Archive for the ‘Grantland’ Category

bill-simmonsGrantland columnist and ESPN analyst Bill Simmons visited Memphis last week to watch the NBA Western Conference Finals between the hometown Grizzlies and the San Antonio Spurs. The way this match up went was best described by SB Nation’s Spencer Hall.

The Spurs played out the series like landlords overseeing an eviction.

Simmons, it seems, saw things a bit differently. During his BS Report podcast on Wednesday, he spoke about his experience in the city and the effect that Martin Luther King’s 1968 assassination had on the people of Memphis – (!) – to Jalen Rose, who may or may not have been holding a baseball bat at the time:

I didn’t realize the effect [the King assassination] had on that city.

I think from people we talk to and stuff we’ve read, the shooting kind of sets the tone for how the city thinks about stuff. We were at Game 3. Great crowd, they fall behind and the whole crowd got tense. It as like, ‘Oh no, something bad is going to happen.’ And it starts from that shooting and it’s just that mindset they have.

Ugh.

I’m a firm believer in using sports as a means of examining larger social issues. In doing so, we look at the small and familiar to gain a better understanding of the big and unfamiliar. I’m not so sure about reversing that stream because it inevitably reduces whatever “the big” represents. Sports are so drastically unimportant that using something of enormous importance like the assassination of Martin Luther King to explain an element of it lacks perspective, context, understanding and everything else that should inform the most basic of opinions.

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toddfrazierSpending all day – every day – immersed in sports is a bit like working at Pizza Hut and eating nothing but pizza. If one is unburdened by such matters as personal health and waistline size, pizza is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, too much of a wonderful thing is likely to leave one no longer believing the wonderful thing to be all that wonderful.

Sports are really, really great. However, the more time you spend reading and writing about a topic, the greater the chance that its ugliness will be realized. This is why our focus often becomes embittered by all of the negative aspects present in sports. We forget why sports are so great to begin with. And so, that’s where The Week In Sports Happiness comes into play.

Every week, I’ll present the ten things that are making me happy from the world of sports. It might be a particular article, it could be a winning streak, it may even be an animated GIF. No matter what, it’s from sports, it made me feel good inside, and I hope it does the same for you.

Without further ado, sports the good:

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Dwayne Casey Press ConferenceI’ve never really understood why measuring performance through the best available metrics, and then attempting to implement what’s been learned as a means of improvement would be such a despised practice in sports. To me, the use of analytics represents a reasonable pursuit of something that resembles the truth.

I’m not an athlete or a coach or a member of a front-office, but in my own chosen field, both as a writer and a reader, I value this pursuit. I want to investigate phenomena that hasn’t already been explained, I desire the acquisition of new knowledge and I covet the correction of what I previously believed to be true. I’m of the firm belief that curiosity remains one of the better human traits, especially when it’s coupled with a drive to explore.

Last week, Grantland published a fascinating article written by Zach Lowe that looked into the Toronto Raptors and their use of SportVu, a camera-tracking system that records player movement and allows teams to use the data that it gathers as a means of understanding how to best attack an opposing team’s defense, and alternately how to best defend against an opposing team’s offense. The story is an excellent example of form matching function in that it informs readers of something new that’s being used in basketball to inform talent evaluators of fresh insights.

In response to Lowe’s work, Cathal Kelly of the Toronto Star filed a follow-up story in which he spoke with Raptors head coach Dwayne Casey about the Grantland article. Kelly essentially used Lowe’s investigation into Toronto’s use of analytics as a launching pad to rage against his own convoluted idea of the use of  advanced metrics, further his own narrative on a divide between the coaches and front office, and indirectly insult Lowe’s reporting.

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