Sunday, June 28, 2015

Brad's Sports Comments, Edition #3, Jan 2014

Thoroughbreds or Mules? Saw the recent rumors about Steve Nash facing retirement decisions because of nagging injuries. It seems to me that the professional leagues are incredibly stupid in caring for their players - treating them like mules instead of the thoroughbreds that they are. In Nash's case, he broke his leg early last season and then reappeared on court late season complaining of nerve issues in his back and leg. He reportedly got repeated injections to deal with the pain and try to play. Russell Westbrook was knocked out last season with meniscus surgery, came back to start this season, and is now out again with more surgery on the same knee. 

If an elite professional athlete has pain beyond the typical aches and transient pains and bumps and bruises of intense competition, they should rest instead of play, period. Any elite athlete knows the difference too. Instead, these players and teams disregard the future and rush the natural process of healing with objectionable results. It was great to see Derrick Rose take his time recovering from knee surgery, miss the entire 2012 season and return to the court on his own timetable. Alas, his return was perhaps still too hasty (either that or his diet is pro-inflammatory) and he tore the meniscus in his other knee and will likely miss another season.

Lindsey Vonn, in a desperate attempt to get right for the Sochi Olympics after major reconstructive knee surgery, entered a World Cup event and re-aggravated the knee, knocking her out of the Olympics. Might she have been better off just waiting until the Olympics and trying her luck there?

It seems that players in individual sports such as triathlon, golf, track and field and other sports where compensation is largely prize money and performance incentives do a better job respecting pain, injury, rehabilitation and recovery than the athletes who are property of their teams. An individual sport athlete who overrides common sense quickly finds themselves facing a reality where they can't compete, nor eat.

Finally, is a hobbled star player thrust back into action too early really going to perform that much better than a fresh, healthy bench player? In case no one has noticed, the guys on the bench in the major pro leagues are pretty good!


Re: Football Imploding: Speaking of my commentary last month about the sport of football possibly going away in the near future due to head injury issue, it's apparent with the implementation of the new "safety rules" what kind of no-win situation football faces. These severe game penalties and subsequent fines for targeting seem to me to be more PR-related than anything. Very, very few players at any level head out to the field looking to intentionally harm an opponent. When you are playing a high speed collision sport, many of the collisions will inevitably end up hitting the wrong surfaces - helmet to helmet or whatever.

What's happening now is that players get penalized, or even ejected and fined for a hit that was perfectly well intentioned and sportsmanlike, but became a penalty due to the randomness of two opposing forces. Continued attempts to "clean up" the game will get more and more random and ridiculous. Consequently, fans, players and teams will become more and more irritated. Perhaps with enough critical mass we will be compelled to move to Plan B, which is flag football or passing league style play.


Mike Pigg Flashback
In Mark Allen's book Total Triathlete, he wrote about mindset and training, how important it is to have a brave and fearless mindset. He wrote how on Saturday mornings in Boulder the top triathletes would gather to do a 20-mile Switzerland trail run that is really hilly and challenging. One time Allen relates that he was nervous because he didn't sleep well before and wondered if he could perform to par. He drives to the trailhead in the morning and Pigg is parked there - crashed out in his truck and trailer, having driven all day and all night 1,350 miles from his home in Arcata, CA to Boulder to train for the summer. Pigg grabbed a quick nap in the parking lot and hit it hard with the big boys on the Switzerland trail. Allen related that seeing Pigg take on the challenge despite his difficult circumstances put him into a different mindset.

Pigg and I were both sponsored by Hind Sportswear one year we had a race in Orange County Sunday and then a Tuesday morning sunrise photo shoot on the beach in San Luis Obispo. Pigg was a disappointing 3rd or 4th (sic) at the race. So on Monday afternoon he got dropped off in Malibu, CA and rode about 14 hours to San Luis Obispo via inland route, a distance of 230 miles. He arrived at hotel at 4am and was in the lobby at 5am for the departure to the sunrise shoot.

I had some extra pizza from the night before and offered him some cold pizza slices and he was overjoyed. The shoot took hours of tedious clothing changes and shooting same scenes over and over. He was jumping off sand dunes and having a ball the whole time. There were and are a good number of superhuman physical talents populating the triathlon circuit, but they can't compare to an athlete with a superhuman mindset like Pigg.

PS - his only hitch on the trip was his bike light ran low on batteries so he rode in the pitch dark till he saw vehicle headlights, switched the light on briefly, and then back into pitch dark. 

Incredible High School Basketball Steals and Dunks
This kid Sam Kobrine at Corona Del Mar is only a sophomore and already a far better player than any of his uncles were at the same age...Look at these incredible steals and slam dunks!:

Brad's Sports Comments, Edition #4, March 2014

Introducing Speed Golf: Stephen Schlepmo introduces you to the amazing sport of Speed Golf! As you might know, Speed Golf has become my athletic obsession in recent months, as I prepare to compete in tournaments that the Speed Golf International organization offers. In Speed Golf, you add your strokes and your minutes playing together to obtain a Speed Golf score. You have to play quickly and shoot well - like Biathlon in the winter Olymics! I participated in tournaments back in the 1990s in Southern California as organizer Bob Babbitt tried to make "Extreme Golf" a hot new made-for-TV sport. These events eventually fizzled out but now the sport has come back strong with television coverage, sponsors, prize money events, and refined rules (carry own clubs - maximum of 7, no caddies). Last year at the world championships at Bandon Dunes, OR, an Irishman named Rob Hogan won $15,000 for shooting 77 in 39 min and 79 in 41 minutes over two days. 

***You Know You're Old When....*** trends have come full circle on you. My original cool-but-ridiculously-large Oakley "factory pilot" sunglasses from 1987 have just been released by Oakley as a "Special Edition Heritage Eyeshade" for only $200 on their website! (Photos attached). 

I originally wrote the Oakley company as an unknown rookie professional in 1986, kindly requesting a free pair to wear in competition. I received a form letter back recommending I visit a retail store. I consequently scratched the logo off my purchased pair of Oakley's and replaced it with mini decal letters to spell "Bradley". When I won the first pro event in late 1986, the Oakley rep called to offer a sponsorship, provided I get rid of my Bradley shades. I promptly received a shipment in the mail with 2-dozen pair of assorted Oakley sunglasses, along with clothing and duffel bags, in time to get Oakley some coverage in the King of the Desert magazine article (attached photo).

****Sports Performances of a Lifetime***
The following is a quick list of stuff that won't be equaled in our lifetimes, at least...

Tiger Woods winning 2000 US Open by 15 shots, breaking the all-time victory margin record set in the 1880s when some dude Old Tom Morris won by a dozen shots beating like 5 other players. The US Open is literally an open contest; some 9,000 elite golfers from around the world participate in qualifying each year. Tiger's level of domination early in this century triggered a massive escalation in talent and competitiveness in golf to where to day we see an amazing number of elite competitors. 16 consecutive different winners of the last 16 majors and so forth. Tiger was ahead of the improvement and competitiveness curve by a decade and, while he has many detractors and naysayers, it's remarkable that he is still #1 ranked player in the world amidst the escalation in talent and money and competitiveness that he created starting in 1997 when he burst onto the scene. 

Hagler vs Hearns 1985: One of the most savage battles in the history of mankind. If you are not a boxing fan or don't have much free time, I still urge you to watch the 12 minute entirely of this bout (advance the video to 22:30 for the start of the fight). If you don't believe me, watch the first minute and you will be captivated. Fortunately, these were two of the most supremely conditioned and skilled athletes on the planet and they both lived to fight another day. That doesn't make boxing an acceptable sport, but since the fight already happened it's worth appreciating for the pure athleticism.

Tyson vs Spinks 1988: Behold Michael Spinks, the undefeated heavyweight champion of the world, the Olympic gold medalist, 31-0 with 21 knockouts, never challenged or knocked down in his career, a 6'1", 212lb physical marvel sitting atop of the boxing world for 11 years, and looking to unify the title against young challenger Mike Tyson in Atlantic City. 34 seconds into the fight, Tyson crushed Spinks with a body shot and he crumpled to the ground. Spinks never got up from the canvas, and never fought again. In this video, it's worth watching the intros with Tyson pacing around the ring like a mountain lion stalking prey.

Usain Bolt 2008 Olympic 100 metersUsain set the world record of 9.69 while coasting the last 15 meters. The Olympic 100 meters is far and away the most competitive athletic event in the world - and in the history of humanity, dating back to the ancient Greek Olympics and the sprint race of around 180 meters that they contested that was called the stadion (yes, that's how we got the name stadium today). Every kid on the globe at some point contests a footrace, there are no barriers to enter the sprinting game (unlike golf for example) and make it all the way to the Olympic games. Interestingly, over 99% of the top 100 meter performers of all time trace their ancestry to West Africa, a prime example of the importance of genetics at the very highest level of competition and the premise of Jon Entine's excellent book, Taboo.

Allen Iverson scoring 48 points in 52 minutes in game 1 of the 2001 NBA finals in Los Angeles against the 2-time defending world champion LA Lakers, heading for a 3-peat and on an 18 game win streak. Already discussed length in Sports Notes Edition 1, but don't hold your breath for another 5'11" player to lead a mediocre team to the finals and down one of the NBAs greatest dynasties.

***Dr. Doug McGuff's Top 12 Ways to Avoid The Black Swan***

This is commentary from an emergency room physician that had a strong impact on me. I think you might appreciate some of the suggestions. He calls this the top 12 ways to avoid a Black Swan, drawing from his years of experience treating victims in the emergency room...(Note: I wrote the italic titles and occasional bracketed comments).

1.  Humm along the road: Drive the biggest vehicle you can afford to drive. Your greatest risk of death comes from a motor vehicle accident, and a larger car always fares better (Force=Mass x Acceleration). Also, if your midlife crisis plans include a motorcycle or sports car, realize that you might resolve your midlife crisis by avoiding old age all together. Oh, and never text while driving.  Texting and driving increases your risk of a traffic fatality by a factor of 23.
2.  Quad-riplegic: Never get on a 4-wheeler ATV. These are the most dangerous vehicle that I know of. ATVs have produced more quadriplegics than anything else I have seen.
3.  Stationary Bikes Rule! Do not road cycle or jog on public roads/roadsides. To do so is to put your life in the hands of a text-messaging 17 year-old. {Brad's Note: My main man in San Fran Bill Ross counters this with data showing that routine cycling is statistically pretty safe. Indeed, I think most cycling accidents skew toward pilot error/pilot brazenness instead of inherent risk. If you insist on road riding, ride with a rear-view mirror mounted to your helmet, and ride single file - save the chit-chat for the coffee shop after}. 
4.  Stay Grounded: Do not fly a plane or helicopter unless you are a full-time professional pilot. If you are a doctor, lawyer, actor, athlete, stockbroker or other well-to-do professional do not get a pilot’s license. Expertise in one area of life does not transfer to piloting, often with fatal results.
5.  Run from trouble: If you are walking down a sidewalk and are approaching a group of loud and apparently intoxicated males, cross to the other side of the street immediately. If anyone tries to start a fight with you, the first step should be “choke them with heel dust.”
6.  Microwave anyone?: If your gas grill won’t start….walk away. Never throw gas (or other accelerant) on a fire.
7.   Plunge feet first into adventure: Never dive into a pool or body of water (except in a pool diving area marked 9 feet or deeper after you have checked in out feet-first).
8.  Do it yourself...not: Never get on a ladder to clean your gutters, or on your roof to hang Christmas lights. Do not cut down trees with a chainsaw. I have seen too many middle age males (with a bug up their ass to get something done) die from these activities. In general, any house or lawn work that you can hire for an amount equal to or less than your own hourly wage is money well spent.
9.  Stay put: If you are retirement age and plan on moving to a new home…think twice. The stress pushes many seniors over the edge. If you do, buy an existing house. I have lost count of the number of retirees that have died of heart attacks while going through the stress of custom-building their retirement dream home.
10.   Kick and scratch: If anyone tries to force you into your car or car trunk at gun point, don’t cooperate. Fight and scream all you can even if you risk getting shot in the parking lot. If you get in the car, you will almost certainly die (but after considerable torture and suffering).
11.   No bad air: If you are in any personal or professional relationship that exhausts you or otherwise causes your recurrent distress, then end the relationship immediately.
12.   Lotto - notto: Don’t play the lottery…you might win. Any unearned wealth, or wealth that is disproportionate to the objective value you provide will destroy you. Lottery winners and Sports/Movie stars share a common bond of disproportionate rates of depression, addiction, and suicide.

Letters to the Editor, 2015

Collection of recent Letters to the Editor, sent to LA Times and Sports Illustrated

To Sports Illustrated

Sports Illustrated and other golf and mainstream media distorted and overdramatized Dustin Johnson's "stunning collapse" at the US Open simply because his unfortunate extra strokes came on the final hole.  Knowing all strokes count the same in golf, Speith's errant 17th hole tee shot (while holding a 3-shot lead; en route to a double bogey) is a bigger choke by any measure than Johnson missing a couple tricky putts--after two epic clutch shots to get to 12-feet on a par 5. The different treatment is nonsensically and solely due to the pair's disparate 72-hole totals.
-Brad Kearns


To LA Times

Celebrity dad of UCLA jock arrested
...Snoop, take heed!

Let Cordell make his way on his own, past the weed and into the end zone
While you watch on TV at home
Daddy's--and Diddy's--gotta know when to let go
Perhaps by fourth year of college is appropriate? Yo!
-Brad Kearns

Stu Foldez letters - Stu and I have a friendly competition on who will get published more.

LA Times
Chillin' sideline at a closed football practice
Like any proper mogul should
"Hey punk coach, why you dissin' my son like he's no good?
I may have a net worth of 700 mill, but I'll still come at you with a kettlebell!
Put you in a world of hurt, or at least fear

Like the four players Justin's tackled in his Bruin career"
- Stu Foldez

Printed in the LA Times in June
#3: Tom Brady and the Patriots leaders are among the all-time great winners...and most disgraceful cheaters and petulant poor sports. Lance Armstrong and his peers defrauded the public with systematic doping, but at least they competed with honor. For example, slowing for fallen riders to remount and return to the pack before resuming real racing. 
- Stu Foldez


Sent to LA Times, didn't print
#2: Brady suspended four games to "protect integrity of the game?" Maybe Goodell will now add more games to the season so the punishment will be less relevant? The only way to really protect the integrity of the game from this disgraceful, blatant incident (done his whole career?) is making the Patriots forfeit the Super Bowl. 
- Brad

Didn't send, too long:
Jordan Speith's consecutive major victories in the "modern" era of golf is incredible because the number of top contenders has exploded exponentially since even the millenium-bound Tiger era. What's annoying is to hear chatter about his British Open prospects before the sun set at Chambers Bay. The way golf has escalated lately, Speith could retire tomorrow with an oustanding career resume. 

Similarly, Tiger's 14 major victories, themselves the catapult for the exponential escalation in the competitive level of pro golf from 1997-2008, are vastly superior to Jack Nicklaus's 18 majors in the early days of the moneying of the sport. It like imagining the major league (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL) with 100 teams

_ Brad


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Brad's Sports Comments #5, Dec 2014

Greetings readers, here's a bunch of tidbits after a long break from my last update. 

Speed Golf: I played in the 2014 World Speed Golf Championships at Bandon Dunes, OR in October. I placed 20th in the pro division with a score of 134 - shooting an 83 in 51 minutes. The winner Eri Crum, a teammate of Tiger Woods at Stanford, scored 122 (76 in 46 min) at Bandon Dunes. Here is the Sacramento Bee article about my participation, 18 years after my last pro event.

"A stitch in time saves nine"
Anagram: "This is meant as incentive"

Fat is healthy, carbs make you fat and sick: Mainstream news story says high fat diets are effective for health and weight loss. These are helping turn the tide of conventional wisdom to embrace a different idea than the disastrously flawed official positions on diet and health that have prevailed for decades as America has become the fattest population in the history of the planet.

How Not To Talk To Your Kids: The Inverse Power of Praise: This New York Magazine article radically changed my approach to parenting and I think about it every single day since I first read it in 2007. Effusive character praise can be counterproductive to self-esteem and peak performance. Telling a kid, "you're smart; you're pretty; you're a great athlete; I'm proud of you" and so forth are dispensed without a second thought by well-meaning parents, but they can promote a fixed mindset instead of a growth mindset. Instead, praise should be focused on effort and incremental skill building instead of results. Here's more from Sal Khan of the Khan Academy on a fixed vs growth mindset

I recently interviewed Ashley Merryman on the Primal Blueprint Podcast, the co-author (with Po Bronson) of the praise article as well as the book Mindset, a book that detailed these concepts and other work by Stanford researcher Carol Dweck. While Mindsetfocuses on parenting, anyone who is interested in competition will enjoy Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losingwhich shatters many of our conventional notions about what it takes to succeed in a competitive arena. I'll alert you to my show with Ashley when it publishes soon.

LeBron James Gone PrimalMore leading athletes are embracing the primal/paleo dietary approach. While hard core endurance athletes are experimenting with very low carbohydrate diets that promote ketone burning as an alternative to glucose, athletes in sports that involve speed and explosiveness will need to obtain adequate carbohydrates to restock muscle glycogen that is easily depleted during high intensity workouts like a basketball game. 

Letters Gone Unpublished: I have been working hard to tell the world my opinions and on a bit of a cold streak lately. Here are some unpublished recent gems: 

UNPUBLISHED to Sports Illustrated
The World Cup was an exciting and refreshing departure for American fans from their usual major sports league action. However, while purists might not complain, the average fan and mainstream media are clearly flustered and unfulfilled by low scoring games, grueling overtimes, and the overly abrupt resolution of penalty kicks. Here's
an All-American solution for the beautiful game: As tie games extend into overtime, hydraulic goal posts widen and rise by three feet every 10 minutes, and they play until a ball goes into the net!

UNPUBLISHED to LA Times {About UCLA football summer training camp in San Bernadino}
So, coach Mora ("I hope it's hot...As long as we're in triple digits, I'll be happy") Lemme guess: you don't participate in drills like Pete Carroll did at USC? FYI: athletes--especially large ones--don't gain fitness or get tougher from heat (or poor air quality), they merely survive it. 

UNPUBLISHED to Sports Illustrated {about Baseball commissioner Bud Selig's celebrated retirement; I believe he should be in jail instead}
The Aug 4 Scorecard's glorious tribute to Bud Selig making baseball more competitive, exciting and wealthy during his tenure failed to mention one of Selig's principal strategies: ignoring and thereby implicitly allowing pervasive steroid use. As the pressure mounted, he feigned ignorance, talked tough while establishing comically weak penalties, and eventually had to be dragged into Congress to address the mess on his watch. His strategy has allowed doping to become the integral element of baseball culture that it remains today. Selig's legacy has many positive elements, but we shouldn't ignore the fact that this man was arguably the single most influential facilitator of the Steroid Era.

UNPUBLISHED to Sports Illustrated {about slow pace of baseball}
In Steve Rushin's 60th Anniversary edition piece, "The Game Remains the Same" (SI Aug 11), Stan Kasten argues that "baseball has a surprising advantage over other sports" because its tedious pace allows fans to interact with personal digital devices between pitches. Baloney. Screen distraction time is neither an "advantage" for baseball nor for our ever shorter attention span culture. #nicetry

PUBLISHED in LA Times {about USC player fabricating a story to cover up a stupid move that caused injury}
Go ahead heap your scorn upon Josh Shaw, but at least he fessed up. In an age of rampant doping and criminal behavior off the field, we have much worse stuff to worry about than a panicky alibi for a likely foolhardy injury.
Stu Foldez
Woodland Hills, CA

I took some heat for this one, and indeed I should have reworded the letter to say that the entire fabrication and revelation was of less consequence than the common criminal behavior. Shaw doesn't deserve any credit for 'fessing up', because he was essentially forced to.

UNPUBLISHED in Sports Illustrated {about Roger Gooddell, NFL commissioner}
A haiku for the Commish:
Roger, it is time
to step down, for the good of...
the game and yourself
- Stu Foldez

UNPUBLISHED in Sports Illustrated
Our collective outrage about the Ray Rice incident, while warranted, could be a rationalization for our unabashed enjoyment of a violent sport that is drastically overrepresented by criminals of all kinds.
If we were to condemn NFL player misbehavior with the same consistency that we demand from Roger Goodell, there might be more jerseys returned than jerseys sold.