All of the Greats Take Losses

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I never thought of losing, but now that it’s happened, the only thing is to do it right. That’s my obligation to all the people who believe in me. We all have to take defeats in life.”

— Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali was “The Greatest.”

Everyone knows that, but there’s something that seems to be lost in the deification of the man born Cassius Clay: he wasn’t unbeatable.

Continue reading “All of the Greats Take Losses”

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I Was There: Michael Jordan’s Final Game

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Last week, I read (with escalating anger) the story of the Kobe Bryant fan who had the foresight to purchase tickets to what will almost certainly be Kobe’s final NBA game, only to later be screwed by StubHub’s greed. (StubHub has since apologized and promised to make things right, but only because of the outcry the company’s original decision caused.)

Continue reading “I Was There: Michael Jordan’s Final Game”

The Revolution Will Be Live-Streamed

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If you’re like me, when you got to work today you probably had at least one conversation about the NFL Wild Card games that took place over the weekend.

For the past few years, I’ve often said that I’m far too busy to spend three-and-a-half hours sitting down and watching a game on TV. I have a house to maintain, grocery shopping to do, laundry to wash, and everything else. All of that is still true, but since we’re living a post-Back to the Future Part II world, I was able to handle all of my responsibilities and still watch all four games of the first round of the NFL Playoffs because I carried the games with me.

I was originally skeptical about NFL Mobile. And I was wrong.


Anyone that reads press releases or watches earnings reports from the big U.S. telecommunications firms knows that there is a battle being waged for the future. Cable companies are petrified that their money-printing machines may soon become obsolete. Terms like “cord-cutting,” “cord-trimming,” and the near-ubiquitous mention of millennials dominate the conversation. If feels like pandering – and it often is – but, like Mulder and Scully always said, the truth is out there and we are moving toward a mobile society.

Like most things it’s generational.

My mother doesn’t trust online banking. My father has never heard a podcast. Meanwhile, my daughter knew the word “iPad” before she turned three years old and we barely even let her use it.

I’m in the middle. I’m on the cusp of being one of those coveted millennials, but I didn’t grow up in The Matrix. I remember rotary phones and dial-up connections, AIM away messages, and the battle between VHS and Beta. But I also live on the web now, handling all of my finances online and watching movies on my laptop.

I played around with NFL Mobile earlier in the year, but the app accesses your location because local TV rules still apply (how else would DirecTV stay in business?), so I was still stuck watching the New York games. Household chores is more enjoyable than watching Jets-Dolphins. But when I read “Verizon Wireless customers can live-stream all NFL playoff games, Super Bowl included, on mobile devices with a free app,” I gave it another shot.

And it was great. I was watching the games in rooms of my house that don’t have any TV’s – my office, the kitchen, and yes, even the bathroom. I was watching while waiting in the checkout line at Shop Rite and while cutting up fruit for my daughter’s lunch. And it wasn’t weak. The picture wasn’t fuzzy or scrambled or just the raw feed or dubbed in with Spanish announcers. My phone had the same presentation as my TV.

Still, it’s not perfect and this isn’t an infomercial. The app doesn’t run in the background, so when I wanted to tweet something snarky about the game, I’d have to close the window to access my other apps. I could’ve used my other phone to do that, but I was too lazy to go get it. I am an American, after all.

There are other downsides, of course. The screen is small, there’s no DVR-like fifteen second replay button, the picture freezes occasionally, and it drains your phone battery. But, considering that I remember a time when I was excited to be able to listen to a game on the radio, the fact that I could watch an NFL playoff game in my basement or my car is pretty cool.

The revolution will not be televised.

But it will be live-streamed.


Christopher Pierznik is the author of eight books, all of which can be purchased in paperback and Kindle. His work has appeared on XXL, Cuepoint, Business Insider, The Cauldron, and many more. He has been quoted on Buzzfeed and Deadspin. Subscribe to his monthly reading review newsletter or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

Kobe, Peyton & Tiger Make Us Face Our Own Mortality

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It’s nearly 2016, so that means it’s been a decade since three of the greatest athletes in American sports history were in their absolute primes.

Kobe Bryant was leading a scrub-filled Lakers team that year, which included his absurd 81-point game in January, 2006.

2006 was the year Peyton Manning finally got over the hump, topping Tom Brady and Bill Belichick in the AFC Championship, and winning the Super Bowl.

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Tiger Woods added two more majors to his collection in 2006.

Now, they all look like they made a wrong turn on the way to the local playground, but still decided to try to compete at the highest level.

Kobe is shooting for 30% from the field (20% from three) and playing worse defense than James Harden. Peyton Manning’s arm is weaker than my 3-year-old daughter’s and can barely even move after games. And Tiger Woods says his days are filled with walking and video games.

At first, we feel sad for these former kings, but they all seem relatively content with life. Yes, they would all love to get back to dominating their respective sports, but they also know that their time has come and gone. Kobe is making jokes in post game press conferences and Tiger says that any more PGA victories will be “gravy.” Only Peyton seems insistent on fighting Father Time, at least publicly, but he knows his career is coming to an end. When was the last time he was benched?

Greatness fades.

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But athletes try to hang on too long – Willie Mays with the Mets, Patrick Ewing with the Sonics – only because they just want to keep playing. It’s both their passion and their career. Who would want to give that up? It is the rest of us that place arbitrary labels and caveats on careers, like “Joe Namath’s time with the Rams doesn’t count” or “we ignore Michael Jordan’s years with the Wizards.”

That is for us, so that we can leave our memories pristine and our idols unblemished. That way, even if we didn’t accomplish everything we dreamed of in our own lives, at least our icons did. Jordan didn’t care that he (supposedly) ruined his perfect ending, his fans did. They didn’t want to see a mortal, they wanted to remember a superhero, one that left with his arm outstretched and his cape flapping in the breeze.

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Kids that were born in the ’90s and were adolescents in the 2000s who believed Kobe was God and Jordan worshipers were clinging to a long dead past are now defending their own weary deity against a generation that knows without a shadow of a doubt that Steph Curry is the greatest basketball player to ever step foot on a court.

And so it goes.

The same is true with music. Every generation believes the music of its youth was the pinnacle and everything that came after it is shit. People my age are positive that nothing will ever beat ’90s hip-hop or ’90s NBA. Part of this is rooted in fact, but much of it is because we romanticize the past and wax nostalgically about how life was better back then, because life is better when you’re young. Mortgage, career, and responsibilities or high school, college, and carefree fun. Which would you choose?

When I watch Tiger’s chip-in at the 16th hole at Augusta in 2005, I am immediately transported back to that time, when I was 25 years old. But that was a decade ago and so much happens in ten years. The world keeps spinning.

Tiger has made peace with his mortality. It’s time for the rest of us to do the same.


Christopher Pierznik is the author of eight books, all of which can be purchased in paperback and Kindle. His work has appeared on XXL, Cuepoint, Business Insider, The Cauldron, and many more. He has been quoted on Buzzfeed and Deadspin. Subscribe to his monthly reading review newsletter or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

Michael Jordan’s Performance as a Wizard Was Far Better Than You Remember

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The following is an excerpt from Christopher Pierznik’s new book In Defense Of… Supporting Underappreciated Artists, Athletes, Actors, and Albums, in which the author defends and celebrates individuals, teams, and projects that were unfairly maligned or misunderstood from the world of music, sports, TV & film. It can be purchased in both paperback and Kindle.

It was the perfect ending.

Continue reading “Michael Jordan’s Performance as a Wizard Was Far Better Than You Remember”

Documentary Tuesday: “30 for 30 Short: The Deal – Alex Rodriguez to the Boston Red Sox”

 

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In late 2003, after losing to the New York Yankees in the ALCS again, the Boston Red Sox decided they needed to do something to get over the hump. At the same time, the Texas Rangers were beginning to regret their $252 million deal with superstar shortstop Alex Rodriguez.

A-Rod had watched the ALCS and, after floundering on losing teams, decided he needed to be part of the rivalry. He met with Theo Epstein and agreed to take a pay cut so that he could join the Sox. The deal was in place. Then it was vetoed by the Players Union and, as we all know, Rodriguez wound up in the Bronx. That year, the Red Sox won four straight to win the ALCS and, ultimately, the World Series.

This 30 for 30 speaks to (almost) all of the participants and gives a riveting look into the backroom dealings and makes one wonder how different baseball would have been if the deal had been approved.

Previously in Documentary Tuesday:

Room 237 | Exit Through the Gift Shop | The Death of Superman Lives | 30 for 30: The Price of Gold | Paradise Lost


Christopher Pierznik is the author of eight books, all of which can be purchased in paperback and Kindle. His work has appeared on XXL, Cuepoint, Business Insider, The Cauldron, and many more. He has been quoted on Buzzfeed and Deadspin. Subscribe to his monthly reading review newsletter or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

Knicks Fans Owe Phil Jackson an Apology

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As a lifelong fan of Philadelphia sports teams, I’ve seen more than my share of unpopular draft choices. Of course, the one everyone remembers is a small segment of the fan base booing the selection of Donovan McNabb with the second pick in 1999. In recent years, the narrative has shifted to make it seem as if the fans hated McNabb personally or that the booing had a racial undertone, but that’s simply not the case. The fans – including me – desired Ricky Williams and believed he would change the direction of the franchise. McNabb, for all of his flaws, took the Eagles to 5 NFC Championship games and a Super Bowl. He and Andy Reid turned the franchise around. The fans – we – were wrong.

I was reminded of the McNabb choice in June when the proud but lowly New York Knicks chose Kirstaps Porziņģis with the fourth pick:

Look at those reactions. Porziņģis is 7’3, white, skinny, and from Latvia, so everyone immediately assumed he would be another project. A stiff. A European Shawn Bradley.

Here’s the problem: none of them had done their homework. It’s not like Phil Jackson was reaching with the pick. The kid could play. The Lakers nearly chose him with the second pick. He wowed everyone in his pre-draft workout:

This is why listening to fans is asinine. Most have no idea what they’re talking about, nor should they. They don’t have access to millions of dollars of tools and research and scouts that are available to team executives. They have their own careers on which they should be focusing and the only thing they know about most incoming players is what they’ve seen during March Madness or what Skip Bayless yells at them.

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It’s still very early and Knicks fans have a tendency to make huge judgments based on a small sample size (remember Linsanity?). He’s going to struggle. He’s going to get pushed around. But he’s only 20. He’s going to get better. And maybe, one day, he’ll earn the Dirk Nowitzki comparison.

Until then, just enjoy moments like this.

I was living near Philadelphia in 1993 when the 76ers drafted Shawn Bradley. I’ve seen Shawn Bradley. I know Shawn Bradley. We knew it was an awful choice. Kristaps Porziņģis is no Shawn Bradley.

Tweet your apologies to @PhilJackson11.


Christopher Pierznik is the author of eight books, all of which can be purchased in paperback and Kindle. His work has appeared on XXL, Cuepoint, Business Insider, The Cauldron, and many more. He has been quoted on Buzzfeed and Deadspin. Subscribe to his monthly reading review newsletter or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

“Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals” [2010]

HBO Sports documentary on how the rivalry of Magic Johnson & Larry Bird shaped modern basketball and launched the modern NBA.

Christopher Pierznik is the author of eight books, all of which can be purchased in paperback and Kindle. His work has appeared on XXL, Cuepoint, Business Insider, The Cauldron, and many more. He has been quoted on Buzzfeed and Deadspin. Subscribe to his monthly reading review newsletter or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.