What we watched: The showdown in Liaoning Province to determine which ping-pong grip—the delicate penhold or the ain't-it-just-a-li'l-wooden-tennis-racket shakehand—is superior. Top-tier table tennis players split into penholder (Timo Boll, Ma Long) and shakeholder (Ma Lin, Ryu Seung-Min) teams for an Olympic-style tournament:
It was a see-saw tournament with the two groups exchanging the lead until reaching a two-all tie. The winner was decided by a sudden-death play-off where Ma Long and Ryu Seung-min were pitted for a one-set do-or-die game. Ma edged Ryu, 12-10.
Lesson: If you're already one of the best table tennis players in the world, your preferred grip doesn't really matter. (Tom Scocca)
What we're watching: It should go something like this: hype, talking heads, commercial break, hype, talking heads, commercial break, announcement, hat, hugs, handshake, flash, commercial break, repeat. The NBA Draft is formulaic by now, a sort of annual Loud Suit and Compulsory Employment Variety Show, and we all hate it, and yet we are powerless to stop watching it — because even without the guarantee of a season next year, we still get the chance to start talking about "next year."
Like everyone, we expect to see Kyrie Irving go first to Cleveland (and for Nick Gilbert to get another shining moment) and for Derrick Williams to go to Minnesota with the second pick. At about that time we'll start complaining about how this collection of young men with no occupational freedom goes "seriously downhill" from there. And then Stephen A. Smith will say something that starts with a "quite frankly," and there will be another commercial break, after which the Utah Jazz might very well select Jimmer Fredette to guarantee some sell-outs next season. Then a commercial break, probably, and Twitter will make jokes about the Jazz getting Jimmered, or about how no one will get Jimmered until Jimmer gets married. We're co-conspirators, you see. The NBA Draft is predictable and awful because we watch it. I'd organize a boycott of some kind, but I really am curious to see what the Warriors do with the 11th pick. And of course, the Celtics at 25. And by then we're way past trading territory! So let's boycott next year. Next year will be different. (Emma Carmichael)
This story will break your heart: "When I was 11 years old, my dad died — killed himself, in fact, while sitting in a van in our driveway. Our home in Texas filled with sympathy gifts. Mom got flowers and a new microwave. A few months later, an uncle arrived from Albuquerque and built me a basketball hoop on the opposite end of the driveway. The hoop's backboard was made of fiberglass. There was an NBA logo in the lower left-hand corner. Over the next five years, that fiberglass backboard and I became fabulous teammates, like Ro Blackman and Derek Harper, and partners in a fierce existential struggle. If I'm picking a sports hero from childhood who deserves a profile … Jim Jackson … Alvin Harper … nope, I'll go with the backboard." [Grantland]
Ozzie Guillen on Peavy vs. Pierzynski: "'I always say when two white guys fight, the foreigners stay away from that,' said Guillen, a native of Venezuela. ‘I just got my (citizenship) two years ago. I want to stay away from that.'" [ESPNChicago]
Brandin' wood: "So, as a way of saying, 'Thanks for sticking with us as we drive the team into a ditch it will take years to get out of,' they have spontaneously given a gift to those dedicated fans. The gift? Well, as the Astros so eloquently describe it: 'Wood removed from the Astros dugout at Minute Maid Park following the 2010 season.'" [Houston Press]
On the occasion of the 2011 NBA Draft (ugh), let's pay tribute to Yazoo Smith: "Two years after his retirement, Smith went before a judge and asserted that the draft constituted an unreasonable restraint of trade in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. ... The case succeeded at the district court, securing $276,000 in treble damages for Smith, and he won again when the league appealed. In 1977, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled the 'draft inescapably forces each seller of football services to deal with one, and only one buyer, robbing the seller, as in any monopsonistic market, of any real bargaining power.' For a moment, Yazoo Smith seemed destined to stand beside Curt Flood, the outfielder who had fought Major League Baseball's 'reserve clause' in 1970 and opened the door to free agency, as a giant in the annals of sports-labor history. If the Yazoo decision held up, there would be no more drafts in professional football—or, indeed, in any other professional sport." [Slate]
Zlatan Ibrahimović doesn't give a fuck: "The one thing the sports culture can't stand is a player who doesn't acknowledge the sports culture—someone who gets Bill Russell's results with Wilt Chamberlain's lifestyle and work ethic. Ibrahimović wins championships without exhibiting any of the virtues that we've collectively decided to believe championships exist to corroborate. And so he's punished twice—first for not being stereotypically heroic, and second for not being stereotypically villainous. [Slate]
Freestyle canoe interlude:
So meta: "One tipster reported spotting Mr. Bulger watching the Boston gangster movie 'The Departed' at a theater in San Diego in 2006, according to The Boston Globe." [NYT]
We are all Dave McKenna CXXXVIII: Here's your daily link to Dave McKenna's brilliant "Cranky Redskins Fan's Guide to Dan Snyder," which we'll be posting every day until Snyder's dumbass libel lawsuit gets bruléed.
Bryan Stow is doing a little better: "Bryan Stow is now breathing without a ventilator, has moved his left arm and been able to intermittently follow some basic commands as physicians wean him off heavy sedatives used to ward off seizures, said Dr. Geoff Manley, chief of neurosurgery at San Francisco General Hospital." [AP]
The tight end with a bronze star: "So Shawn Hibbard is a 32-year-old Indoor Football League tight end prospect, and he is also that dude, the one who killed four men in a firefight with a sniper rifle, leapt to the aid of two fallen men while debris was still falling but who had the presence of mind to take a metal detector with him to test for additional booby traps, and the guy who is telling me at one point in our interview about a sniper rifle's bullet." [SBNation]