Monthly Archives: March 2013

It’s time for professional sports to get serious about psychological drugs.

Scientific American just published a review of recent scientific studies examining the relationship between music and athletic performance.

The key quote: In a 2012 review of the research, Costas Karageorghis of Brunel University in London, one of the world’s leading experts on the psychology of exercise music, wrote that one could think of music as “a type of legal performance-enhancing drug.”

Anyone who’s listened to an iPod at the gym has knows this, but it’s time for professional sports to wake up and address it.

There can no longer be any doubt: listening to music helps people perform better than they would if they just listened to the sounds of nature or the gym. Birds are natural. The sound of feet hitting the pavement is natural (though the sounds of shoes may be unnatural). Men grunting and dropping weights on the floor of the gym is natural. Electric guitars? Not natural. Drum boxes? Not at all natural. Lady Gaga? Not remotely natural.

Stereo equipment? What farm did it come from? iPods? Show me what tree those grow on.

It’s time we face the facts: athletes who listen to recorded music during their workouts are benefiting from artificial, unnatural performance enhancements. They are cheating. The are destroying the integrity of the game, destroying themselves, and destroying the fragile social fabric that binds this nation together.

And it must be stopped. Athletes set an example for our children. And when top athletes “get pumped up” be listening to Lady Gaga, or Justin Bieber, or gangsta rap, what do we think our children will do? They’ll listen to it. And they might become a Belieber and who wants that for their child? Moreover, they’ll perform better in the gym, lifting more, running further, paying less attention to pain, their bodies’ natural way of avoiding injury.

The solution must come from the top.

USA Track and Field has already banned runners from listening to music during races. Are the major sports leagues going to let themselves be led by Track and Field? Or, will the NFL, MLB, and NBA step up and do what’s right, for themselves, for their players, and for America?

Playing music when a batter walks out to box? The science doesn’t lie: this is an artificial performance enhancement.

Just because athletes don’t take it in pill form, or rub it on their skin, or inject it, doesn’t make it less artificial. It’s going straight through their ears into their brain – the fastest intake method conceivable.

Major League Baseball has been rocked by steroid scandals in the past. It should take this opportunity to step up and lead. Ban music at games, and impose serious penalties on athletes who cheat by listening to music in the gym.

By Josh Orum
You can contact Josh at

Quick Slant: Major League Baseball’s Attendance and Creativity Problem

Photo Credit: (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Photo Credit: (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

By Ryan Lack

Quick Slant: Brewers Ticket Plan Gives Fans Better Seats Each Time Milwaukee Wins


Today, we’re taking a break from the NCAA Tournament. There have been a lot of games played, plenty of analysis conducted and published, and lots of upsets. We think the tournament can sit for now as they move into Sweet 16 action tomorrow. On top of that, Florida Gulf Coast ripped my Aztecs a new one last night and the wounds are still fresh. I’d rather not talk about it.

What we would like to cover is the recent move by the Milwaukee Brewers to provide fans an incentive to purchase mini ticket packages. It’s really a pretty brilliant strategy, though it’s based on an assumption that the fans will be willing to wager $99 for a nine game package that improves the more the team wins.

The way it works is the fan shells out the required cash and gets tickets to nine select Tuesday games. The seats for the first game sound like they’re crap with a face value of $11 each, but if the team wins the game you attend your next game will be viewed from better seats, and so on. Extrapolating that out to a reasonable Brewers winning streak and you could end up in some of the better seats that far exceed the value of your ticket package or any of the seats included with it.

It’s such a simple sales tactic, which is why it’s hard to believe no one has thought of it before. Based on a variety of reports this appears to be the first time a team has tried this and I’d wager more will follow suit depending on the success of the pilot program. Why wouldn’t you? It’s a good bet for both sides and an even better way to try and up attendance, which we all know has been absolutely pathetic league-wide for the last decade+.
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Quick Slant: Harvard and Its Quest to Prove Smart Kids Can Ball

Photo Credit: (AP Photo/George Frey)

Photo Credit: (AP Photo/George Frey)

By Ryan Lack

Quick Slant: 14-seed Harvard pulls upset over 3-seed New Mexico


That’s actually a terrible headline by ESPN. The story that #14 Harvard upended #3 New Mexico is surely an important fact produced by this game, but perhaps what is just as important a fact, if not more important, is it signified the very first NCAA Tournament victory for the prestigious Ivy League school.

On a day where two #5 seeds went down to #12s and #3 Marquette barely escaped #14 Davidson with six points in the final 60 seconds, Harvard’s victory was the moment of the day. It also solidified the believe that teams from New Mexico suck; Saint Louis rolled over New Mexico State by 20 earlier in the day.

All of that said, I think the one thing to focus on here is the respect factor. What we saw in each of the upsets yesterday was less than stellar effort. We watched as teams that should have had no problem disposing of their lower-seeded opponents struggle mightily. Maybe it was because of the beauty that is the NCAA Tournament – the pitting against each other two teams that know nothing about one another. So, I guess it’s a two-fold issue when it comes to the upsets, but what it really came down to was the “better” teams simply overlooking their opponents. Remember, you don’t have to be the better team in general, you just have to be the better team on that day.

What Harvard proved out yesterday is you don’t have to sacrifice intelligence for athletic achievement; Stanford is another great example of smart kids proving they can ball. So we chalk one up for the smart kids; the kids that, short of NBA careers, will likely go on to do bigger and better things.

All I can say is, it warms my heart to see this type of thing happen. It’s what makes the tournament one of the best events in all of sports. And even if Harvard goes down in the next round to Arizona those kids will go down in their school’s history books as the first squad to put a victory on the board, ending 67 years of struggle.

Well done, smart kids. Your band is clearly very happy in their own Harvard band way. And what did Jeremy Lin think of all of this?

Photo Credit: (SB Nation Facebook)

Photo Credit: (SB Nation Facebook)

I don’t even know what’s going on here, but I think he’s … happy? Or drunk? Both?

Follow Ryan on Twitter at @ryanlack
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The NCAA Tournament, Bracketology and The Irrationality of It All

Photo Credit: (Kevin McGuire -

Photo Credit: (Kevin McGuire –

By Kevin York

I’m writing this post right after filling out my NCAA March Madness bracket, but you’ll be reading it Thursday afternoon at a point where it already may well be completely destroyed. I spent the last 45 minutes plus agonizing over which teams to pick. And that’s an improvement over years past. Typically I’ll spend that much time completing my bracket in one sitting. Then the next day I spend another 20 minutes or so reviewing my bracket, changing picks, changing them back, and finally leaving them blank. The following day I’ll come back and spend at least another 20 minutes making final decisions. So, this year I streamlined (people love that word, don’t they?) the process, waited until the night before first-round games and finished the whole thing in one sitting.

I decided to do sort of a live journal, Bill Simmons style, talking through my picks. This will show how completely irrational filling out a bracket is, at least for me. But I venture it’s this way for everyone – man, woman, knowledgeable, unknowledgeable, superstitious, facts-driven.

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NCAA Tournament Time, The NBA Draft, and Why Duke is an Underrated Program

Photo Credit: (Duke Photography - Curry, Kelly, Cook & Thornton)

Photo Credit: (Duke Photography – Curry, Kelly, Cook & Thornton)

By Ryan Lack

Quick Slant: The assertion that Duke makes great college players but falls short of producing NBA-level talent is completely false.


It’s NCAA Tournament time and while we’re all filling out our brackets based on half-informed opinions, and even sometimes based on logos or mascots, I got to thinking about the various programs and how under or overrated they are. One running theme from the last decade+ concerns Duke University. Coach K is an indisputable college basketball legend, not to mention the gold medals he’s won leading Team USA in the Olympics, but one point of criticism he always gets is that he doesn’t produce a lot of NBA players.

To be honest, I always accepted this assertion about his program as true. I mean, look at all of the players that have been great at the collegiate level at Duke and never panned out in the league. Now, to be clear, I’m not talking about NBA all-stars. All I’m looking at is current NBA roster players here. With that in mind, I took a look at some of the other storied programs known for producing some NBA greats and some average players. What I expected and what I found were surprisingly, and completely, contradictory.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the top college teams and their current NBA roster representatives:

  • Kentucky: 19 active roster players
  • Kansas: 16 active roster players
  • UNC: 14 active roster players
  • Texas: 11 active roster players
  • Connecticut: 11 active roster players
  • UCLA: 10 active roster players
  • USC: 10 active roster players
  • Florida: 10 active roster players
  • Arizona: 9 active roster players
  • Ohio State: 7 active roster players
  • Washington: 7 active roster players
  • Cincinnati: 5 active roster players
  • Syracuse: 4 active roster players
  • Michigan State: 4 active roster players
  • Louisville: 4 active roster players
  • Memphis: 4 active roster players
  • Stanford: 4 active roster players
  • Michigan: 3 active roster players
  • Indiana: 2 active roster players

And how many does Duke have? 20. That’s right, more than any other program. While UK is notorious for pumping out great NBA talent across the last few years – they had six players go in the last draft including Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist going 1-2 (first time ever for a pair of teammates) and Terrence Jones, Marquis Teague, Doron Lamb and Darius Miller following – Duke has been steady, producing a few each year.

The reasons for the flood of new talent from these two schools is likely two-fold: first, the barrier to entry is at an all-time low at the NBA level and, second, the one-and-done rule is bringing in otherwise draft-worthy players to these schools and quickly cycling them out. In other words, many of these kids wouldn’t even have gone to UK, for instance, had the one-and-done rule not been implemented by the NCAA back in the 2006-07 season.

Here’s the list of NBA Dukies:

  • Shane Battier
  • Carlos Boozer
  • Elton Brand
  • Luol Deng
  • Chris Duhon
  • Mike Dunleavy
  • Gerald Henderson
  • Grant Hill
  • Kyrie Irving
  • Dahntay Jones
  • Corey Maggette
  • Josh McRoberts
  • Miles Plumlee
  • Shavlik Randolph
  • J.J. Reddick
  • Austin Rivers
  • Kyle Singler
  • Nolan Smith
  • Lance Thomas
  • Eliot Williams

As a self-admitted Duke hater, I suppose it’s fair to say I was among the group of people unwilling to acknowledge the program’s success beyond the college hardwood because … well, because I hate successful things and people. It’s actually a deep-seeded resentment, but I digress.

As fans, we love to hate success. We hate Duke. We hate UNC. We hate UK, and Kansas, and many others. We love the underdog – Gonzaga, Butler, VCU, George Mason and a slew of others. And fans of the clubs aside, let’s all just agree that no matter where you’re from you hate the Yankees. They don’t call it the Evil Empire for nothing.

Regardless of hate or the perpetuation of broadly accepted falsehoods, Duke is an underrated and, perhaps, an undervalued program.

Sure, you might be saying: But, Duke is always highly ranked, always in the National Championship conversation. How can you say they’re underrated?

Look, we can agree they get their due in the national rankings and in the lip-service from the talking heads, but generally speaking they get no credit as a complete program. By that I mean, one of academic integrity, athletic excellence, and professional athlete production. Before doing the research, like many others, I honestly thought Duke does everything collegiate well but doesn’t take it to the next level. And damn, was I wrong.

Follow Ryan on Twitter at @ryanlack
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Quick Slant: Bob Kraft Speaks His Mind

By Kevin York

Slant: Kraft: Pats Wanted Welker Back


I love this. Far too often, owners, players, agents, really everyone in sports, gives the safe answer. They give the answer that their PR guy told them to use. The non-answer. The non-offensive, non-confrontational, non-bulletin board answer. Kraft didn’t in this case. People (Wes Welker’s agents) were trying to make it seem like the Pats wanted to move on from their relationship with the receiver. With Kraft’s blunt and direct statements, he made it perfectly clear that wasn’t the case.

Not only did he clarify the situation, he stated that the Patriots actually offered Welker more money than the Broncos did (who Welker signed with). So why didn’t he sign with New England? Kraft felt Welker’s agents misrepresented his market value to their client, leading him to believe he could get more on the open market than he actually could. They gave the Patriots a salary number that was higher than New England was able to go. Sensing they wouldn’t be able to get Welker, the Pats signed Danny Amendola as an alternative. One day later, Welker called Kraft and New England head coach Bill Belichik to inform them of Denver’s offer. According to Kraft, had Welker placed the call one day earlier, they would’ve been able to re-sign him since they were originally offering more money. With Amendola signed, they couldn’t.

I love that Kraft went into such detail on the timeline to pursue Welker and Amendola. I wish more teams were this transparent.

One day after Kraft made his statements, Welker’s agents responded, almost as direct. We’re not exactly sure what happened now, but I love the fire both sides are spewing.

By Kevin York
Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevin_york
You can contact Kevin at

On Fire – Putting the Miami Heat’s Winning Streak into Context

By Kevin York

Photo Credit: (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images)

Photo Credit: (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images)

Yesterday someone asked me why none of us have written about the Miami Heat given their (at the time) 22 game winning streak. Good question. The obvious reason is that I’ve been swamped with work (the real work, the one that I get paid to do) so haven’t been writing as much lately (shout out to Hoa for carrying us with two strong posts in the past week). Busy isn’t the only reason I haven’t covered the Heat and their streak though; after all, I found the time to write a couple Quick Slants about the Seattle Seahawks. So why haven’t the Heat piqued my interest enough to write about them?

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Things I learned from Friday Night Lights: Part 1


I recently finished watching Friday Night Lights with my girlfriend. We went through Season 1 in a week and I really feel like I grew with that team and town. The ups and downs, the bittersweet victories, and support and reversely unscrupulous demands that are placed on these children. Since I’ve read the Wikipedia page on the book and have been to two high school football games, I’m going to assume that I can pick out what’s accurate and what’s been exaggerated dramatic effect.

1) Being a high school football coach in a small town in Texas is the hardest job in the world.

Holy cow. I was seriously stressed out in the beginning of the series. They would not let Coach Taylor have a minute to himself. Coaching is a 24/7/365 job. Just like politics and women’s reproductive rights, everyone has an opinion whether or not they have the qualifications. And like politics, you have people your beholden to, doubters, enemies, friendemies, and everything in-between waiting for you to fail. But when he pulls something off, it is pure adrenaline and a part of me wishes I had paid more attention to the playbook in Techmo Super Bowl. Maybe I’d be a coach in Texas right now. (“NO” was the supportive girlfriend’s response. She must be concerned about my stress levels.)

2)  All Football players own baseball bats.

Football is everything in this town. They mentioned a basketball team once but we never see it. We never once hear about a baseball team or little league. So why does EVERY SINGLE player in town seem to own a BASEBALL BAT?

3) Timmy Riggins/Taylor Kitsch has heart.

“I can see why they keep putting this guy in movies” my girlfriend says as if reading my mind. An egg sandwich did not immediately get made so I assume her powers are still developing. Timmy/Taylor really has the ice cold bastard who’s heart of gold slowly develops as he fights his demons thing going on. That’s a great recipe for Gambit and space-tarzan if as ask me. Battleship doesn’t count because he and Landry basically reprising their roles in Football and Crucifictorius Didn’t Work Out (directed by Friday Nights show-runner Peter Berg). He just needed better scripts. And editors. And producers. Or maybe Agent.

4) These people have great metabolisms.

The amount of fast food these people consume is insane.

5) The kids are often times the adults.

As I mentioned before the amount of responsibility placed on these kids is ridiculous. Often driving them to make bad decisions. Football is their favorite and only real form of escapism. Consequentially It is the only glue holding together their community. Friday nights people can forget about their lives, their daily struggles and ailments.The rest of the week it’s power and influence is present through sports talk radio, chit chat with the corner store owner and even at business openings or church sermons.

As a result of this dependency the team’s success reflects how healthy the community is and how they even treat each other. The game is often more important to the adults, maybe sentimentally, or because they have a greater need for the escapism. So much so that sometimes the adults need to be reminded that it’s just a game and the children end up reminding them that there’s a lot more to this life than football (obviously they not as important as football but still of significant fractional importance that it may deserve some attention; like college, income, or christian speed metal).

In terms of fictitious High School Football teams, I’ve been a strong supporter of San Dimas High since 1988. SAN DIMAS HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL RULES! But I think there may be room in my heart for the Panthers, at least enough to start up Season 2. Game of Thrones doesn’t start for a couple of weeks.

By Hoa Nguyen. Whose knowledge of sports is mostly informed by video games.
Follow Hoa on Twitter at @hoabert
You can contact Hoa at



Quick Slant: For the Love of Sports, Trivia, and Alex Trebek

trebek 2

By Ryan Lack

Slant: ‘Jeopardy’ looking at Lauer as next host


I’ll take “Words That Sound Like ‘NO'” for 1,000, Alex.

You might be wondering what the hell we’re doing writing about Jeopardy and the devastating news of Alex Trebek’s impending retirement when this is supposed to be a sports site. Bear with me.

Ok, so it’s not so “impending.” We’re talking about 2016 here, but what’s troubling outside of the new of the legend’s eventual departure is what Sony Pictures Television, which owns the show, intends to do about replacing him.

If you watch the show you know it’s a pretty easy gig. As the host, you facilitate the game, reply condescendingly to stupid question responses to clues, and give off a general air of intellectual superiority. It’s not a hard job. But, it’s something that has become synonymous with Alex Trebek and, thus, synonymous with the show. The show IS Alex Trebek.

Trebek has been at the helm for nearly 30 years. You don’t just replace him. It’s not a decision you take lightly. Sure, the show will go on. It’ll be the same format, it will include the same nerdy and ridiculously intelligent contestants, and also their idiotic stories, but will it be the same?

History shows us that replacing a legendary gameshow host is no easy task. Just look at the laundry list of wannabes that Family Feud has trotted out to replace Ray Combs since his suicide in 1996: Louie Anderson? (what?), Richard Karn (who?), John O’Hurley (stick to Seinfeld, bro), and now Steve Harvey (GFY). It’s very, very difficult, if not impossible to replace someone that is so readily identifiable with the brand.

Here’s your sports angle: Just look at the Chicago Bulls. Sure, different business, different legend, but to this day and likely for all-time, the organization’s successes and struggles will be defined by one man: Jordan. The guy could go by “Michael” or “Jordan” and you know who is being talked about. His contributions to the team and the game of basketball are indisputable and even now the Bulls are still struggling to find their identity as an organization and brand that has largely remained overshadowed by Jordan.

So, what do we have against Matt Lauer. Oh, nothing, really. Only that he’s currently leading a failing program, The Today Show, or that he’s nowhere near the intellectual equal of Trebek. If Sony Pictures Television is targeting anyone to replace Trebek, let it be someone with some brain credibility, not some lame stand-in like Drew Carey on the The Price is Right.

My fear is that Jeopardy will become a shell of itself – a gameshow you can play at home with no backbone. Without Trebek, I see it failing miserably in the long-term. No one will be excited about Matt Lauer, except for maybe Katie Couric and we’ve seen how well she’s done since leaving The Today Show

You don’t just replace a legend. You don’t just move on. You don’t just replace Alex Trebek with Matt Lauer.

This … ISSSS … JEOPARDY! That sound you hear is the fizzling out of an era, or, as Sean Connory would say, “That’s the sound your mother made last night.”

By Ryan Lack
Follow Ryan on Twitter at @ryanlack
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Quick Slant: Seahawks Continue to Improve

(Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas - USA TODAY Sports)

(Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas – USA TODAY Sports)

By Kevin York

Slant: Sources say Seahawks and Cliff Avril agree on deal


Yesterday I wrote about the first moves by the 49ers and Seahawks in the 2013 battle for the NFC West. I decided Seattle won round one with Percy Harvin being a more valuable addition for them than Anquan Boldin is for San Francisco.

Last night, news broke that Seattle did even more to improve its team, specifically an already potent defense. According to sources (you know, sources…) the Seahawks agreed to a deal to bring former stud Detroit defensive end Cliff Avril to the Pacific Northwest. Detroit franchised Avril once and we rarely see young defenders with high sack totals like him reach the open market. Avirl will join Bruce Irvin, Chris Clemons and Red Bryant, three very good defensive ends. An already scary defense just got scarier.

What have the Niners done to counter? Well, they’ve let defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga and tight end Delanie Walker walk away and sign with new teams – Philadelphia and Tennessee, respectively. That’s it. No new signings since Boldin.

Trent Baalke, Jim Harbaugh, as I said yesterday, we’re waiting for your move. And we’re still waiting…

So far, Seattle – 2, San Francisco – 0

By Kevin York
Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevin_york
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