We wrote a lot of long stories this year that you probably didn't have time to read. Now is your chance to get caught up.
The baddest motherfucker on Earth and I are in a posh restaurant in a poor city with two guys he picked up at some point or another to shoot guns and drink beer with whenever he isn't elbowing people in the face, and we're laughing, the four of us, hearty guffaws that crash around the table. I'm telling them a funny story I heard during my week here in Albuquerque, about a fighter who was knocked out the first time he fought on pay-per-view, with all his friends and family watching at home. It starts with him sprinting across an eight-sided chain link fence, chin out, fists low, and ends with him coming to, his opponent crawling across the cool, gray mat like an alligator, and the ringside doctor shining a small flashlight in his eyes screaming, "Are you OK? Are you OK?"
This, I thought in disbelief, is really how I'm going to die.
It was the second Saturday in February, the first after the Super Bowl. I was supposed to be on a flight to New York. Instead, I was in a hospital bed in Scottsdale, Ariz., my eyes bloody from strain and sunken into my skull, lips chalky white and cracked, hands and feet swollen, skin peeling, tangled tubes snaking from my arm to a heart-rate monitor, a pouch of antibiotics and an IV bag suspended above my head. Jason Whitlock was yelling into my ear.
If Deadspin gave out Rookie of the Year awards, 2014 might belong to Daniel Genis, who finished a 10-year prison bid in February and has already written several books' worth of raw, incredible, visceral, and profoundly human dispatches about his time inside. There's no better day to revisit the stuff he did for us this year, from his sex/violence/drugs trilogy to his sporting endeavors in weightlifting and tennis to his very own version of a Christmas miracle. Enjoy reading (or re-reading), and, uh, happy holidays.
Over the weekend, a game developer in Boston named Brianna Wu fled her home after an online stalker vowed to rape and kill her. She isn't the first woman who's been forced into hiding by aggrieved video game fans associated with Gamergate, the self-styled reform movement that's become difficult to ignore over the past several months as its beliefs have ramified out from the fever swamps of the internet into the real world. She probably won't be the last.
I fixed a lot of fights over the years. In two I didn't fix but should have, people paid heavily for my carelessness. Even though I set up Mitch "Blood" Green and Leon Spinks cushion-soft in their comeback fights, I managed to get one embarrassed and the other nearly killed. There had been opportunities for them, deals that came undone when they lost. It wasn't as if the winners benefited in any tangible way either. At best their victories brought them smallish short-term bragging rights. Among boxing insiders they were objects of scorn for having won, as incompetent at their jobs as Green, Spinks, and I were at ours.
On Sunday, the Seattle Seahawks walked all over the Denver Broncos, 43-8, to win Super Bowl XLVIII. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson passed for 206 yards, ran for 26 more, threw two touchdowns, and made National Football League history. He became the second African-American quarterback ever to start and win a Super Bowl, and the first to be mainly received not as an aspirational or representative figure, but as a man who plays on his own terms: as, more or less, a quarterback.
As a glimpse into the dark side of NFL cheerleading, the recent Raiderettes lawsuit was revelatory, but it didn't quite capture the soup-to-nuts seediness of the enterprise. Thanks to a tipster—a former cheerleader—we've gotten our hands on a copy of the many rules and many regulations the 2009 Baltimore Ravens cheer squad was expected to follow. The rulebook, along with some extra information the tipster gave us, depicts cheerleading on this level as a scam exploiting the good looks and naiveté of young women—a Ponzi scheme in hot pants.
The United States of America is not for black people. We know this, and then we put it out of our minds, and then something happens to remind us. Saturday, in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Mo., something like that happened: An unarmed 18-year-old black man was executed by police in broad daylight.
The baseball-card collection I had as a teen—145,000 cards in all when I last bothered to count, 800-count box after 800-count box, all of them occupying a dusty bookcase in my bedroom—was sold years ago. Some random stranger now owns that collection of 400 Tom Glavine rookie cards I bought on speculation at $.04 each. (I haven't checked Beckett recently, but I'm sure that investment has more than doubled.) The tiny handful of cards I kept each serve a purpose. Some remind me that people are idiots (Bill Ripken's "Fuck Face" card); some remind me that we all start somewhere (Ken Griffey Jr.'s San Bernardino Spirit card), and others remind me, as if I need reminding, that Tony Gwynn was one of the finest human beings I've ever met, and that the world is cheaper without him in it.
Real Madrid handily beat Barcelona this weekend, with adulation bestowed upon many of the individual victors for their performance. Isco proved his grit and talent in fighting for a spot on a team lousy with great attacking midfielders and excelling when given the chance. James Rodríguez showed why he was made the newest Galáctico, and maybe that Florentino Pérez isn't as dumb as we thought, by playing the most complete game of his young Madrid career. Cristiano Ronaldo added to his already stunning goal tally this season, and now gets to preen a little more confidently having shown up his rival, Lionel Messi, on the biggest stage.
Derrick Gordon wanted to come out on his terms, and that meant controlling the timing. The UMass guard had told his parents, then his coach, then his teammates. Seven days later, he would tell the world, but for the moment he had one request. "Derrick had a long conversation with his teammates about keeping it in-house," said Patrick Burke of the You Can Play Project, which guided Gordon through the process. "Then the email went out."
I was at a parent's night at my kid's school a couple of years ago—one of those things where you go to the school at night to meet the kid's teacher and eat a cookie and listen as the teacher tells you all the shit they do in class every day, and then you nod your head in approval. "Ah, yes. MUSIC TIME. That will be good for them." Anyway, I'm standing there like the average awkward dad. I was too shy to talk to other parents, so I just walked around the classroom, picking up shit and putting it back down. I was particularly enthralled by the tambourine. When it came time to talk to the teacher, we gathered in a circle and listened to her informal presentation. One of the dads became very animated.
If you were watching closely, you might've seen Kevin Johnson, the former NBA guard who's now mayor of Sacramento, sitting courtside at Staples Center during Game 4 of the Clippers-Thunder series. His arm was around his wife, Michelle Rhee, and the two seemed to preside over the action, conspicuous by design—their very presence in the fancy seats a further rebuke to the man whom Johnson had recently helped to oust from the NBA, Clippers owner Donald Sterling.
After the opening ceremony, the Olympics were one long ungroomed trail for Gary di Silvestri and Angelica Morrone, the most-publicized husband-and-wife carpetbagging oldies act in cross-country-skiing history.
He had a role model. The most obnoxious spectator in sports history says he was inspired by the most beloved athlete of all time.
Mark One Wolf was, for a time, a favored native in Dan Snyder's fight to save the "Redskins" nickname. "Native American backing team name is VIP at practice," read a Richmond Times-Dispatch headline. It was accompanied by an Associated Press photo of One Wolf in profile, as if to echo the team's logo. But that was July. Now folks on both sides of the squabble agree on one thing: One Wolf makes poor Liz Warren look like Pocahontas.
One of the most influential men in sports pawing women in a hotel bar in front of a couple enemies with old scores to settle—and much of it surreptitiously captured on video? It sounds like the stuff of an investigation carried out by one of ESPN's harder-charging journalistic franchises. Instead, it's one night in the life of the man who built them.
It was, he would later tell a confidant, like something out of The Godfather. Bill Simmons was meeting with two of the most powerful executives at ESPN, John Skipper and John Walsh, in a conference room in ESPN's then-unfinished Los Angeles office hard by the Staples Center. Within three years, this would be the Grantland office and thus the seat of Simmons's power, but on this day he was feeling vulnerable, having spent much of 2008 in a sulk over one thing or another, whipsawed between his own petulance and his company's prudishness. He'd had a run-in with Skipper a few months earlier. The then-VP had gotten uncharacteristically tetchy with him over some intramural sniping at ESPN's newest big-ticket hire, Rick Reilly. Would the Sports Guy even have his job when he left the conference room in Los Angeles?
Even 28 years after his last hit, Michael McDonald can still trigger laughter and tears. Though he's still a fixture on the R&B/soft rock nostalgia circuit (catch him with Toto and Kenny Loggins this summer), that sui generis voice has been touring without him, so to speak, for decades. Recently, the ersatz McDonald popped up at an East Village karaoke bar, via the vocal cords of indie rock troubadour Mac DeMarco, who attempted "What a Fool Believes" as part of aWondering Sound feature:
For the entirety of my childhood, my brother, mom, and I spent one day a year—usually a Saturday two or three weeks out from Christmas—being serenaded by the 1970 Oakland Raiders. Specifically, we would spend the day putting up our Christmas tree while Daryle Lamonica, Jim Otto, and others mooed Christmas carols from an old LP called The Oakland Raiders Present: Holiday Halftime that popped and crackled on my mom's old record player. It's one of those things that comes off like an inside joke, something that sounds stupid when I try to explain it to other people, because, yes, the quality of the singing is about what you'd expect, and we played the eight-song album two or three times before moving on to real Christmas music.
They were supposed to celebrate that night. It was mid-August, and Kyle Fuller, Eric Schulman, and Jerry Castro were all together in Nashville. The Tennessean had posted an article about their book project, a Kickstarter-funded look at Fuller's life as a Vanderbilt basketball player and student entitled Below the Rim: The Dirty Side of College Basketball. They were excited about the press and getting ready to celebrate later that night with a house party—they even had a banner printed out with the name of their website on it—when Fuller glanced at his phone and grew quiet.
November 4, 2014, marked the 125th anniversary of the formation of the Players' League, the most radical experiment ever attempted by baseball's major leagues. It was a rebellion led by a slender, brilliant shortstop, who had begun pondering revolt nine months before, in the shadow of the pyramids.
The farewell tour of baseball's most admired player got me thinking over the past few months about how the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) chooses which shortstops will be inducted into the Hall of Fame. (Players not voted in by the BBWAA get a second, much-delayed chance with the so-called Veteran's Committee, which has often shown very poor judgment in selecting—or failing to select—players passed over by the BBWAA.)
A month before I turned 21, I returned home from the Bay Area, where I was attending college, to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family in Minnesota. On a Tuesday evening, I was sitting in the living room, about to head upstairs to go to bed, when my phone buzzed with a text from Dave Finocchio, founder and general manager of Bleacher Report.
First it was a tall woman in bright clothing with a microphone. Then her cameraman. Then a short man in a coat and tie with a notepad. Then another man with a smaller camera that was already rolling.
Nolan Nawrocki lives in the nicest house in a tidy neighborhood in Elmhurst, Ill., a western suburb of Chicago. When I visit him a couple of weeks before Easter, the windows are already awash in signage.
"You're hiding all the good numbers from me."
Dean Oliver, head of ESPN Stats & Info's analytics division, is sitting in on a panel ostensibly pointed at figuring out what an analytics-based approach to selecting the college football playoff participants would look like, but which has so far come off more like a highbrow Around the Horn segment. Right now, the panel and audience are voting between teams based on ESPN-generated metrics like adjusted strength of schedule and win probability average for games. Oliver is asking about adjusted win probability averages, which aren't listed, but which he seems to prefer to what we've got up on the screen.
Gracie Gold was having a bad night. The 18-year-old figure skater was about a minute and a half into her free skate at the U.S. International Classic in September when she singled a double axel. It was a significant mistake—a loss of a couple of points—but for a disciplined skater, that kind of error shouldn't have resulted in disaster.
A white-haired man in a kilt is hustling around the tunnels of Maurice Richard Arena, right next door to Olympic Stadium in Montreal, trying to get organized. "Come on, ladies!" he shouts, at nobody in particular. "We've got four minutes and we're on!"
On the last day of the 1905 college football season, Harvard hosted Yale in the 26th meeting between the two teams. At one point in the typically low-scoring affair, Harvard's Francis Burr trotted back to return a punt. As the ball fluttered through the air, Burr called for a fair catch. Then things got ugly, as things often did in those days. After all, this was the year of what theChicago Tribune called college football's "death harvest."
I wasn't yet in Gainesville for the first press conference, held immediately after the season opener. Will Muschamp's Florida Gators had just demolished Toledo in a tune-up, an easy victory foreseen by just about everybody. The Gators had gone 11-1 the previous regular season, and only BCS politics kept them out of the national title game—where, admittedly, they would have been creamed by Alabama. Florida opened 2013 with a national ranking in the top 10. All summer and right through that Toledo win, the aspirations of Gator Nation hovered way, way up there: an SEC title at the least, and a national championship with a little luck, if everything were to break the right way.
Larry Majors saunters toward Hardee-McGee Field—the oldest on-campus football stadium in the South—from the brick house his family has owned for nearly 50 years, the one so close that a rusty tackling sled practically sits in the front yard. He passes a flagpole behind the east end zone that stands in tribute to great football teams that called this facility home, like the undefeated 1963 squad on which he rushed for seven yards per carry and co-captained. Curling around the red track that rings the artificial playing surface, glad-handing with a few trainers and team managers on the way, he settles into the home side's ancient stone bleachers and crosses his chicken legs. At 73, wearing an olive-green thermal shirt and slim, brown work pants, Majors doesn't seem bothered by the Tennessee summer sun or the wall of humidity building around him. The University of the South, familiarly called Sewanee, is practicing in full pads for the first time all season.
I am standing in a gaggle of table tennis players in a dark bar in Grand Rapids, Mich., on the Fourth of July. Before us, another table tennis player named Donald Hayes is playing Millipede. Donald and the others are all competing in the U.S. Open, the biggest ping-pong tournament in America, but right now that is of little importance. Donald has held the world record for high score in Millipede, Pac-Man, Centipede, and a handful of other games.
Without Andrea Constand, none of this happens. Bill Cosby is still America's No. 1 dad, still beloved for giving us the Huxtables and Fat Albert, still embraced in too many corners of the country for telling young black men to pull up their pants, still selling out arena after arena.
It's a strange thing, to watch a hero die. First came the shock, the denial, the OMGs and WTFs that exploded through our Twitter feeds last night when we found out that Landon Donovan wasn't traveling with the United States men's national team to next month's World Cup in Brazil. Then in snaked the smugness, the cynicism, the #wellactuallys, the doubt. There's no surprise here. We knew he wouldn't make it this whole time.
If there was one defining moment to memorialize what might be the tournament that solidifies Lionel Messi's place as the greatest soccer player of all time, it was the few seconds after he scored the game-winning goal in Argentina's first group stage match. The shot itself was a sign of what was to come—not just the multiple goals he's scored throughout the tournament, but the late, crucial moments of inspiration that have rescued a team with little attacking fluency.
The tide has turned against the marginalization and "sissification" of the rich American white boy. Or, at least, intramural tackle football is back at the Lawrenceville School.
Less than 10 minutes into the first episode of the 11th season of Fox's So You Think You Can Dance, a contestant's dad was onstage dancing to "Blurred Lines." To begin, he set a water bottle on the floor before him, and then, as though initiating an ancient mating ritual, he approached and hovered above that artifact with gesturing arms, gyrating crotch, wriggling ass. "It's a party-starter," explained his daughter, the talented and astoundingly unmortified 18-year-old Shelby Rase from Covington, La., who'd just performed a contemporary routine to a languid piano version of Avicii's "Wake Me Up."
It looked bad, LeBron getting Paul Pierced off the court, a Finals opener sliding wetly to an uneventful end, Gatorade trolling down from the ramparts of for-profit pseudo-science.
We had to make a rule: You can't use the Falcons. That's as close as you could get to cheating without actually cheating, because He was on the Falcons, and He was ... fast doesn't begin to describe what Michael Vick was in Madden 2004. He had a speed rating of 95, earned after a few years spent making real-life NFL defenses look confused and hapless the moment he left the pocket. In the video game, it looked like Vick had taken a PCP and GHB cocktail, and the opposing defense was a middling Pop Warner team. It was that bad. It was that glorious.
I've mentioned before in this space that from time to time, there's a Clean Person phenomenon in which, over the course of a week or two, my inbox will just be crushed with the same type of question being asked over and over again. It happened earlier this year with ring around the collar , and last year with gasoline on pants , but now there's some next-level stuff going on with thematically similar home-care woes.
This is a thing about playing old NES games that I couldn't beat as a kid to see if I could beat them now as an adult, but let me tell you this first: I had sex while wearing a Power Glove not that long ago. It's maybe the most impressive thing that I've ever accomplished in my whole entire life. The backstory to pull the first part together with the second:
The hardest part was shaving my balls. Before you go in for your vasectomy, the literature says, you should hop in the shower and shave all the hair off the surgical area. I called the office the day before surgery to confirm that I had to do this.
There were no truthers back in the 20th century. I grew up in the Golden Age of Kennedy Assassination Conspiracies, but the word "truther" was never used to describe Oliver Stone or any of the other folks who decried the Magic Bullet theory. (DISCLOSURE: I saw JFK when I was in high school and took every scene as gospel and totally bought into the whole thing for a while.) Conspiracy theorists were just that, and nothing more.
There's an old episode of What's Happening!! where Roger fucks up, and his mom decides to beat his ass (this is actually the plot of every episode of What's Happening!!). So his mom asks Rerun for his belt, only Rerun is 300-plus pounds, so when he takes out his belt, it's like eight feet long. And Roger's mom guffaws and cries out, "Oh, Rerun! I wanna whip him, not hang him!" And the whole studio audience goes crazy with laughter.
I have three children, and left unsupervised, they will stare at screens until their eyeballs liquefy and seep into the carpet. And so, I spend every single day of my existence wringing my hands over how much screen time is too much screen time for these people. Sometimes I set a timer. Sometimes I say, "TIME IS UP" and go to take the screens away, and then my kids freak the fuck out, and I give them back the screens so they can put their stupid Minecraft characters to bed, which always takes two minutes longer than it should. And then I worry that I'm a simp because I gave into their screaming, but man, do I hate hearing them scream. Sometimes, when I'm tired, I just let it go, because it's cold outside, and I've run out of board games to play and tedious craft projects to do. Every parent knows that a screen works flawlessly for subduing annoying kids.
Last week, Floyd Mayweather announced that he will fight a rematch with Marcos Maidana on Sept. 13. Their first fight, two months ago, was Mayweather's closest challenge in years, with many in the boxing media believing that Maidana had earned the decision. And while that bout may have failed to meet expectations at the box office, the competitiveness and controversy are sure to make the sequel the biggest fight of the year. More important from Mayweather's point of view is that it will net him the single largest paycheck of any athlete on the planet this year. (It's distinctly possible that Mayweather will earn more for those 36 minutes than LeBron James will earn in salary over the next two years.) And while you can expect to hear a lot of noise about this fight over the coming months, there's one storyline that you probably won't hear much about.
We spent a week with Greg Jackson, a top fight trainer, as he and his team prepared four athletes to compete in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. We were granted unusual behind-the-scenes access so that we could answer a fairly straightforward question: Just what does a great coach do, and why does it work?