Three sports stories worth a read

Come across three sports related stories worth a read lately and just decided to lump them into one post.

1. David Paresh of the Chronicle Review argues that spectator sports are ruining society.  He makes the distinction between watching and playing.  It’s a view I slightly agree with, even if, I’m a sports junkie.  My passion or desire to watch sports hasn’t quite been the same since The Red Sox won the World Series in 2004.  It’s a short, complicated story as to why, but suffice it to say, since then I’ve watched with casual interest from afar.  I haven’t allowed myself to go nuts over professional (college inlcuded) athletes.

Marx was wrong: The opiate of the masses isn’t religion, but spectator sports. What else explains the astounding fact that millions of seemingly intelligent human beings feel that the athletic exertions of total strangers are somehow consequential for themselves? The real question we should be asking during the madness surrounding this month’s collegiate basketball championship season is not who will win, but why anyone cares.

2. Ever wonder how and why athletes go broke with their multi-million dollar salaries?  Pablo Torre of Sports Illustrated investigated how this is possible.  It is more common than you think. It’s a strange combination of not caring about their finances, living waaay above their means, bad investments, etc.

Many players, consequently, are financial prey. “Disreputable people see athletes’ money as very easy to get to,” says Steven Baker, an agent who represents 20 NFL players. In May 2007 former quarterbacks Drew Bledsoe and Rick Mirer and five other NFL retirees invested at least $100,000 apiece in a now-defunct start-up called Pay By Touch—which touted “biometric authentication” technology that would help replace credit cards with fingerprints—even as the company was wracked by lawsuits and internal dissent. (The players later sued the financial-services firm UBS, which had encouraged its clients to invest in Pay By Touch, for allegedly withholding information about the company founder’s criminal history and drug use.)

About five years ago, [Angels outfielder Torre] Hunter says, he invested almost $70,000 in an invention: an inflatable raft that would sit under furniture. The pitch was that when high-rainfall areas were flooded, consumers could pump up the device, allowing a sofa to float and remain dry. “The guy I invested with came back and wanted me to put in more, about $500,000,” Hunter says. “Then I met [Butowsky], who just said, Hell no! I wound up never seeing that guy—or any of my money—again.”

3. Stories about young athletes that are the future of their sport make me sad.  For every LeBron James, there’s hundreds of kids that just don’t make it.  And yet, we’ll keep reading and rating sixth graders because hey, we need to know which prep school they’ll be attending.  I keep remembering reading about OJ Mayo and Greg Oden since the time they were in seventh grade.  Now it’s time to meet Allonzo Trier.

Trier has his own line of clothing emblazoned with his signature and personal motto: “When the lights come on, it’s time to perform.” His basketball socks, which also come gratis, are marked with either his nickname, Zo, or his area code, 206. He’s expecting a shipment of Under Armour gear soon, thanks to Brandon Jennings, last year’s top high-school point guard and now a highly paid pro in Italy. He is flown around the country by A.A.U. teams that want him to play for them in tournaments — and by basketball promoters who use him to add luster to their events. A lawyer in Seattle arranged for Trier’s private-school tuition and academic tutoring to be paid for by the charitable foundation of an N.B.A. player, and the lawyer also procured free dental care for Trier.

Many of the top competitors in this month’s N.C.A.A. basketball tournament, and most of the young N.B.A. players, have emerged from the culture that Trier inhabits. They made their reputations at all-star camps, where team play is hardly encouraged. To have any hope of establishing winning squads, college coaches must try to deprogram their young stars — but only after first flattering them and granting them scholarships.

4. Okay, one more just because I thought it was a good story and not so sad and depressing. If there was ever a reason to support a company, that company would be Under ArmourThe sports clothing company didn’t pay executive bonuses because they didn’t meet revenue requirements in 2008.  Company CEO Kevin Plank also reduced his salary from $500,000 to $26,000 – the same salary he made when he founded the company in 1996 to manage costs.  The company did not lay off any employees because of those measures.

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