Over the past couple of years when athletes have taken a stand on social or political issues, there has been a segment of response that goes along the lines of:
- Stay in your lane; play your sport; do your activism in private and not in people’s faces.
That response always triggers folks to cry “censorship of free speech” and what then happens is that the issue gets lost as folks argue about the propriety of the athlete’s declarations about the issue. When I say the name “Colin Kaepernick” today, more people associate him with “kneeling during the National Anthem” then with “protesting police brutality”.
Today, the NBA finds itself in a similar situation with the “Daryl Morey Tweeting Affair”. The NBA is trying to have it both ways:
- On one hand, the NBA has “branded itself” as an organization that is a social justice warrior.
- On the other hand, the NBA takes in billions of dollars from Chinese companies that are coerced to behave the way the Chinese government wants them to behave and now those billions of dollars are at risk if the NBA does not satisfactorily condemn Daryl Morey and/or the Houston Rockets and/or the NBA’s initial positions in the “Tweeting Affair”.
Maybe – just maybe – the best reason for athletes and sporting enterprises to steer clear of sociopolitical issues is that it does not help to alleviate the root causes of the issues of concern – – but it sure does impact the revenue stream(s).
- [Aside: Quietly, one of the NBA teams – the Blazers – has found itself in the middle of another social justice matter. Based on protests, the team has disassociated itself with a company that also does business with the Israeli Defense Force. Of course, the team is free to make that choice for itself, but the issue of boycotting Israel and divesting any ownership or relationship with Israeli entities is a controversial one.]
Another entity caught in the middle of all this is ESPN. Nominally, ESPN is an entity associated with “sports journalism”. Actually, ESPN is dependent on the NBA to provide it with hundreds of hours of original programming that ESPN needs the way Dracula needs blood. ESPN has had to walk a fine line here with regard to reporting on this entire matter; in fact, if you are interested in following the latest happenings, there are other places you might go before ESPN. Let me just say that ESPN’s coverage here has not put the reputations of Woodward and Bernstein in any sort of danger.
Moving on from social justice and back to sports, a Kenyan runner, Eliud Kipchoge, broke the 2-hour barrier for the marathon by running the 26.2 miles in 1 hour, 59 minutes and 40 seconds. That is about 10 seconds faster than the standing world record for a marathon. And … the folks who regulate running in the world are not going to recognize this feat as a world record. To be sure, there were significant differences between this event and a “typical” marathon run as a road race. Consider:
- The course was laid out and chosen for speed and not for duress.
- There were pacesetters throughout the race that rotated into and out of the event. Pacesetters affect wind resistance.
- There was a pace car involved that too – allegedly – provided wind resistance.
- Bicyclists handed fluids to Kipchoge during the event; he was not required to pick up bottles of fluid from hydration stations as would be the case in a “normal marathon”.
- Kipchoge also wore custom-made Nike shoes that are not generally available to all runners – and that evidently is a marathon racing “no-no”.
Looking at the list of “irregularities”, I can understand why this specific time might not be recognized as a world record. At the same time, this event has provided runners with two important things:
- The 2-hour barrier – thought to be unachievable just as was the 4-minute mile – can be broken.
- The time of this event – 1:59:40 – can now be a target for other marathoners to focus upon.
We can recognize the “irregularities” here, but that ought not obscure the fact that Eliud Kipchoge did something that was remarkable and important regarding marathon running.
Changing the subject … I guess I just do not understand why MLB teams change their strategies so drastically once it becomes “playoff time”. Most teams do it; however, let me focus on the Dodgers here. In 2019, the Dodgers won 106 games; that was the most in the NL by a significant margin and they did that without ever using Clayton Kershaw as a relief pitcher. So, why switch strategy?
Here is a summary of the history of Clayton Kershaw as a relief pitcher in playoff situations:
- 2008 playoffs 2 relief appearances Dodgers lost the series
- 2009 playoffs 1 relief appearance Dodgers lost the series
- 2016 playoffs 1 relief appearance Dodgers won the series
- 2017 playoffs 1 relief appearance Dodgers lost the series
- 2018 playoffs 1 relief appearance Dodgers won that series
- 2019 playoffs 1 relief appearance Dodgers lost that series.
In summary, 7 relief appearances and the team record for series where they occurred is 2-4. I know this is not “Advanced Analytics”, but what is there in these numbers that says it is a good idea to continue to do this?
Finally, here are two Tweets from humor writer, Brad Dickson:
“In 2018 an all-time record number of STDs were diagnosed in the U.S. Hey, I think it’s just nice to see kids turning off the video games and getting out of the house.”
“A record number of STDs were diagnosed in the U.S. in 2018. I blame the super crowded Southwest Airlines boarding policy.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………