Twining’s Take on the week in sports: ESPN Body Issue, World Series, and the never ending NBA lockout

Allow me to be the first to point out that I missed an installment of Twining’s Take last week. If your week was ruined when each day came and went without a post, then I apologize. At least I know somebody out there reads this column. Wait, do i know that for a fact? Well no, but I’m assuming because, you know, I want to make myself feel better. With that being said, I have some catching up to do this week and therefore I’m skipping my opening rant and jumping right in to the topics. We’ve got six of them today, so let’s call this a sports six-pack (non-alcoholic of course).

Al Davis

I’m sure by now all sports fans out there know Al Davis died a week and a half ago. For as long as I’ve been alive Al Davis has been the owner of the Oakland Raiders. Also for as long as I’ve been alive I’ve hated Al Davis. I understand that he was great for the game of football and blah, blah, he was a maverick and he changed everything blah blah and he deserves our respect. But from what I’ve heard, Al Davis was quite the a-hole.

Al DavisHe fired so many coaches that it got to the point where nobody really wanted to work for the Raiders. Not once, but TWICE he fired a coach mid-season and tried to not pay the coach the remainder of his salary. He still owes Mike Shanahan $250,000. Sorry Mike, I don’t think you’re getting that money. The thing about Al Davis was that he lived and died a Raider. Which is ironic because as an owner he personified what being a Raider means. He sued the NFL and moved the team to Los Angeles. Then he moved back to Oakland and sued the NFL again claiming he still owned the rights to the Los Angeles market. During the past 10-15 years, he annihilated a once-proud franchise as he aged (not well, mind you) by making stupid draft pick after stupid draft pick and driving the team into the ground trying to build a franchise with an outdated mindset.

He was obsessed with speed and tried to play 1970’s style football in a league where offenses had evolved considerably during his tenure as owner and general manager of the Raiders. I don’t want to discredit what Al Davis did in his early years with the team, but since I was not alive and therefore don’t remember those times, I will only and always remember Davis for the slimy S.O.B he was during the past 10 years.

ESPN Body Issue

Recently, ESPN the Magazine released its third-annual body issue. If you aren’t familiar with ESPN’s equivilant to the Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue, they do photo spreads with athletes in the nude…and I mean completely naked. Save for some cleverly placed extremeties (I’m talking arms and legs) and intentional shadowing, you can see EVERYTHING. In fact, some of the shots including the bare butts of both male and female athletes.

I am no prude and growing up I loved SI’s swimsuit issue – at least when my parents didn’t confiscate it. But this year is the first time I had the thought that ESPN’s body issue seemed a little pornographic. Imagine being a 11-, 12-, or 13-year-old kid and not just getting your hands on a swimsuit issue, but an issue full of “artistic” nudity.

In addition, I don’t want to go to the front page of ESPN.com, at work mind you, and have to look at Hope Solo in the buff doing some weird, slightly unnatural pose that hides her boobs and vagina. I get it, Hope Solo is a professional athlete who may or may not have a rocking bod, just like Steven Jackson or Apollo Ohno, but that doesn’t mean that I want it plastered all over ESPN.com.

Maybe it’s because I’m on the verge of turning 25 and am (slowly) maturing, but for some reason the ESPN body issue just rubbed me the wrong way this year.

World Series

World Series TrophyBefore the MLB playoffs began, I chose the Detroit Tigers and the Milwaukee Brewers to make it to the World Series. Did I put it in writing? No, but just trust me that those were my choices. Although I didn’t correctly pick the World Series teams, I did pick the teams that would lose to the World Series teams. So I got that going for me, which is nice.

Tonight, St. Louis hosts the Texas Rangers – playing for MLB’s championship for the second year in a row. I’ll write down my prediction this time: I am picking the Texas Rangers. I’m not going to go so far as to predict in how many games the Rangers will win, because obviously I want it to go the full seven games. Since I don’t have any affiliation to these teams I want to watch as much baseball as possible and see as much October drama as I can.

The reason I’m picking the Rangers is because I believe their offense is too dominate to be stifled by the Cardinals’ pitching staff. It’s true that the Cardinals bullpen helped propel the team into the World Series but it was a bullpen that was also very shaky during the regular season. While they’ve had a couple solid playoff rounds, helping to beat the Philadelphia Phillies and the Brewers, eventually they have to regress to the mean, right? I think Nelson Cruz and the rest of the Ranger offense will do just enough to better Albert Pujols and the Cardinal offense.

Mark it down Cliff Lee, you couldn’t help the Rangers win a World Series last year so they’re going to, instead, win one this year without you. Irony? I think so.

NBA Lockout

The next time I talk about the NBA in Twining’s Take, I hope I’m discussing the cancellation of an entire season. Ever since my Seattle Supersonics were stolen away by Clay Bennett and his secret boyfriend David Stern, I’ve despised the NBA and all it stands for. I can’t stand how professional leagues, knowing collective-bargaining agreements are going to expire on X date, wait until the very last minute to try and get a deal done to save a season.David Stern

When the NBA cancelled the first two weeks of the season, the City of Los Angeles announced it would lose approximately $40 million by not having basketball at the Staples Center for two weeks. When I heard that number all I could think about was the stupid government in Seattle and Washington State that claimed the Sonics had little, if any, effect on revenue generated in shops and restaurants surrounding Key Arena. I hope the NBA cancels the entire season and that forces Bennett and the Oklahoma City Thunder to lose a ton of money because Bennett clearly deserves some bad luck.

You know who also deserves bad luck? David Stern. According to this post on Deadspin.com, Billy Hunter, head of the NBA Players Association, claims Stern promised a lockout of at least a year three years ago. Why? Because Stern thinks it is his responsibility to cater to the owners and get them whatever they want, even if it includes moving a 40+ year franchise away from it’s original city. I don’t understand league commissioners. Shouldn’t they be in the middle of the owners and the players and work on behalf of both groups? It’s just like Roger Goodell in the NFL, how can you be the commissioner of a league when you so clearly despise the efforts of the players to get a fair share of revenue?

Drama in the NFL

Holy crap, did you see what happened on Sunday after the Detroit Lions – San Francisco 49ers game. It was the hand-shake heard round the world. Jim Harbaugh, the first-year coach of the 49ers had just beat the previously undefeated Detroit Lions in Detroit, aggressively shook Schwartz’s hand. Maybe Schwartz is made Harbaugh has the manlier handshake, I don’t know. According to Schwartz, Harbaugh apparently didn’t follow NFL “protocol” because he was pumped up and excited following his teams fifth victory in six games.

What ensued was a very aggressive handshake from Harbaugh to Schwartz, who was a tad butt-hurt to lose for the first time this year. Schwartz retaliated by running after Harbaugh – to do what exactly? I’m not sure – and then there was a small ruckus outside the tunnel before everybody calmed down.

But the media? Boy were they just getting started. That happened Sunday, it is now Wednesday, and people are STILL talking about it. Who freaking cares. The NFL, often called the No Fun League, needs this sort of thing. The NFL needs more rah-rah coaches, like Harbaugh this year or Pete Carroll last year, to come in a breath life to a sport that can become quite dull at times. NFL is very popular, yes, but a lot of that popularity has to do with fantasy football. Add a few coaching rivalries to the already established team rivalries and the NFL will get even more popular.

Dan Wheldon

There isn’t much left to be said about the tragic death of IndyCar racer Dan Wheldon. The 33-year-old Englishman was killed Sunday in a ridiculous 15-car crash at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. What’s slightly ironic about Wheldon’s death is that a couple months ago in ESPN the Magazine’s “Player X” feature, a anonymous, veteran NASCAR driver expressed his dismay with how safe NASCAR cars had become. It wasn’t the fact that he wanted the cars to be more dangerous. No, he wanted to at least have the increased risk of danger while racing.

The anonymous driver explained how younger drivers feel like it’s okay to be more aggressive in situations where aggression wasn’t lauded with the mindset that “hey, if it doesn’t work out then I’ll just crash in to the wall and survive.” Since Dale Earnhardt Sr’s death in 2001, NASCAR has overhauled the safety precautions which has kept everyone safe and alive. Hopefully Wheldon’s death will cause a similar overhaul to IndyCar racing. I’m in Jimmie Johnson’s boat that IndyCars should not race on ovals. The cars aren’t built to withstand 200 mile per hour crashes into the walls, especially considering the fact that all the cars have open cockpits. Seems like a recipe for disaster to me.

Photos courtesy Zennie62 vis Flickr and Matthew Sheppard and Cody Mulcahy via Wikimedia Commons

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