What we watched: The question, which Shannon Sharpe raised on Saturday night during his long but heartfelt induction speech, isn't whether Sterling Sharpe is a Hall of Famer. He likely isn't, if only because he only played seven years before having his career cut short by a neck injury. But Shannon's memorable line about being "the second-best player in my family" did trigger the impulse to recall just how gifted a receiver Sterling Sharpe was — and not just in relation to his younger brother.
Sterling's career preceded the league's pass-happy era, so his single-season numbers have to be judged in context. And in 1992, he had one of the greatest seasons any receiver has ever had. He won receiving's triple crown — Jerry Rice and Steve Smith are the only others to do so in the Super Bowl era — by catching 108 passes for 1,461 yards and 13 TDs. Some perspective: Art Monk's 106 catches in 1984 had been an NFL record for eight years until then. A year later, Sterling broke his own mark by catching 112 passes, and the year after that — in his final season — his 18 TD receptions still ranks tied for third all-time.
Sterling's career had the cruel misfortune of being forced to stop when he was 29, right in his prime, and right when some guy named Favre was still warming up to orchestrate the best of what the mid-'90s Packers would become. Career-ending injuries will always be present in every sport, perhaps football most of all. And just because there must be membership requirements for a Hall of Fame to preserve a player's achievements in perpetuity doesn't mean we can't appreciate greatness for what it was, even when it had to be so short-lived.
Atlanta says a fond farewell to ASG: "So ends the rule of the Atlanta Spirit. It's too late to save the NHL franchise that the former ownership group destroyed, lied about and ultimately sold off to Winnipeg. It's too late to save us from the absurdity of owner-vs-owner lawsuits and daily dysfunction we witnessed for most of roughly seven years - why does it seem like 27? - in the front office. But we'll take it today because it's better than waiting until tomorrow. If the Atlanta Spirit wasn't the worst ownership in the history of professional sports, it at least is in the argument. No sports town wants to be in that argument. I don't know a thing about Alex Meruelo, other than what I Google and read. Pizza restaurants. Construction. A casino. A television station. Dandy. The guy could have made his fortune selling second-hand nuclear reactors and I'd be cool with it." [AJC]
Death on the Hudson: "The death is the second in the 11-year history of the race, which incorporates a 1,500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike and 10K run, but it raises questions about the safety of the open-water swimming leg of triathlons. In 2008, the 32-year-old Esteban Neira of Argentina, died while swimming in the Hudson. Neira's death was linked to a condition involving high blood pressure. His death occurred during a year in which at least eight people died during the swim portion of a triathlon. In May of this year, Dr. Michael Wiggins, a 42-year-old who had an irregular heartbeat, died while swimming in the Pelican Fest Triathlon in Fort Collins, Colo. In 2010 the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study assessing the risk of sudden death during triathlons. The study said that from 2006 to 2008, 14 people died while participating in triathlons, 13 while swimming. The report said that seven of the nine of that group that had an autopsy had died from cardiovascular abnormalities. But the study said the challenges caused by open water swims hampered life saving attempts." [New York Times]
A tour of the the NFL's brain bank: "McKee takes a deep look at the cross-section of this brain and momentarily appears sad. 'This is a brain at the end-stage of disease,' she says. 'I would assume that with this amount of damage the person was very cognitively impaired. I would assume they were demented, had substantial problems with their speech and gait, that this person was Parkinsonian, was slow to speak and walk, if he could walk at all.' Without being melodramatic about it, I say, you are holding in your hands an example of the price that is paid for being a professional footballer at the top of his game. She hesitates a second. 'At least in this case, yes,' she says." [Guardian]
Freestyle Pig Races Interlude:
Of course they have: "Real Madrid have signed a seven-year-old football prospect from Argentina." [Guardian]
We are all Dave McKenna CLXXV: 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 lost at sea.
Heroic NASCAR finish only capable of sounding somewhat heroic: "Brad Keselowski raced all 500 miles of Sunday's Sprint Cup stop at Pocono Raceway with a broken left ankle. As if that wasn't enough, he somehow managed to win, too. Competing with a brace on his ankle, Keselowski sped off on the final restart late in the race to pick up his second victory of the season. He gingerly climbed out of his car to celebrate with his crew in Victory Lane. "It doesn't feel good, but I'll be all right,'' he said." [AP]
Today in particularly depressing Mets headlines: Mets Lose Reyes, Murphy and Game [New York Times]
Merch: Managing editor Tom Scocca and contributing editor Drew Magary have both written books. You can buy Scocca's Beijing Welcomes You: Unveiling the Capital City of the Future here, and Magary's The Postmortal here. Now do it.