“Show me a good loser and I'll show you a loser.”
Houston Astros v Seattle Mariners

Every­thing just seems ter­ri­ble right now if you’re a fan of the Hous­ton Astros. A sea­son that started with such promise has rather impres­sively gone off the tracks at the Ball­park at Union Sta­tion.

As I sit here, I want to keep pos­i­tive, but after years of inep­ti­tude, just as things started to turn a cor­ner, a string of incom­pe­tence and unfor­tu­nate luck have absolutely crushed my faith.

But to set the stage, let’s start with the good.

After tak­ing some heat for send­ing right fielder George Springer back to Triple-A fol­low­ing spring train­ing, GM Jeff Luh­now quickly changed course and called the 24 year old up to the Bigs in mid-April. While he strikes out a ton and his aver­age has been Adam Dunn-esque, he’s also been crush­ing the ball with team-leading 20 homers through 78 games, an OPS+ of 123 and a WAR of 1.8.

That call-up was fol­lowed by the pro­mo­tion of first base­man Jon Sin­gle­ton. Through 40 games the 22 year old has strug­gled might­ily, but when he con­nects with a ball it’s usu­ally an absolute no-doubter to leave the park. He will learn and progress.

Speak­ing of learn­ing and pro­gress­ing, there’s our diminu­tive sec­ond base­man, Jose Altuve—the heart and soul of the team. At 24 and in his fourth sea­son, Altuve has rounded into full All-Star form. He leads the Amer­i­can League in aver­age (.336) and stolen bases (41), he leads the Majors in hits (136), and is pulling in a 3.4 WAR. Con­tinue read­ing »

Flop

I used to be just like you. You’re sit­ting there, watch­ing soc­cer, a player falls to the ground in a heap and is writhing in pain. OH THE HUMANITY! WHAT HAPPENED?!

What hap­pened was noth­ing. He was slightly clipped and now he’s act­ing like a land­mine went off right under­neath his feet. You yell at the TV. Tell the lit­tle bitch to get up. You then turn to the per­son next to you and say, “This is why Amer­i­cans hate soc­cer! They’re all a bunch of flop­pers!”

I got ya. It’s annoy­ing.

But then one day I was talk­ing with one of my friends, a Por­tuguese fel­low named Goncalo. He’s an ardent sup­porter of Ben­fica and there’s no one bet­ter to watch a soc­cer match with. Con­tinue read­ing »

Old Press Hat

This is going to be more of a com­men­tary on the state of sports jour­nal­ism, but I’m going to ram­ble from time to time. If you’ve read any of my pre­vi­ous posts, you’re likely used to this.

Any­way, I launched this site on Feb­ru­ary 11, 2010. Basi­cally, I wanted to cre­ate a blog where I could work on my writ­ing and I thought it would be fun to bring in fam­ily and friends so that they could have an out­let to dis­cuss their feel­ings on any­thing sports related. Up until Sep­tem­ber 2013, GSL writ­ers cov­ered most every sport under the sun, but there was more of a focus on box­ing and mixed mar­tial arts (MMA).

But after trash­ing Mar­i­ano Rivera’s going away party—yeah, I can be an ass—I decided to take a break. The great­est rea­son for the sab­bat­i­cal was because of the work­load at my day job, where I cover finance and tech­nol­ogy. The other ratio­nale was how dis­il­lu­sioned I’ve become with the state of col­umn writ­ing.

First, I think that there’s an impor­tant dis­tinc­tion that must be made between colum­nists and reporters. To be sure, many colum­nists are reporters, and there are reporters that are also colum­nists. But a col­umn and a reported arti­cle appear­ing out­side the opin­ion sec­tion are not the same thing. While that should become increas­ingly evi­dent in today’s envi­ron­ment of the “Hot Take”, sadly, the “Hot Take” feel of columns are start­ing to bleed into long­form jour­nal­ism. Con­tinue read­ing »

(l-r) my brother, me, Uncle Led and Matty

Of my imme­di­ate family—not count­ing nieces and nephews—I’m the only one who wasn’t born in either the Bronx or over­seas. No, I was raised in Eas­ton, Penn­syl­va­nia, which is about an hour north of Philadel­phia, and I lived there for the first 12 years of my life.

My mom and dad both had thick Bronx accents—our fam­ily always joked that instead of say­ing thirty-three and a third, they said “dirty tree and a turd.” When they were at work, my babysit­ters were off-the-boat Ital­ian immi­grants with accents out of cen­tral cast­ing for a DeNiro mafia flick. My child­hood friends and neigh­bors were Penn­syl­va­ni­ans who stressed the hell out of the “O” in words like phone and pil­low.

Suf­fice it to say, my speech as a kid was pretty screwed up. (No lie, at one point I devel­oped a thick Ital­ian accent and when I would call my Aunt Bar­bara as a kid I’d ask, “Aunta Bar­bara, I come over you house now?”) As a result, I had to go to speech ther­apy classes to talk like a civ­i­lized Pennsylvanian…and then a few years later my fam­ily moved back to New York.

While my speech pat­terns were all over the place, one of the bright spots of mov­ing to “upstate” New York—to Carmel, an 90 min­utes north of the city—was that I was liv­ing in the town-over from my god­fa­ther, Uncle Led—I know, weird name, right?!

Liv­ing in Carmel, I got to spend so much more time with him. A few years in—I can’t remem­ber how old I was; I was def­i­nitely younger than 18, but prob­a­bly not by much—I was rid­ing in the car with my dad and my brother Joe. They were talk­ing about Uncle Led but, oddly, refer­ring to him as “Eddie” and “Big Ed.” I strained my ears; clearly they weren’t say­ing “Led­die” or “Big Led”—even though that’s a great name.

It was at this point that I real­ized that the man I always thought was “Uncle Led” was actu­ally “Uncle Ed,” and that my fam­ily had such heavy accents that the “L” and the “E” in Uncle rolled right into the “E” and “D” of Ed. Every­body broke down laugh­ing after I fessed up. When we called up Eddie and his won­der­ful wife—my Aunta Barbara—they all laughed riotously. And while I then knew that his name was Ed, he would always be known to me as Uncle Led. Even my mom and dad would call him Uncle Led from time to time for a laugh. Con­tinue read­ing »

Mariano Rivera

Mar­i­ano Rivera’s illus­tri­ous career will come to a close this week­end in Hous­ton. Here’s what I hope hap­pens, and I truly mean this with no mal­ice in my heart: Sun­day after­noon, last game of the sea­son, bot­tom of the ninth, two outs, Yan­kees with a 1-run lead, bases loaded, Rivera on the mound, Jose Altuve at the plate…and Altuve hits a walk-off dou­ble to win the game.

That’s how Rivera’s career comes to a close…with a whim­per in Minute Maid Park against the Hous­ton Astros.

I don’t want this because I hate Mo. To the con­trary, I’ve seen the man pitch in per­son at Yan­kee Sta­dium dozens of times over the course of the last 19 years and I admire his abil­i­ties greatly. Nor do I want this sim­ply because I’m an Astros fan and I’m look­ing for at least one moment of suc­cess dur­ing what has been a mis­er­able three-season stretch of los­ing. I always want the Astros to win, but this is about more than tak­ing one mean­ing­less game.

I was hes­i­tant to write this col­umn. I’ll admit, I got tears in my eyes when I watched Rivera’s final walk off the mound last night in Yan­kee Sta­dium. It was touch­ing and ele­gant. Rivera is clearly one of the classi­est pro­fes­sional ath­letes in any game, at any time.

I’m happy that I had the priv­i­lege of watch­ing him pitch and he deserves a world of acco­lades.

No, my prob­lems reside with this season-long deity wor­ship of Rivera. This is more about my frus­tra­tion with Major League Base­ball, with its sports­writ­ers and its fans. Con­tinue read­ing »

Jones v. Gustafsson

Here’s the funny thing about great­ness and mak­ing things look easy: fans both love it and hate it.

Take, for exam­ple, Floyd May­weather. His diehard sup­port­ers love every­thing he does. But fans of the sport, while acknowl­edg­ing his bril­liance, have their com­plaints. Yes, he’s sub­lime defen­sively, but there’s a large swath of peo­ple out there that want to see him strug­gle; they want to see him have to dig down and answer some ques­tions he’s never been asked before—or at least not since he first fought Jose Luis Castillo.

Georges St. Pierre has fallen into that cat­e­gory, too. Since he’s taken on a safety-first approach after los­ing to Matt Serra in 2007, he’s been con­tent to wres­tle his way to easy 4–1/5–0 deci­sion vic­to­ries. He’s clearly excep­tional, but six straight 5-round fights has added an air of inevitabil­ity around his bouts: He’s going to win, it prob­a­bly won’t be all that inter­est­ing (sans the Car­los Con­dit fight) and it’s going to go the full 25 min­utes.

Jon Jones is light years away from being a tired, bor­ing mixed mar­tial artist. Prior to Sat­ur­day night, only Rashad Evans was able to sur­vive long enough to hear the final horn of a five-round con­test. His strik­ing is scin­til­lat­ing. His wrestling is elite. He’s dom­i­nated a division—light heavyweight—that has his­tor­i­cally been the UFC’s deep­est. The names that Jones has taken out are some of the sport’s great­est fight­ers: Shogun Rua, Quin­ton Jack­son, Lyoto Machida, Vitor Belfort, Chael Son­nen and Evans. Con­tinue read­ing »

Floyd Mayweather Jr., Canelo Alvarez

Com­ing into work today, I was excited to talk about Floyd Mayweather’s easy vic­tory over Saul “Canelo” Alvarez from Sat­ur­day night. I had watched the fight with a bunch of true box­ing fans and was left inspired, but I wanted to hear what the layper­son had to say.

That was a bad idea. After all, laypeo­ple tend to be morons.

One of my cowork­ers said Mayweather-Alvarez was bor­ing; after the first few rounds he was like, ‘Can this be over already?’ Per­haps most damn­ing, another friend said, “That fight was fixed.” I tried my best to con­tain my rage over the sheer stu­pid­ity of this com­ment and explain why that was not the case…but she wasn’t buy­ing. “You’d be naïve to think that that fight couldn’t be fixed,” said the per­son who had never watched a May­weather fight before…because she would know.

So, my high from that fight was deflated rather quickly. Then I look around the inter­net and I am pretty sure that CJ Ross, the incom­pe­tent (pos­si­bly cor­rupt) judge who scored the fight even, made just as many head­lines as May­weather him­self. Con­tinue read­ing »

May v Alvarez

Much of the talk in advance of Floyd May­weather vs. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez has been about the busi­ness of box­ing: how many buys will this do; will it break the all-time record of 2.3 mil­lion for May­weather vs. Oscar De La Hoya; how much is “Money” mak­ing; how big a star is Canelo really; and what does this say about the present and future of box­ing?

All wor­thy ques­tions, but ones which obscure another impor­tant point—this is actu­ally going to be a very good fight. If you buy this card (and you should, if you’ve ever cared for this sport) you will get your Money’s worth.

Start with the basics. At 36 years old with 44 pro fights, every­one knows who and what Floyd May­weather is as a fighter. His defense remains superla­tive and among the best in the sport’s his­tory, his quick­ness appears largely undimmed at this point, his power is solid at this weight and his offen­sive energy and tech­nique have actu­ally become under­rated. He con­tin­ues to pos­sess one of the finest fighter’s minds in the his­tory of this sport and that’s say­ing some­thing in box­ing. He’ll never be what his most ardent fans say he is, but he’s an easy choice for top-50 of all time and not that much harder a call for top-25. He’s great in almost every sense of that word.

Saul Alvarez is where this bout gets com­pli­cated. Derided early in his career as a put-up job for his com­bi­na­tion of good looks and slow career build, Alvarez has demon­strated both a fighter’s heart and seri­ous balls of late by choos­ing to take on Austin Trout. Con­tinue read­ing »

Mayweather-Alvarez

Before he fought Oscar de la Hoya, Shane Mosley was a great fighter toil­ing away in rel­a­tive obscu­rity.

Those who paid atten­tion to box­ing cer­tainly knew of Mosley; HBO had been try­ing to pimp him for years, but he wasn’t able to cross over. Maybe he was too nice—too mil­que­toast. Maybe it was because he didn’t have a built-in eth­nic fan base. He’s an African-American rep­re­sent­ing South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. He would’ve been more of a draw if his last name was Bar­rera.

Despite his slow march to fame, after Mosley beat de la Hoya, casual sports fans took notice and thought this was a mas­sive upset. It wasn’t of course. Those in the know, those who had watched Mosley as an elite ama­teur and as a dom­i­nant light­weight under­stood that he had a style that could poten­tially give the Golden Boy fits.

After Mosley beat de la Hoya, his name started to res­onate with main­stream sports fans and media out­lets. He never became a house­hold name the way that even your mom knew who Oscar was, but Mosley became a Top Billing B-Side and in the process made mil­lions. When he fought, Sports­Cen­ter would at least acknowl­edge his existence—a rar­ity for the World Wide Leader.

If Mosley would’ve lost that fight—or worse, if he was anni­hi­lated inside of four rounds—he likely never would’ve been heard from again out­side of box­ing cir­cles. He would’ve been Ste­vie John­ston.

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez faces some­thing of a sim­i­lar cross­roads. If on Sat­ur­day he man­ages to upset Floyd May­weather, he will be launched into super­star­dom in the US, as opposed to be a house­hold name in Mex­ico and in pock­ets of His­panic Ameirca. His bank account will swell. ESPN will pro­vide updates on him and not just on ESPN Deportes. Con­tinue read­ing »

Floyd Mayweather

Here’s a help­ful tip for jour­nal­ists writ­ing about Floyd May­weather for main­stream pub­li­ca­tions: Floyd is not the “last great Amer­i­can prizefighter”—there will be another, you can bet Floyd’s mil­lions on that.

As long as there are fans will­ing to pay a good chunk of money to watch two men beat the piss out of each other, there will be box­ing. And as long as there is a sport of box­ing there will be another “great Amer­i­can prize­fighter”, who will be fol­lowed by yet another “great Amer­i­can prize­fighter”, who will even­tu­ally be usurped by the next “great Amer­i­can prize­fighter”.

Box­ing will never be the main­stream attrac­tion it once was, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t sur­vive by find­ing a com­fort­able niche. Much like how Hyman Roth had been dying from the same heart attack for the last 20 years, sur­round­ing the sport of box­ing there has been a death knell since the turn of the century—the 20th cen­tury.

For more than 100 years this sport has been dying, yet here we are, talk­ing about a fight that will hap­pen in one week that will break the sport’s record for the largest live gate. On Sep­tem­ber, 14, Floyd May­weather will face 22-year-old Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in a Super­Fight where no one gives a damn about any belts that may or may not be at stake. Con­tinue read­ing »