the quazcast (1400 x 1400)

Welcome to The Quazcast, a weekly podcast that brings listeners in on a frank conversation between myself and a random person from the world of sports.

I might speak with a 90-year-old NFL kicker one week, the manager of a Major League Baseball team the next, and a bull fighter the week after that. The Quazcast is about digging deep and avoiding the cliché questions and answers that too often plague sports interviews.

This week’s guest is Kay Hanley, the former lead singer for Letters To Cleo. From cheering on the Boston Red Sox during their World Series to performing the National Anthem at Gillette Stadium on multiple occasions, Hanley is an enormous supporter of the Boston sports scene.

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SachHe was an impatient bully that grew into the living embodiment of calm, cool and collected on the pitch. For a country that achieved organized chaos on a good day Sachin Tendulkar was the rock. A man that would tower well above his diminutive 5’5 frame and ascend into the glitterati of Indian society. Though he lived an impossibly lavish lifestyle compared to the millions of Indians that struggled to get through a single day, Sachin Tendulkar made it easier.

He made it seem like anything was possible. No matter what the limitations, be it financial or physical, it was possible.

After 200 test matches, 463 One Day Internationals and countless other first class and league appearances the end is here. The Little Master is calling it a day.

It’s hard to fathom how much a single person can mean to a country.

India has no unifier in politics, film or religion. The South has their own movie industry. Punjab does its own thing. Mumbai feels like a different world compared to Delhi. Kolkata is a place those in Gujarat probably won’t visit. Are you Hindu? Great, what caste?

What did the teenager living hand to mouth in Bihar have in common with the well educated businessman in Bangalore?

Sachin Tendulkar’s debut in 1989 came during a defining decade for India. Religious rhetoric and class tension exacerbated by legislation aimed at curbing prejudice conspired to push India to its breaking point. “It was in this atmosphere of hate, suspicion, fear and violence that Sachin Tendulkar scored his first hundreds in international cricket,” said historian Ramachandra Guha.

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the quazcast (1400 x 1400)

Welcome to The Quazcast – a weekly podcast that brings listeners in on a frank conversation between myself and a random person from the world of sports.

I might speak with a 90-year-old NFL kicker one week, the manager of a Major League Baseball team the next, and a bull fighter the week after that. The Quazcast is about digging deep and avoiding the cliché question and answers that too often plague sports interviews.

This week’s guest is former New York Giants running back Jarrod Bunch. A former first round pick out of Michigan in 1991, Bunch has moved on from his brief professional football career to make a name for himself in the world of acting.

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I remember reading a profile of Warren Beatty in a Rolling Stone anthology from several years ago. The writer constantly referred to how Beatty would pause for a long period of time before answering any question. Even though his cautious approach was described in a derisive manner, it impressed me.

I liked the idea of being calculated with responses. The interviewer was asking something of him, and instead of jumping to respond and play along with this public relations game, Beatty took his time and was mindful of the potential outcomes of his answers in terms of other people’s perception. That seemed intelligent to me at the time.

Over the past week, I’ve felt an urge to write about Damon Bruce – the KNBR sports talk radio host who went on prejudiced rant against women in sports – but I’ve also felt a corresponding measure of hesitancy.

So, I paused like Beatty might. And now, I think I’m ready to write.

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NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Miami Dolphins

In grade four, my baseball cap was stolen from me and my basketball was heaved on top of the roof of a nearby school. I was shoved against a wall, and a kid two or three years older grabbed the collar of my t-shirt, made a fist with it and punched me. Tears welled up in my eyes.

It hurt, but the pain wasn’t physical. I’d been hit harder or at least suffered more sting while roughhousing with my friends. The salty water in my eyes was the result of feeling violated, of feeling the brunt of someone else’s unnecessary cruelty. Thankfully, this wasn’t something that I had to endure over an extended period of time. It was a one off, but it remains a part of memory, more accessible than a thousand nicer things that happened to me at the same age.

Looking back now, I recall being big for my age. I know the bully’s undefended punch didn’t render me unconscious. It didn’t even cause much pain. I probably could have defended myself, and I might have kept my Blue Jays hat for a little bit longer. But that didn’t seem like an option at the time. It felt like a theatrical play in which the roles in the unread script were inherently understood. He was the bully and I was the victim. It didn’t even cross my mind to attempt to overthrow that hierarchy.

I thought of this again after Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Jonathan Martin left his team’s training facility last week amid reports of a mental breakdown. The details were murky, but it almost seemed formulaic: prank in the cafeteria plus razzing from teammates equals a food tray smashed and a man in need of emotional counselling.

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the quazcast (1400 x 1400)

Welcome to The Quazcast – a weekly podcast that brings listeners a frank conversation between myself and a random person from the world of sports.

I might speak with a 90-year-old NFL kicker one week, the manager of a Major League Baseball team the next, and a bull fighter the week after that. The Quazcast is about digging deep and avoiding the cliché question and answers that too often plague sports interviews.

This week’s guest is former Major League catcher Sal Fasano. When I started covering MLB for Sports Illustrated I noticed a change in perspective from when I was a kid. The guys you start rooting for aren’t the stars. Very rarely are they the stars. Instead, the players you cheer for are the guys who are decent, who have a story behind them, who are willing to talk, and are mostly just nice guys. My favorite of all time was Sal Fasano.

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Pius Heinz of Germany holds up stacks of cash after beating Martin Staszko of the Czech Republic to win the championship bracelet and $8.7 million in prize money during the World Series of Poker main event at the Rio hotel-casino in Las Vegas

Tonight in Las Vegas and (near) live on ESPN, the final table of the World Series of Pokers’ Main Event begins. Though the tournament began in July, the “November Nine” resume play after a three month lay-off – competing for more than $8 million in prize money. This concept – whittling the full field down to a final table of nine, determining the winner live on TV in November – is a relatively new one, an idea unthinkable even ten years ago. Why would anyone care about the outcome of a single poker tournament so much as to wait months to decide a winner?

A lot can change in a decade. In the world of professional poker, ten years is enough time for a tidal wave of money to crash across the landscape – establishing poker as a sports entertainment force and changing the game forever. It took ten years for the poker bubble to stretch and expand across the globe before it finally burst. Slowly, widespread interest in poker declined, receding like the flood waters which forever re-shaped this pop culture juggernaut.

There is still solid interest in the World Series and professional poker in general but nowhere near the incredible heights it once reached. Attention has turned elsewhere. But why? The same factors that contributed to poker’s meteoric cultural rise undercut its popularity and eventually relegated it back to the margins where, fairly or otherwise, it belongs.

Across the last decade, the factors that fueled the unprecedented growth of the World Series of Poker (WSOP) contributed directly to its ultimate flameout. A classic bubble that progressed through all the stages before bursting in spectacular fashion. Before the 2013 WSOP Main Event champion is crowned, look back on the poker world’s trajectory and how the game borne from smokey casino cardrooms ended up as an area-style TV special with lights, analysts and months of all – filtered through the lens of one man whose interactions with the game closely follow a nearly identical trajectory.

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