Tag Archives: Donald Sterling

A Tale of Two Videos: Tony Stewart & Ray Rice

Tony Stewart will not face charges on the murder, the vehicular homicide or the accidental death of Kevin Ward, Jr.

I’ve lost all hope in humanity.

The American justice system has failed yet again. I can only surmise Eric Holder’s recently announced resignation comes as a result of the inaction by officials to hold yet another a popular white “athlete” accountable for his crimes (see: Duke Lacrosse team, Oscar Pistorius, baseball players).

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Two weeks ago, the last apparent last bastion of the fourth estate TMZ released a video of Ray Rice shamelessly knocking out his then-fiancé Janay Palmer.

Once revered as maybe the top running back in the world, Rice’s career as it stands appears unredeemable. The Baltimore Ravens terminated Rice’s contract, and the NFL suspended him indefinitely. The NFL Players Association has since appealed on his behalf, sighting tired (but unfortunately, most likely true) slippery slope, two punishments for one crime arguments.

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On August 9th in upstate New York a 43-year old man driving a 1400 pound vehicle at a speeds of nearly 140 miles per hour hit a 20-year man—a boy really. The young man with a long, bright future ahead of him died, almost immediately. It was caught on tape.

One would hope—given the above circumstances—that the full weight of the law and public reaction would fall on the culprit. One would imagine that said culprit would be collapse under the pressure, a charged and convicted criminal as the world celebrates the triumph of justice.

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So here we are. The NFL is the midst of a once-in-a-generation scandal. Employees are answering to the former Director of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (the goddamn Director of the F-B-goddamn-I!), turning over communications, cataloging steps taken and not taken in an investigation completed or not completed. Even Commissioner Roger Goodell—the shoot-first sheriff, self-proclaimed judge and jury of the NFL when he ascended to power—finds himself in the unusual position of target practice.

Rice is at fault, and the NFL and Goodell screwed everything to hell.

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There is a video that shows Ward’s murder. It wasn’t shown on ESPN or your local news, because it’s a video of someone dying (as if all that war footage of rockets firing and landing on nightly network news weren’t). Watch it here—if you can bear it.

The 43-year old man—Stewart, let’s be painfully clear—is free. He woke up this morning to a loving family, doting fans, a dedicated racing team and a job that he loves.

Ward will never get a chance to realize the NASCAR dreams Stewart shamelessly tried preserved in his all-too-early return to the track.

But more than that, Ward will never get to find and marry the love of his life, to swell with pride as he watches his children stumble and get back up, to grow old and see the world change. Ward will never get to turn the ignition or choke the throttle of his beat up no. 13, joke around with his team or get angry at his opponents, relish in victory or rise again from a loss.

Ward graduated from high school two years ago. Two years ago. And will remain fixed in his family’s memory an eternal 20-year old.

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The institution of the NFL has been turned inside out—and rightfully so—for countless reasons. Among these include: the culture of violence that has been absorbed by the players’ family members for years, the countless players facing even more countless charges of violent crimes and the apparent cover-up (or shameful ineptitude, if you’re an optimist) of the Rice incident—only the most recent indication of the NFL’s unspoken mandate to “protect the shield.”

Despite all this, last Sunday came and went. Hundreds of thousands of fans across the country flocked to their football meccas and millions tuned in at home. Billions of dollars were made in salary and advertising revenue. The testament of sport.

It would be pretentious, and in many ways wrong, to call for a boycott of the NFL—and not just because it would never happen. After all, most football players are by-and-large good people (I think) who understand that they’re not actually allowed to pulverize other people off the field.

I would hope that recent events have disrupted fandom—at least for a blip—causing unease and skepticism. There has been some reporting on this, but not nearly enough.

Football is good. Ray Rice is bad. And the NFL fucked up.

End scene.

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Ray Rice knocked someone unconscious—his partner nonetheless. He may never face judge or a jury, but he is being punished—by the league he belonged to, the team he was a part of and the American public at large.

Tony Stewart Killed a person. Where’s the indignation? Why hasn’t ESPN rushed to Ward’s aide with hours of outraged Olbermanns and Wilbons?

When we were talking about Ward’s death—for that brief two week period that quickly was swept under the rug the moment Stewart gloriously returned to the race track to bravely not lose his position in the Sprint cup race—we seemed to shy away from what actually happened. Our headlines never used the words like “killed” or “fatally struck.” Instead it was an unfortunate accident that happened to an unfortunately young person.

“…an on-track accident that left 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. dead.”

“…he was involved in an incident that took the life of Kevin Ward Jr.”

“Kevin Ward Jr.’s death…”

“A sprint car racing incident involving NASCAR driver Tony Stewart left another driver with fatal injuries…”

It’s no wonder that Stewart got away with murder. Our verbs hid him from the truth of it. I don’t know yet if that was for his sake or ours. Both are infuriating reasons.

Accidents and death are part of the machismo of racing. I get it. But Ward didn’t die in an accident. He died after an accident—when Stewart’s right front tire clipped Ward, throwing him in the air like a rag doll. As for machismo, the NFL certainly doesn’t lack in it, and they’ve still managed to hold individuals to a modicum of accountability—no matter how disjointed and backwards-ass the path is to get there.

Stewart Killed a person. It’s on tape. I’m still waiting for the Fury of God’s Own Thunder.

#BREAKING: MARSHALL HENDERSON TO INTERN WITH DONALD STERLING FOR FRIEND’S RACE AND ETHNIC STUDIES THESIS

According to sources within Donald Sterling’s real estate management firm Donald T Sterling & Associates, Marshall Henderson has been hired on as Sterling’s personal social media Intern for the summer.

Our sources claim that Henderson wowed during the interview process, impressing Sterling above all, claiming that he was Henderson’s personal hero.

“His history with drugs intrigued us, and his recent comments regarding Michael Sam made him a top candidate,” said Luckswing’s source. “That was probably the happiest I’ve seen Donald in an internship interview since he met with Mel Gibson’s son.”

Henderson’s tenure will be short-lived despite the perfectness of pairing.

“[Henderson] did mention that he wouldn’t stick around long and probably use his experience for a friend’s thesis,” Luckswing’s source continued. “That didn’t bother us too much though. We’re fairly certain he’s got some pigment in his DNA and that’s only gonna take you so far with Donald.”

#BREAKING: DONALD STERLING PLANS TO PURCHASE AND RENAME “SAN ANTONIO SLURS”

According to an anonymous source, Donald “At least I don’t have AIDS (Read: HIV)” Sterling is in line to purchase the San Antonio Spurs.

“Having spent the past several years in Los Angeles, I think it is time I go help minorities in other states. My benevolence towards colored-folk transcends geopolitical boundaries. Did I mention how much I love helping minorities? Because I do. Love it, that is. Yep”

Sterling went on to say that he “totally doesn’t have AIDS” (not that there’s a problem with that) and that he is totally on board for whatever weird maybe-gay stuff that Magic Johnson may or may not have been in to except when he isn’t.

Sterling showed his sincerity when questioned by apologizing between most sentences in his charming, racist Grandpa sort of way. What a card!

He concluded graciously, hinting at a future name change for the franchise: “I could not be more excited to coach the San Antonio Slurs.”

7-7-7-7-7: How Did We Get So Lucky?

After a weekend of five game-7s and a first round of eight overtimes, the past 48 hours of NBA basketball has been pretty boring.

Washington beat Indiana by six—though it was never really that close. The Clippers trounced Oklahoma City by 17—though it wasn’t really that close either. Miami soundly beat Brooklyn by 21. And San Antonio thoroughly outclassed Portland by 24.

Fear not, basketball fans. As the Prince of the Peanut Gallery, the High Priest of the Punditry, the Baron of Bloviators and Admiral of NBA Analysts Charles “That’s Turrible” Barkley would wisely warn us, “Let’s not overreact to Game 1.”

Well Sir Barkley, give me a subpar screen play, stick me in a middling production and call me Nic Cage:

BLOWOUTS! BLOWOUTS!! MORE BLOWOUTS!!! THE WINNERS OF GAME ONES WILL ALL BE IN THEIR RESPECTIVE CONFERENCE FINALS!!!!!!!!! ASDFKLASMDLBMAOWASDA;’SADFA/]ASVASCAXLKJUHNV!!!! REALLY THOUGH I’M NOT EVEN THAT CRAZY—CAPS LOCKS JUST MAKES ME SEEM LIKE I AM—LIKE BAD MOVIES MAKE CAGE LOOK GENIUS!!!

San Antonio v. Portland

This has barn burner written all-over it. They split the season series, and there is a possibility these teams offenses will literally set one or both of their arenas on fire. Portland had the most efficient offense in the first round, scoring 111.8 points per 100 possessions. While San Antonio had the highest effective field goal percentage (54.3) of any team in the first round. Together, they combined to take 282 3-pointers, sinking  over 37% of them.

While Portlandia was riding high on Damian Lillard’s sacrificing of Chandler Parsons on the altar of the scorer’s table:

the Spurs kept them kitsch by putting a 24-point bird on it.

Rip City seemed to try the switch-on-everything defense that the Dallas Mavericks used pretty effectively. Unfortunately, their bigs can’t contain Tony Parker (neither could the Mavs really), who torched the Blazers for 33 points and 9 assists.

LaMarcus Aldridge will continue to have a killer playoffs. He (along with the rest of the team) started off slow, but last night’s 32 and 14 was no aberration. He’s owned San Antonio’s power forwards all season, shooting 23 of 38 (61%) against Tim Duncan and Boris Diaw.

(Then again, if Pop can continue to get double digit contributions from the likes of Aron Baynes, then LMA’s contribution is effectively neutralized.)

Every facet of the San Antonio Spurs franchise has, at one time or another, had a place in every basketball wonk’s spank bank. From their ageless giant wonder to their too-good-for-your-shenanigans head coach, the Spurs are the Raquel Welch of the NBA. They have almost even managed to hold up (perhaps get better?) over time.

They’re still the one seed. They still won 60+ games this season. Their offensive schemes are still beautiful to watch. And their team defense is still unflappable.

That said, Rip City has been forged in the crucible of the Western Conference, Damian Lillard and LMA are the real deal and the Spurs were pushed to 7 by the significantly less talented Mavericks. The Blazers’ fit the underdog ethos, and will keep San Antonio honest.

The Spurs in 7.

Miami v. Brooklyn

Miami’s vice no more.

Prior to last night’s beat down, some held out hope that Brooklyn could really beat Miami. They did after all sweep the regular season series!

Except three of those games were last second, one-point victories, and the fourth, a double overtime slugfest. Which is not to say they were flukes. Entirely.

Mikhail Prokhorov and Billy King put together this team for this playoff moment against the Heat. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett have a history with Lebron James, and the Heat have a history of wavering in the face of wisdom (see 2011 Mavs, 2013 Spurs). Prokhorov’s purchase of the Nets must have come shortly after he emerged from his Serbian underground cryogenics chamber because he seems to have forgotten the symptoms of age—mainly that Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko were getting slower and could no longer jump as high as in their hayday.

Whereas, Miami has the best combination of talent and athleticism on this Earth in James.  They also have that unseemly extra gear that they turn on in the playoffs when they’re in trouble. It’ll prove problematic in the Finals, but while they are in the East, they should be just fine.

The Heat in 5.

Los Angeles v. Oklahoma City

First of all, if you have not watched Kevin Durant’s MVP acceptance speech yet, stop reading this and invest the seven minutes. It’s worth it. It’s a bit heartbreaking to write the following after such a thoughtful and unselfish outpouring from one of the Supersonic greats, but….

The LA Clippers has been Doc Rivers’ opportunity to resurrect the ‘08 Celtics. Boston won 9 more games than LA this season, but just take this ride with me for a moment. Here are the anonymous player splits (per 36 minutes via basketball-reference.com):

clippers celtics

The numbers don’t matchup perfectly. You could probably guess whom most of the players are, but it takes a thoughtful minute.

Blake Griffin, J.J. Redick (only played 35 games and averaged 28.2 min/game) and Chris Paul are the better had better stat lines than their counterparts—Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo. Deandre Jordan’s defensive acumen is not quite on par with Garnett’s, but despite scoring half the points KG did, he still produced over a third more blocks and rebounds.

Doc Rivers has always been a great motivator. In Boston, he united an entirely new roster around the philosophy of Ubuntu—as critical a component of their championship run as any of those individual players.

In this first year with the Clips, Rivers never seemed fully content with the unity and heart of his team. They clearly have got the talent to win it all. But in a glitzy Los Angeles market, with his best players fronting for corporate America in series of national commercials and a squad too young to really be hungry (with the exception of Paul), Rivers never seemed to have his players performing at the selfless and courageous level that he knows is at the core of a true champion.

Enter Donald Sterling.

In their three victories since the Donald-Sterling-Is-Fascist-Bigot-Gate, LA has averaged over 120 points in each of their contests. And more importantly, they look like had champion’s heart and fight. They played with a fire that makes even the casual observer step back, and say, “Damn. Those guys mean it!”

Their beating of the Oklahoma City Supersonics put the world on notice. And yes, they mean it.

The Clippers in 6.

Indiana v. Washington

Washington is only technically an underdog here. The Pacers are still debacling, despite their first round victory over the Atlanta Hawks.

At this point, the Pacers are only a slightly better version of the Chicago Bulls (though I’m not entirely convinced of that—giving a slight edge here in deference to seeding), whom the Wiz pretty easily dismantled. And if Jeff Teague gave Indiana fits last round, I’d like to introduce you to John Wall:

and Bradley Beal:

These young men are 23 and 20 (that’s right BB can’t even drink alcohol—legally), respectively, dynamic ballers that enjoy long walks on the beach and candle lit dinners. They’ll be accompanying your nightmares, or dreams, for the next couple weeks.

The X-factors (or Z-factors, if you prefer) are Trevor Ariza and Nene. Both bring deep playoff experience and have played balls to the wall this post-season. Ariza is shooting a ridonkulous 55.9% from behind the arc on just under six attempts per game. While Nene has increased nearly every statistical category from the regular season and generally looked spry and dominating against a hapless Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson.

On the other end of the court, Ariza and Nene will be charged with guarding Paul George and David West, respectively—the most consistent and necessary cogs in the Pacers offensive contraption. In the regular season, Ariza held George to 8 of 26 shooting. Conversely, West is much better than the Boozer/Gibson duo that Nene had had his way with previously, and the big Brazilian isn’t exactly renowned for his defense. Hopefully, West will find his rhythm and his stroke—he certainly deserves it.

Randy Wittman (who I’m pretty sure is another D.C. leader and baller Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s night gig) has got his guys playing really good ball. And in the end, this fast, shooting, magical fellowship of “pretty good” guys will stop the Balrog at the Bridge of Khazad-dûm Pacers in their tracks:

The Wizards in 6.

Dustin Ackley hitting the ball the other way

Dustin Ackley post preceded by an obligatory ode to BaseballSavant.com. Skip if desired.

Oh BaseballSavant.com, you are a very good website. I like to use your filters to sift through mountains of pitch f/x data in my spare time. You are a good friend. I want to take you to Chuck e Cheese and let you have all of my ski-ball tickets to buy that light saber that you always wanted. Or a remote control car if I got on a roll and did better than I usually do and got more tickets. That would be even more fun than a light saber. Especially since you wouldn’t need to find somebody else with a light saber to play with. You could just mess around with the car by yourself. I would even go into the ballpit and weed out all of the hypodermic needles in there. Unless you want me to leave them in there. Then I would test them all for STDs and leave in the clean ones. Unless you don’t want me to do that either. I would do all of this for you. I am selfless. 

Anyway, let us use some of this data to do things.

Dustin Ackley was hitting rather well to start the season. His doing so briefly earned him a spot batting 2nd in the lineup, a position he usurped from former optimism-paragon turned overnight-disappointment Brad Miller. There has always been one thing that Ackley does better than nearly anybody. That thing is making contact. Ackley made a lot of contact last year. He also spent much of last year being terrible. Putting the ball in play does not ensure success in the Major Leagues. There are people out there. People with gloves.

I want to take a quick look at one of Ackley’s big issues last year. I want to look at Ackley’s tendencies towards grounding out to the right side of the infield. Let us gaze upon a spray chart, and wonder.

Ackley spray chart filtered

This looks pretty stupid at first glance. I have filtered out most of the less common events just to clear away some of the dross but this is still a messy picture. What I want to point out on the above spray chart, however, is the disparity in results between when Ackley pulls the ball and when Ackley takes the ball the other way.

Ackley hits the ball on the ground fairly often. This, as Mariners fans, is something that we are all too familiar with. Last year, when Ackley was playing poorly he was beating the ball into the dirt directly towards second base. This is reflected by the maroon cluster-fuck one can see in the above chart.

Let’s look at another spray chart real quick.

kenji spray chart filtered

Similar maroon garbage. Except in this case, said garbage is located on the left side of the infield, rather than the right. This is a spray chart from Kenji Johjima in 2008. 2 years after he had weaved the mirage of competency which had since dissipated under the crushing weight of countless groundouts to the pull side.

Johjima and Ackley are not the same player. They are not even particularly similar players. But they went through similar stretches of mediocrity brought on by a common tendency: attempting to pull balls on the outside of the plate only to beat the ball mercilessly into the dirt.

In Johjima’s case, we can see that most of the success he had was to the pull side. While he made several outs over there, and was generally awful overall, all of his dingers went straight out to left field and most of his hits in general did so as well. His spray chart indicates that when he went the other way, the result was typically meek, shallow fly balls to the right fielder. Johjima’s success was predicated around an unsustainable tendency (in his case) towards pulling everything. The league made the necessary adjustments and Johjima was not able to adjust in turn and achieve sustained success after his rookie season.

Ackley’s chart deviates from Johjima’s here, and therein lies the hope that a change in approach can result in marked improvement.

Dustin Ackley’s chart indicates that the majority of his offensive success came when hitting the ball the other way. The only exception to this rule is dingers which, in Ackley’s case, were strictly to the pull side (as was the case with Johjima). Ackley only hit 4 of them. So who the fuck cares.

It is clear that Ackley’s success will be built around his 91% contact rate on balls in the zone, and his ability to generate solid contact to left-center field for singles and hopefully some gap doubles as well. Ackley has never been a guy who profiles for much power, but that’s OK. We learned last year that a team can hit a lot of dingers and still find themselves mired near last place in terms of runs scored. If Ackley maintains the approach he adopted towards the end of last year, he should reach base at a solid clip and hit his fair share of doubles in the process. In this way, Ackley likely profiles as the team’s best option at leadoff- although he is a natural fit in the 2-hole as well.

That being said, having suffered through a recent slump of absolute shittiness, maybe it is best we just put Ackley out to pasture and talk about more important things like why racism is bad and why spiders may be worse.

On Donald Sterling and the Ugliness of It All

In light of Donald Sterling’s stupidity. And extended stupidity. I’m struck by a profound sadness. A sadness for Deandre Jordan, Chris Paul, Jamal Crawford, and the rest of the Los Angeles  Clipper players who have to carry the burden of being that team. For Doc Rivers, placed, yet again, at the intersection of race and responsibility. A sadness for Elgin Baylor, who may finally see vindication. I even reserve a small sadness for Rochelle Sterling, who probably (hopefully) doesn’t share the same inclinations as her (estranged?) husband.

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In Bill Bradley’s seminal Life on the Run, he paints an intimate almost innocuous exchange with Hall of Fame teammate, former New York Knick great and current color commentator Walt Frazier about being black. In the South. In the 70s.

“…I still feel the tension of segregation.”

“How?”

“Just by walkin’ in the stores and how people wait on you; like here at the Marriot, the way the lady gives you change. They’re just little things I can relate to because I grew up in the South, and it reminds me of that again. The same thing in Phoenix; the other day I went into a store and four saleswomen just stood there looking at me asking each other, ‘Who’s going to wait on him?’ Anywhere in the South we go on Delta or Eastern Airlines, I can feel the tension between white and black, starting with the stewardesses; it’s different when we fly United or Northwest.”

“Will the South ever be different for you?”

“It will always be the same.”

“Why?”

“Because of the parents,” says Frazier. “Kids know no prejudice. They just go out and have a good time playing. Then the parents start saying black is wrong, don’t play with black kids, don’t be a nigger lover. So they change early in life and that’s the problem.”

There are so many intersections between Clyde’s experience and Sterling’s expectations, it’s shameful to imagine their remarks being separated by half a century.

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As this unfortunate drama plays out on every news outlet in America, it’s easy to forget or altogether ignore, the setting. This is, after all, one of the most riveting first rounds in NBA Playoff history.

And where the first round is usually reserved for the great talent disparities, cakewalks and tune-ups, this post season, more so than any other in recent memory, has three to five team—the Dallas Mavericks, Atlanta Hawks and Memphis Grizzlies (and to a far lesser extent, the Golden State Warriors and Brooklyn Nets)—aiming to upend that paradigm. With only half the series having played four games, the NBA is poised to break a ton of telling records.

With 16 road wins at a whopping .533 winning percentage, this year’s playoffs is outpacing the record 19 first-round road wins record set in 2005. No playoffs have ever seen more than 10 overtimes. Already, we’ve seen seven.

This is what basketball analysts should be talking about. This is every NBA fan’s dream.

But instead, this visage of vitriol…

…has been seared, at least temporarily, into America’s consciousness.

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Everyone has an opinion on what the NBA, the Clipper players and coaching staff should do—in protest and in sanctions. They need to do more, is a common thread. But when your employer has a pathological history of racism, there isn’t much you can do. This league has almost always been about black players making old rich white men richer, and there is very little in this moment that has the force to change that.

Calls have been made to exert the maximum penalty and strip Sterling of his ownership—which Commissioner Adam Silver probably could do and certainly has the public support to do. But doing so raises all sorts of slippery slope questions. If a billionaire owner has ties to a separatist group supplying arms to a militia committing humanitarian crimes in Eastern Ukraine, should they have a team? If another billionaire owner prone to enjoying copious amounts of cocaine, strippers and booze uses his venture capital firm to dismantle American manufacturing jobs, leaving thousands unemployed, crippling entire communities, do they deserve ownership of an NBA franchise?

In the morass of so much cynicism, scorn and condemnation, it’s difficult to discern the few voices that truly matter. And even then, it’s harder to find the more salient points, to balance the fair-minded with the emotional pull and still frame it in a larger historical context.

There are many questions here, with few and difficult answers.

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That a man of such vitriol exists and wields so much power in the universe of this game represented by the most diverse and progressive league American sports has to offer, is a testament to a forever unfinished work of social progress.

If there’s any benefit to all this stupidity, it is that this slumlord modicum of a man serves as a vanguard for every idiot who has ever claimed we’re somehow beyond racism, that we live in a post-racial society.

I love the game of basketball. By extension I love the NBA. It’s a beautiful game at its best when five players work in physical, mental and emotional harmony. That, in part, is what makes this episode harder to bear.

The Los Angeles Clippers (along with San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Miami) were among the four teams generally regarded as serious contenders. Superstars, a deep bench and a championship—they finally have it all this season. And if twenty years from now, the 2014 NBA Playoffs still exist in our consciousness as that one year that one racist owner said those racist things, God help us all.