Tom Carkeek - October 24, 2014

If you've been consumed with wondering why the U.S. is deploying up to 4,000 troops to combat Ebola but zero to fight ISIS, you might have missed the biggest sports story of the week.

Bulletin: The Cowboys released Michael Sam from their practice squad.

But even if you were unaware of the initial reports, you surely saw the news conference that Jerry Jones called to announce that the NFL's first openly gay draftee had been cut. No, wait, Jones called that news conference last month to announce Sam's signing, not his release.

OK, then, certainly you saw plastered all over television Sam's big smooch with his boyfriend in consolation after the Cowboys had dumped him. No, that's right, TV flooded us with those images when Sam was drafted, recognizing that the greedy, insensitive, backward NFL had finally been forced to do the right thing.

But even if you avoided all that, you no doubt read on sports websites everywhere the detailed analyses of why Sam - a fine but undersized edge rusher in college who doesn't have a true position as a pro - just can't cut it in the NFL. Oh, yeah, good point: Actually, nobody has written that story this week.

These really are confusing times.

After all, just two short months ago, ESPN was running in a Zapruder-like loop of a play on which Sam, then trying to make the St. Louis Rams, sacked Browns rookie Johnny Manziel. The only questions, apparently, were whether Sam was better than Reggie White and how... read more »

Sheldon Hirsch - October 22, 2014

The San Francisco Giants beat the Kansas City Royals so easily in Game 1 of the World Series that Royals manager Ned Yost won’t even be blamed for it. That’s ironic - during the Royals' eight-game sweep to the American League pennant, fans and media commonly suggested that they won in spite of Yost. Doug Padilla at wrote, “Everything unconventional that Yost tried, his team overcame.” Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune harshly described him as a “very bad manager” and a “bumbling idiot” who would be played by Steve Carell if anyone made a movie of the 2014 Royals.

Much of the recent Yost criticism attacked his old-school analytics-adverse style that emphasizes sacrifice bunts and stolen bases. That aspect of the criticism seems unfair.

To state the obvious, a successful steal always helps. Sabermetricians never suggested that teams refrain from stealing bases. They did emphasize the previously underestimated harm that comes from being thrown out stealing. Depending on the overall level of offense for the league, they found that teams must steal successfully around 65 to 70 percent of the time to break even in terms of the overall result. 

Kansas City led Major League Baseball in steals this season and did so with a success rate about 81 percent during both the regular season and the postseason as yet. That’s all good, above break-even rate. No problem there for Yost.

Yost has been criticized even more for sacrifice bunting, with four against the Oakland Athletics... read more »

Hugh Esling - October 21, 2014

Should we hate cyclists or merely abhor them?

You see them everywhere, cycling to and from work, miles each way. It’s a mission for them. Financially it’s not necessary they do this because bike equipment is costlier than divorce, but something impels these folks to bicycle through sleet, snow, and yes, some sun, festooned in lights strong enough to start their own laser-show troupe group.

Here’s a scoop: no cyclist likes to be passed by another cyclist. Ever. It’s irrational because as cyclists readily admit, each rider rides differently weighted and geared bikes, and cyclists range from the shape of donuts - soft as whipped cream, to the shape of string beans - hard as nails. 

But once a cyclist gets into the car (when hell freezes over, or the bike is in the shop after being pranged by a car) a transformation more powerful than religious conversion occurs: a car-driver mentality immediately takes over and all cyclists are instantaneously deemed as vermin to be road killed.

And by any stretch of the imagination, the stretched bicycle shorts are not a good look. (And at around $100 they might not be a good buy.) If we wanted to see your particulars, your units, your junk – we would have joined airport security. Keep the aerobic pornographic bib shorts where they belong: in an old dusty dresser in an older musty attic. If you must share, picture the panties on your YouTube channel or Facebook page.

On the subject of aerobics, how healthy is cycling, breathing in all that car and truck exhaust, not to... read more »

Sheldon Hirsch - October 16, 2014

The recent series of shameful episodes involving NFL players prompted renewed speculation that on-field head trauma contributes to off-field violence. Bob Costas added a wrinkle, pointing out that when out-of-control NFL player Greg Hardy threw a woman onto a couch, she landed on a variety of shotguns and assault weapons. With other gun-related incidents in mind (for example, Jovan Belcher’s murder/suicide; Dave Duerson’s and Junior Seau’s suicides; Aaron Hernandez’s murder charge, and more), Costas suggested that the NFL worry about guns.

(Costas' 2012 rant on gun violence)

Let’s review the evidence.

A recent study pursuant to the NFL’s concussion suit suggested that nearly 30 percent of NFL players eventually develop significant brain damage, widely attributed to head trauma suffered on the field. 

Pathologists commonly find unusual tangles of tau protein in the brains of NFL players at autopsies. The tau protein allegedly forms the link between head trauma and the impaired cognition and other clinical features characteristic of a syndrome called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). 

Both direct and countrecoup (when the brain bounces off the skull opposite the initial contact site) impact may damage the frontal lobe. This area does not fully develop in males... read more »