’t know who it is. They’re like, ‘Oh, we found another ball to play with,’ because they can’t read it.

“But just rewind that. A kid hits a ball, hits it in the weeds, they’re looking for it, they pick it up and they can read it. It says, ‘T-o-r-i-i H-u-n-t-e-r.’ And they’re like, ‘Wow.’ So they go and look it up and they see this guy was a pretty good player, and they put it on the mantel and cherish it.”

Killebrew said, “You didn’t play this long for somebody to destroy your name,” Hunter recalled.

I have a few signed baseballs from when I was a kid and the sad truth is that I can’t read the names, nor can I remember who signed what. So essentially, I just have some baseballs with pen ink on them.

I Think Facebook Got A Mike Trout-Like Deal On Oculus

I’ve been asked a number of times to expand on my quick thoughts the other day about the Facebook/Oculus deal. And because we clearly haven’t gotten enough opinions on the matter, why not?

To me, it’s pretty simple. Facebook is taking out an option on the future. And, in my view, it’s a pretty cheap option to boot. In some ways, it’s not unlike the deal the Los Angeles Angels (of Anaheim or whatever) just signed with Mike Trout.1

Yes, $2 billion is a lot of money. But it’s also roughly 1/8th of what Facebook just spent on WhatsApp. And it’s roughly 2x what the company spent on Instagram — and that has turned out pretty well so far. One of the better deals this decade, perhaps.2

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ESPN:

The Dodgers are ending the Yankees’ 15-year streak as baseball’s biggest spenders and as of Tuesday had a projected payroll of $235 million, according to study of all major league contracts by The Associated Press.

New York, which last failed to top the payroll rankings in 1998, was a distant second at $204 million. After that, it was another huge gap to Philadelphia at $180 million, followed by Boston at $163 million and Detroit at $162 million.

End of an era. Good riddance.

Meanwhile, the lowest payroll? The Astros at $45 million — which is still up from $27 million last year. With his bonus, the Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke will early more than that this year by himself.

Ellen Emmerentze Jevell:

Norway itself is a Winter Olympics marvel: With only five million people, it has won 303 Winter Olympic medals, far more than any other country on the planet. To find a country smaller than world-leading Norway on the all-time Winter Olympics medal table, you have to travel down to Croatia, which ranks 24th with 11 medals.

Like the Stanford football program, Norway seems full of overachievement. Of course, it helps when your athletes grow and and live in a climate that is basically like the Winter Olympics all year long.

James Vlahos:

By the opening kickoff of the Super Bowl, sports books in Nevada are expected to crack $100 million in wagers, the most that has ever been bet on a single game.

There is no greater unifier in American culture than professional football, which is followed by 68 percent of men and 42 percent of women — Republicans and Democrats in equal numbers. Game telecasts accounted for nine of the 10 most-watched programs in 2013, and the previous three Super Bowls were the most-viewed television programs of all time in the United States.

Crazy stats from a must-read on the state of sports gambling — which, I agree, is fueling the continued rise of the NFL at this point. I happened to be in Las Vegas during the AFC and NFC Championship Games last week, it was absolute mayhem. In every casino. Everywhere.

Peter Kafka:

The promotion is part of a new Facebook effort to get stars posting “public content” on the service — in the way that lots of people already do on services like Twitter and Instagram. As I’ve noted in the past, Facebook has been explicit about its pitch: Publish with us, and we’ll pay you back with eyeballs.

And now we can see exactly what Facebook is offering.

Facebook, your Twitter-envy is showing. So lame.

Nick Wagoner:

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed Friday that St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke informed the league of a recent purchase of a 60-acre tract of land in Inglewood, Calif.

According to Goodell, that knowledge didn’t come with any discussion of building or developing a plan to make the location the future home of a football stadium.

The Rams’ lease with the Edward Jones Dome contains an escape clause that is set to kick in at the end of the 2014 season. If the stadium hasn’t been upgraded to one of the eight best venues in the NFL before that time, the Rams’ lease will then become a year-to-year proposition beginning in 2015.

Pure coincidence, I’m sure.

I’m betting we see the Rams back in Los Angeles by 2017.

Ray Ratto:

In sum, the 49ers are everything one should want in a team, but somehow are not yet all that. They are not in Buffalo Bills territory yet, losing four consecutive Super Bowls and being remembered as the quintessential team that couldn’t finish the deal. They aren’t even the Denver team that lost three Super Bowl in four years, or the Minnesota team that lost four in eight. You can’t even say they’re getting a reputation for not winning the big one.

But 2014 will be a hugely important year, and not because of the gaudy new digs. The 49ers are that very good team that has the wherewithal to be great but hasn’t proven it in the all-in hand yet. What they have accomplished is very difficult. What they have not yet done is more difficult still.

I was quite (and perhaps unfairly) upset following the 49ers loss to the Seahawks last week. But after taking the week off to calm down a bit, this whole piece seems like a reasonable assessment.

[thanks @steven_aquino for sending it my way]

David Berri has some great points as to why the Brooklyn Nets suck. But what’s really crazy is that not only do they suck, they’re the most expensive suck ever:

All these All-Stars, though, came at a cost. Back in 2009-10, the New Jersey Nets spent less on payroll than all but four of the NBA’s 30 teams. This year, the Brooklyn Nets—with a payroll beyond $100 million—are spending more than anyone. Indeed, once you figure in the penalties for going above the league’s salary cap, the Nets are the most expensive basketball team ever (and by a very large margin).

Saturday Morning Quarterback

Usually, a variation of the term found in my title is reserved for pundits second-guessing the previous day’s NFL games (especially when all but the Monday Night game were still on Sundays) — but rather than focus on any NFL game, I wanted to focus on the college football game I watched on New Year’s Day: The Rose Bowl.

Looking at the box score, it looked like a good game, a close game, in which Michigan State grinded out a win against Stanford. But watching it, I had a different sense. Put simply: when Stanford had the ball, it was one of the poorest examples of play-calling I’ve ever seen.

I know, everyone says that when their team loses. But that’s the thing: Stanford isn’t my team. I enjoy watching them now for a few good reasons (girlfriend is an alum, proximity to where I live, and respect for what the program has been able to accomplish), but I don’t really care if they win or lose in the same way I care when Michigan wins or loses.1

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A Tale Of Two Twitter Personas

Over the past couple of days, I’ve lost something like 100 Twitter followers. Percentage-wise, it’s not a huge number. But I usually don’t lose Twitter followers on a daily basis.1 So what happened?

I tweeted about sports. A lot.

Twitter is a funny thing in this regard. We’re (presumably) all dynamic individuals with a range of tastes, thoughts, and opinions on a wide spectrum of topics. But that’s not typically why people follow one another on Twitter. It’s usually for information/chatter about one topic, maybe two.

For me, given my background and line of work, that’s obviously technology. But I too have other interests — shocking, I know. Film is definitely one. Beer is definitely another. And sports is way up there. Yes, some people in the tech industry are as obsessed with sports as anyone else in the world. Blasphemy!

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