Category: Sports

Back to state

The sports broadcasting gods have smiled on me again, so I will be broadcasting the WIAA softball tournament today starting at 11:40 a.m. Central time on this fine radio station, followed, we hope, by the championship game at 6:40 p.m. Central time on this fine radio station.

I previously wrote about my uncommon luck in being able to do state games for a part-time guy. My first state tournament was the first year I was announcing games, in 1989. It took me 25 years to get to do state football, but since then I have done five state championship games, the last two with the right team winning.

I have done three state boys basketball tournaments, three state girls basketball tournaments (most recently this season; one year I called two state championships in two hours), one state wrestling tournament, two state girls volleyball tournaments (most recently this year despite my team losing the game before state; then came positive COVID tests for the winning team), two state baseball tournaments, and one state boys soccer tournament (with the house goalkeeper).

Add softball to the list today to conclude a school year where I did state in the fall, winter and spring, which I think is a first. That, of course, came after a simultaneous first and last, first and last, announcing a child’s game.

The similarity between that game and the most recent game I did was the score: 1–0. A first-inning bases-loaded walk was the only run in our third baseman son’s final game. The only run in the softball sectional final came on, in order, an outfield error, a pitching change (which moved said outfielder to shortstop), a pinch-runner, a base hit, a stolen base by said pinch-runner, a hit batter to load the bases with no one out, and a ground ball to the shortstop, who threw … to first base and not home, where the only run scored. (I assume either muscle memory took over, since most shortstop throws are to first base, or she forgot something her coach had told her about one minute earlier.)

This is why Jim McKay opened every “Wide World of Sports” show with “the thrill of victory … and the agony of defeat … the human drama of athletic competition.” Especially in high school, which is where advanced metrics go to die. The unpredictability and the raw emotion of players, their parents, coaches and fans is what makes it compelling.

A first and a last

Tonight I am doing something I’ve never gotten to do before, and something I won’t do ever again.

The pitcher depicted in this GIF …

… has had quite a week, beginning with channeling his inner Terry Kath at his last high school concert …

… followed by playing the National Anthem before his last conference home game:

I have announced a lot of different things in my more than 30 years of sports announcing on the side, but until tonight I have never announced a child’s game, though I once announced a state soccer match with a child, a goalkeeper:

Platteville is playing Madison Edgewood at Sun Prairie (the future Sun Prairie East, by the way) today at 5:40 p.m. on WPVL in Platteville. If Platteville loses, that will end Dylan’s baseball career, and his parents’ watching him play baseball since he started playing T-ball years ago.

That will apply to all the parents of the seniors on tonight’s losing team, though at least two of them plan to play at the college level. It will also apply to the losing coach, because the Platteville coach’s stepson and the Edgewood coach’s son play for their fathers. It may make for an emotional postgame, less for being eliminated from the postseason as for the end of a season and, like graduation five days ago, the last time this group of players will ever be together, given future life circumstances.

I did announce a few games of Dylan’s and his teammates the summer before his freshman year online …

… but with no other children in the house who compete in sports that are covered on the radio, Dylan’s last game will be the last game of a child I will announce.

Playing for your father means you’re usually expected to be a “coach on the floor,” as the phrase goes. They’re also usually expected to be go-betweens between their coach/father and their teammates. Conversely, coaches of their kids can treat their players as they see appropriate, but they go home with their kids, and the line between coach and father may be at the front door, or not. When I do pregame interviews with coaches whose kids are on their team, I usually ask them about  what that’s been like for them, and I always get interesting answers, though none like former Marquette coach Al McGuire, who when asked why his son Allie was starting over another player, replied, “Because I’m sleeping with his mother.”

(Less colorful but as honest was McGuire’s answer when a player asked him why he wasn’t starting over Allie: “Kid, you can’t be as good as my son to be in the starting lineup, you’ve got to be better than my son because he’s my son.”)

I have one tenuous connection to Edgewood, whose most famous alumnus is probably the late Chris Farley, who was a year ahead of me in high school. Edgewood played Madison La Follette in a nonconference football game in the early 1980s. Chris played offensive and defensive line. I played trumpet.

Farley is buried in Resurrection Cemetery in Madison, the final resting place of my older brother 33 years earlier. He is buried in Resurrection’s mausoleum, and you can imagine that gets a lot of visitors.


Win or else

The Bucks open the NBA playoffs with their first-round series against Miami starting Saturday at 1 p.m.

The Bucks were the Eastern Conference’s number one seed in 2019 and 2020. Both playoff runs ended before the Bucks even got to the NBA Finals.

And so, Mike Chiari writes:

Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer reportedly needs a “deep playoff run” this season in order to save his job.

According to Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic, it is believed that anything short of a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals will almost certainly result in Budenholzer’s firing.

Budenholzer, who is in the midst of his third season with the Bucks, owns a 154-63 record in Milwaukee, but the Bucks have been unable to break through with a trip to the NBA Finals.

Milwaukee finished with the best record in the NBA in each of the past two seasons, and it had the NBA MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo in each of those campaigns as well.

Even so, the Bucks fell to the eventual NBA champion Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2019 and to the eventual Eastern Conference finalist Miami Heat in the second round last season.

Budenholzer was seemingly on the hot seat earlier this season after the Bucks got off to an uneven start …

Charania and Amick also reported that the “team dynamics are very healthy,” but that doesn’t guarantee Budenholzer will be back for the final year of his contract in 2021-22.

Budenholzer is reportedly battling against the perception that he played a big role in the Bucks’ shortcomings last season, with Charania and Amick reporting that there was a “great deal of frustration” toward Budenholzer last season because of the belief that he didn’t adjust accordingly to beat Miami in the playoffs.

Budenholzer has a hugely talented team at his disposal, with Giannis leading a group that also includes Jrue Holiday, Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez, among others.

A trip to the Eastern Conference Finals or better is far from certain … but that is the expectation for Budenholzer given the team that has been put around him.

The Bucks slumped to third in the Eastern Conference, meaning assuming they put out the Heat they are likely to play second-seed Brooklyn in the conference semifinals without home-court advantage. Of course the Bucks had home court advantage the past two years and managed to not win their last series, and who knows how COVID restrictions will affect home-court advantage, but being at home is better than not.

Another playoff failure, though, might not only end Budenholzer’s job, but might speed along the departure of Giannis Antetokounmpo, because the NBA hates having superstars in small media markets. Note that Lebron James, who started his career in Cleveland, now plays in Los Angeles. And you remember where Kareem Abdul-Jabbar started and finished his career.


The greatest baseball movie you probably never watched

The first apartment I lived in after graduating from UW–Madison had cable TV with free HBO.

That allowed me to see this example of sports fiction, reviewed by David Krell:

Had Henry David Thoreau been a baseball fan, his signature quotation might read, “The mass of minor leaguers lead lives of quiet desperation.” Such is the wont of the Tampico Stogies in the 1987 HBO TV movie Long Gone. “Now the Tampico Nine always has been and always will be an aggregation that knows it’s about to suffer another ignominious defeat,” declares Cletis Ramey to Cecil “Stud” Cantrell, the Stogies’ player-manager.

Starring William Petersen, Virginia Madsen, and Dermot Mulroney, Long Gone takes place in the fictional town of Tampico, Florida—home of the La Madera Cigar Company. It is more than a story about baseball, though. It is a tale of corruption, hope, and love.

Stud—played by Petersen—leads the Stogies of the Class D Alabama-Florida League in 1957 through the stagnant labyrinth of the owners’ frugality, the team’s mediocrity, and the Deep South’s racism. Pushing 40, Stud tells rookie second baseman Jamie Don Weeks— played by Dermot Mulroney—that he rivaled Stan Musial for a spot on the St. Louis Cardinals. After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Stud signed up with the Marines, fought on Guadalcanal, and suffered a mountain of shrapnel in one of his legs; he persuaded the doctors not to amputate. “I never made it, kid. But I would’ve. Goddammit, I would’ve.”

“I think he’s a flawed character,” explained Petersen in a telephone interview. “Stud has a tremendous amount of talent. Things came easy, then a bad break happened and he was bumped down the ladder. He’s trying to make the best of it. There are analogies in the acting world where the breaks don’t go your way. You find yourself making compromises, maybe for your talent and integrity. At a certain point, the light goes off and the world is what you make of it. He’s a regular guy who could be any man.”

While Stud has experience in the harsh realities of life, Jamie oozes naïveté. With an attitude of sexual indifference that would make Lothario blush, Stud coarsely instructs Jamie that all women have sex—even the religious ones. But Stud lands in an unintended romance that begins as a one-night stand whose name he can’t remember the morning after—Dixie Lee Boxx, Miss Strawberry Blossom of 1957, played by Virginia Madsen. A platinum blonde with the looks of Marilyn Monroe and the street savvy of Lauren Bacall, Dixie Lee is 20, almost half Stud’s age. “I’m old enough to like Jax for breakfast,” she explains to a bartender in the glow—or haze—of her dalliance with Stud. (Jax beer was a regional brew manufactured by Jax Brewing Company of Jacksonville from 1913 until it went out of business in 1956.)

Long Gone details Stud’s resumé of romance, or lack of it. An aura of cockiness buttressed by crudeness gives the impression that the Stogies’ manager is carefree about life and careless with women. In Paul Hemphill’s eponymous 1979 novel, Stud got a “Dear John” letter from his wife. While he was arguing with doctors to save his leg, she was cheating on him with a coworker at her plant. With visions of a major league career in the rear view mirror, Stud would play for a Class B team in Corpus Christi. “So began a wallowing odyssey that carried him all over America in that limbo called the ‘lower minor leagues’: Mountain States League, Cotton States, Evangeline, Itty, Big State, West Texas-New Mexico, Ardmore, Eastman, Hopkinsville, Amarillo, Pocatello, Hazard, Thibodaux,” the novel reads. “Bad lights, rutted infields, rickety grandstands, swampy dressing rooms, ancient buses, hand-me-down uniforms, drunken fans. Still smarting from what his wife had done to him, he began to drink and to gorge himself on women, as though repeated conquests might blot the memory that he had once been cuckolded by a 4-F. He hit an umpire at Big Stone Gap, contracted gonorrhea in Galveston, and was run out of Waterloo for knocking up the club owner’s teenage daughter.” There is no mention of a Mrs. Cantrell in the TV movie.

Southern-style racism confronts the Stogies, who mask their black slugger Joe Louis Brown as José Brown, a Venezuelan; Larry Riley plays Brown. On a road trip, Klansmen block the road, brandish whips, and burn a cross. Wise to the Stogies’ scheme of protecting Brown, they call for him. Stud orders him to stay on the bus and, in turn, guides his teammates, each one holding a bat, to chase the Klansmen off the road.

After the tumult, Brown gets off the bus to finish the job, metaphorically. When he gets a nod of approval from Monroe, the Stogies’ elderly black equipment manager, Brown takes a vicious swing at the cross— when it hits the ground, the flames are extinguished. A bond is forged, eliminating the awkwardness seen earlier when the white players look at Brown in the locker room without talking to him.

Full of optimism, Stud believes that the Stogies can win the championship, a far cry from the dismal 12–23 record the team had before Jamie and Brown showed up. A slow-motion montage of Stogies highlights against the backdrop of the gospel song “I Don’t Believe He Brought Me This Far (To Leave Me)” reflects the inspirational tone that seems to be a prerequisite for sports movies featuring an underdog taking on a superior opponent—in this case, it’s the Dothan Cardinals.

Here, Long Gone presents an obstacle for the fearless protagonist who sacrificed his baseball career for his country. A native Missourian, Stud never lost his desire to work in the Cardinals organization. When the owner of the Dothan Cardinals presents an opportunity to manage the team next season, Stud grabs it. But the job comes with a catch—he can’t play in the Stogies-Cardinals championship game.

Dixie Lee leaves him and then deconstructs Stud’s hero image for Jamie, who has lately embodied the swagger of the Stogies’ skipper. Jamie suffers a letdown with the impact of a Gulf Coast hurricane, consequently. It comes on the heels of a personal dilemma—his girlfriend Esther is pregnant. Following Stud’s love-them-and-leave-them philosophy, Jamie abandoned Esther emotionally as she went to Mobile, Alabama, to stay with an aunt.

For solace, Stud heads to the bar, where he finds Brown. Immediately, Stud realizes that the Cardinals bought Brown’s absence as well. Without Tampico’s star duo, Dothan will be assured a victory.

“What’d they give you?” asks Stud

“What’d they give you?” responds Brown.

“I get the privilege of managing Dothan next year.”

“I guess they know what they gotta pay for white trash, huh?”

“Come on, what’d they give you?”

“I guess they know what they gotta pay for a nigger, too.”

“It’s just so damn sad. Baseball ain’t nothing but a little boy’s game played on some grass,” mourns Stud. “It shouldn’t matter who the pitcher’s daddy is or how much money he makes. It shouldn’t matter what color a fella’s skin is. You just go out there with a bat in your hands, you hit the ball, and you run like hell. That’s all. It’s just a shame.”

When Brown leaves the bar, he takes a bat to his Cadillac—his price for sitting out the game. It’s the latter part of a setup-payoff literary device, common in films—Brown eyed the car when he first came to Tampico.

Stud has more than a job in the Cardinals organization at stake. Through the Buchmans, Stud learns that failure to accede to their demands that he not play in the championship game will result in the Cardinals owner, J. Harrell Smythe, informing baseball’s power structure about every peccadillo, big and small, resulting in Stud’s permanent expulsion from the game.

But Tampico’s manager and slugger renege on their deal to sit out the game. In another setup-payoff, Stud faces Dothan hurler Dusty Houlihan with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning. Bad blood exists between the two because of Stud’s relentless insults about Houlihan’s sister. Stud admitted, earlier, that he’s only 2-for-68 against Houlihan in his career.

And so, when Houlihan comes in from the bullpen to face Stud, the ante is raised. A taunt that is vicious at worst and inflammatory at best enrages Houlihan, who beans Stud. After being knocked unconscious, Stud stumbles to first base. The Stogies are Alabama- Florida League champions! Tampico exorcises the ghosts of failure underscored by Cletis earlier in the story, consequently.

“I think Stud had become a lost cause, but only to himself,” says Petersen. “Dixie Lee is the one who is straightening him out. When he looks across at Joe Brown and they ask themselves who they are and talk about what they should be, I think Stud saves himself.”

Stud marries Dixie Lee, Jamie marries Esther, and the Stogies, for once, have pride.

Notably, two performers known for comedy appear as the father and son owners of the Stogies—Henry Gibson and Teller play Hale Buchman and Hale Buchman, Jr., respectively. They’re greedy for money, giddy for victory, and garrulous for explanations about their nickel and dime management. In lesser hands, their characters could have been caricatures.

Long Gone resonates three decades after its premiere, largely because the joy in making the movie comes across in the performances. “I have fond memories of working with Virginia and Dermot,” recalls Petersen. “The 1986 World Series was going on while we shot the movie. We’d go back to the hotel after shooting and watch in the bar. I also had friends from Chicago who were in the movie. You have to be close. You can’t do a baseball movie and not have the guys be a team. We were just very fortunate. It was like falling off a log.

“Baseball reminds me of my childhood and a time and place when things were more fun and simpler. For many of us, baseball will always be that type of memory. It will always be reflective.”

The movie “Bull Durham” is also about the minor leagues. The difference is that Crash Davis, played by Kevin Costner, isn’t really a likable character. (Except to Susan Sarandon.) Nuke LaLoosh, played by Tim Robbins, does do a good job playing the pitcher with the proverbial million-dollar arm and 10-cent head, but the viewer sometimes is left wondering how stupid he can be. (Of course, baseball players have never been known to be great intellects.) “Bull Durham” feels more like satire than “Long Gone.”


The end of women’s sports if you allow this

Ryan Saavedra:

Former President Donald Trump slammed President Joe Biden during his Sunday CPAC speech over the issue of women’s sports.

“Joe Biden and the Democrats are even pushing policies that would destroy women’s sports,” Trump said. “Lot of new records are being broken in women’s sports. Hate to say that, ladies, but got a lot of new records that [are] being shattered. You know, for years, the weightlifting, every ounce is like a big deal for many years. All of a sudden, somebody comes along and beats it by 100 pounds.”

“Now, young girls and women are incensed that they are now being forced to compete against those who are biological males,” Trump continued. “It’s not good for women. It’s not good for women’s sports, which worked so long and so hard to get to where they are. The records that stood for years, even decades, are now being smashed with ease, smashed. If this is not changed, women’s sports, as we know it, will die, they’ll end, it’ll end. What coach, if I’m a coach, you know, I want to be a great coach, what coach, as an example, wants to recruit a young woman to compete if her record can easily be broken by somebody who was born a man? Not too many of those coaches around, right? If they are around, they won’t be around long because they’re gonna have a big problem when the record is, ‘We’re 0-16, but we’re getting better.’ No, I think it’s crazy, I think it’s just crazy what’s happening. We must protect the integrity of women’s sports — so important.”

“Is that controversial?” Trump asked as the audience cheered.

I’m waiting to read a defense of men — and dress however they like, and get whatever surgery like, anyone who was born XY will be a man until he dies — competing in women’s sports.


This hot mike/Zoom blog is rated R

Even in the Year of the Pandemic, or maybe because of the Year of the Pandemic, things happen that earn the WTF badge.

Megan Fox writes about the viewer-discretion-advised incident of Monday:

Jeffry Toobin, a CNN contributor and writer at The New Yorker, got caught tickling his pickle on a work Zoom call. This wasn’t a situation where he thought he had hung up but hadn’t. Oh no. Toobin was purposefully masturbating during a work call.

He claims he thought he had “muted the video” but left it on “accidentally.” But that’s not believable, because when turning the camera off on Zoom, there is an avatar where the video used to be. How does he expect us to believe he did not check this before deciding to whip out wee Willie? And worse, why is that a good excuse for flogging the dolphin during a work call? Do we need congressional intervention to tell us that being an Army of One on a Zoom call is the wrong thing to do? Do we need a new criminal code for 2020 specifying that hoisting your own petard while attending a conference call is offensive to others? It’s sad that humans can’t just self-police.

Toobin is rabidly anti-Trump as any famous journalist must be. He’s also already well-known for running afoul of the #MeToo crowd when Patty Hearst blasted him for sensationalizing her rape in his book American Heiress in 2018. Fox canceled plans for a movie based on the book after Hearst got through with Toobin.

And now Toobin wants the world to accept that he made a “mistake” and “accidentally” sexually harassed everyone in a Zoom call. That’s what we’re really talking about here. If MeToo has taught me anything it’s that consent matters and if a man exposes himself to anyone without their consent it’s akin to rape. Remember that Louis C.K. was dragged for engaging in this same activity on phone calls with women. So was Harvey Weinstein, who was reported to have sprinkled his house plant in plain view of witnesses. …

This is no different than Charlie Rose or Matt Lauer groping coworkers or having automatic locks installed on the office door. Why should Toobin get a pass because his crime is embarrassing and rather hilarious? It’s still harassment. Every single one of those people on the Zoom call who witnessed it was sexually harassed, if not assaulted. …

This needs to be a firing offense if the big networks are really concerned about making workplace environments sexual harassment-free. I don’t expect he will be fired, but he should be. …

The other troubling part of this story is the call itself, which reads like some kind of Deep-State media plotting session. Did anyone catch that? While everyone is distracted by Toobin’s lubin’, the description of this Zoom meeting is going largely uncommented on.

Vice reported:

Two people who were on the call told VICE separately that the call was an election simulation featuring many of the New Yorker’s biggest stars: Jane Mayer was playing establishment Republicans; Evan Osnos was Joe Biden, Jelani Cobb was establishment Democrats, Masha Gessen played Donald Trump, Andrew Marantz was the far right, Sue Halpern was left wing democrats, Dexter Filkins was the military, and Jeffrey Toobin playing the courts. There were also a handful of other producers on the call from the New Yorker and WNYC.

An election simulation? What are these people playing at? Coup 2? I’m a reporter and my newsroom doesn’t hold conference calls simulating what we want to happen and gaming different scenarios. We just report what happens. What is the purpose of this “simulation”?

Maybe this is why we lose the media game and we should start doing these simulations and get our narrative together ahead of time, but we’ve literally never even thought of doing this. That’s how honest and naive we are! I think I need to see this Zoom call. In the interest of finding out what the media is doing to undermine our Republic, I think we need the tape (and no one believes this was not being recorded). Let’s see what the media is plotting for November 4. They can edit out the Toobin show. I want to know what Jane Mayer, Masha Gessen, Andrew Marantz, Sue Halpern, Dexter Filkins, and Toobin are cooking up for November.

One day earlier, Fox Sports’ Joe Buck and Troy Aikman exchanged thoughts that they thought were off the air but weren’t:

USA Today reports on the aftermath:

On Monday, we learned that Fox NFL broadcasters Joe Buck and Troy Aikman were not the biggest fans of stadium flyovers. And like many topics in 2020, their remarks were seen as divisive.

Defector Media posted a hot-mic video from Sunday’s Fox NFL broadcast of the Packers and Buccaneers that showed Buck and Aikman mocking a military flyover of four A-10 aircraft at Raymond James Stadium.

Aikman joked that a lot of jet fuel was getting wasted for a flyover of a football game that was being played at a mostly empty stadium. Buck also sarcastically said that it was our tax dollars at work.

The comments, though, were evidently seen by some as anti-military (which they really weren’t). So come Tuesday, Aikman took to Twitter to clarify that his joke was not meant to disrespect the military.

Regardless of their opinion, you would think that after Reds and Fox announcer Thom Brennaman was fired for a hot mike moment that sports announcers would be more careful. Then again, you might think people would be more careful around Zoom.

Noon update: Jimmy Traina of Sports Illustrated:

If you’ve been on the internet over the past 48 hours, you most likely saw the video of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman talking about military flyovers.

The internet, as it always does, ran with the video with no context and spun it to paint Buck and Aikman as super liberal, anti-military people. …

There are many things about this ridiculous story that need to be cleared up. First, it seemed pretty clear if you listened to the audio, that Buck and Aikman were goofing around and being sarcastic.

Two, and most important, they were not caught on a hot mic. This did not take place during a break in the Packers-Bucs game.

This was done before the game, during a rehearsal. That means someone who works at FOX, either in a truck or a broadcast studio, pulled the clip on purpose and then leaked it on purpose to make Buck and Aikman look bad. And the fact that one of their co-workers would leak this clip to make the broadcast duo look bad really sucks.

You can be sure Fox is doing some sort of internal investigation to find the culprit.

There is no question, however, that Buck and Aikman said what they said, whether that should have been exposed by a duplicitous coworker. This will certainly add to the general narrative of Buck and Aikman, who have been criticized for going out of their way to make negative comments about, among other teams, the Packers.


Coming to a road course near you

I normally do not follow NASCAR particularly often beyond perhaps two races — the season-opening Daytona 500 and the Memorial Day-weekend Coca~Cola (formerly World) 600.

The former is sort of NASCAR’s Super Bowl even though it starts the NASCAR season. The first live 500 …

… included this finish …

… and this fight.

(CBS’ race analyst, by the way, was David Hobbs, who will be happy to sell you a Honda in Milwaukee.)

The Coca~Cola 600 became a family tradition when it moved to the Sunday evening of Memorial Day weekend, we started going to Glen Haven for its Fire Department catfish festival, and we started listening to the race on the radio.

Before that, I have been to Road America a few times since the first time in the early 1980s. Somewhere I have pretty good photos of the track, including cars that spun out in front of me. There is also a photo of me looking as if I’m attempting to break into a Ferrari (that may have been owned by a certain Wisconsin car dealer you may have heard of). There are probably no photos of the Three Mile Island-level sunburn I got that day. (I had to peel myself out of bed the next day.)

I went to a few Road America events during my days as editor of Marketplace Magazine. In one I stood near the start/finish line and watched Vic Edelbrock fire up a 1960s Corvette race car for one vintage practice race. Shortly before or afterward I walked past a tent where Carroll Shelby was signing autographs.

The last time I went was in 2010, when I parked my car in media parking, my Subaru Outback kind of pale in comparison with the Corvettes and Porsches parked there that apparently belonged to motorsports journalists. (I should have bought a Corvette, though I’m not sure at which previous point in my life it would have made financial sense to do that.)

For some reason I have been getting NASCAR emails. That turned out to be a good thing this one time, because the most recent email says:

NASCAR officials released the 2021 Cup Series schedule Wednesday, introducing three new tracks, expanding to six road courses and placing a dirt-track race on the calendar for the first time in more than 50 years.

Next year’s Cup Series remains at 36 point-paying races, starting as it did this year with the season-opening Daytona 500 (Feb. 14) and ending with the championship finale at Phoenix Raceway (Nov. 7). In between those bookends, there are new venues and schedule shuffles as part of the dramatic changes long hinted at by NASCAR officials.

Among the shifts for 2021 are these highlights …

— July 4: Road America, a historic 4.048-mile road circuit in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, that last hosted the Cup Series in 1956.

NASCAR has been at Road America before, though not in its top level, since the aforementioned 1956 race.

Somewhere there is a video of a NASCAR truck race with three trucks going down the two-lane track before the one-lane turn. It’s a wild sight.

I may have to go cover this in July.


The ESPN disease

The Packers host Atlanta on ESPN Monday night.

Before you watch, read Jason Whitlock:

ESPN broadcaster Mark Jones doesn’t need to be fired. He needs help.  He needs an intervention. Like the network that pays him, Jones has been radicalized by his Twitter feed.

In reaction to a Louisville grand jury failing to indict the officers who shot Breonna Taylor in an attempt to subdue her boyfriend who shot a police officer, Jones declared on his Twitter feed that he would no longer accept a police escort to the games he broadcast.

“Saturday at my football game,” Jones tweeted, “I’ll tell the police officer on duty to ‘protect’ me he can just take the day off … I’d rather not have the officer shoot me because he feared for his life because of my black skin or other dumb ish. I’m not signing my own death certificate.”

The tweet is insanity. It reveals a dangerous level of paranoia and delusion. Broadcasters of all ethnicities have been receiving police escorts to and from sporting events for at least 50 years. Not one police officer has ever assassinated a broadcaster. Not one.

Mark Jones is crying for help. Twitter is feeding his delusion. Unfortunately so is ESPN. Black Lives Matter cult leaders Colin Kaepernick and LeBron James have indoctrinated the entire network. The Worldwide Leader exists today as a virtual cult compound for racial radicalism.

The network’s reaction to the Louisville grand jury was unprofessional, bizarre and cult-like. Tall broadcasters with no expertise in criminal justice or fact-based journalism ranted and whined. Former University of Georgia basketball player Maria Taylor and former college and NBA star Jalen Rose emoted on ESPN’s NBA Countdown Show.

“I just want people to know that blacks are hurting,” Rose said. “And, uh, as we related to sports that are predominantly black, the WNBA, the NBA, the NFL, all of those players are performing with heavy hearts. And we’re still showing up to try to do our jobs, and I was in that position. I can’t lie to y’all. I was looking in my closet like, ‘I’m going to wear something fresh today, because if I say something to get me fired, then I was crisp.’ That’s what I was thinking.”

I’m not sure if Rose is aware that President John F. Kennedy’s assassination was shown on television and Americans went to work afterward. Breonna Taylor’s been dead for months. It’s also been obvious for months that the police officers who responded to the gunfire of her boyfriend were not going to be charged with murder. BLM cult leader LeBron James and his NBA flock misled their followers into believing the state of Kentucky would waste taxpayer money on a criminal prosecution it could not win.

But Rose wasn’t done. He pivoted into a deeper form of illogic.

“Because when Kyle Rittenhouse in (Kenosha), as a 17-year-old, kills two people and yet three cops aren’t directly charged for killing Breonna Taylor, it shows you how they feel about black lives in America.”

Rittenhouse is white. He killed two white BLM cult members. Rittenhouse has been charged with their murders despite the fact there is quite a bit of evidence that he shot them in self-defense.

Jalen Rose is drowning in the deep end of the pool. ESPN should not allow Rose, Taylor or any of their ex-jocks to swim in the criminal justice waters. It’s too deep. Too dangerous.

If the Worldwide Leader wants to discuss police work, grand juries and race, why not hire former police officers, lawyers and historians to do it at a high level? Why not let trained, experienced journalists lead the discussion? Why let the blind lead the blind?

I’ve known Jalen Rose since he was 19 and a sophomore at Michigan. In the past, I’ve supported his charter school in Detroit. Rose, I believe, wants to make a positive impact on the world. Like all of us, he has blind spots. Wealth invites delusion.

Rose and Jones fit the profile of men vulnerable to Black Lives Matter radicalization. They’re black men married to white women.

I am not disparaging their marriage choices. No one who knows my dating history could argue I have a problem with inter-racial dating. No one.

But, as I’ve written previously, your choice in partners can complicate your racial worldview, particularly in this social media era. Black men who date or marry white women face an incredible amount of racial backlash in the real world and in the social media world. Random people, friends and family members question your blackness.

Swearing allegiance to Black Lives Matter ideology is a protective shield against the criticism. Mixed-race black people use BLM as a shield in the same fashion. It’s not a coincidence that Colin Kaepernick is the head of this cult. Racial radicalism makes him feel black.

I know some of you feel I’m out of bounds discussing the racial makeup and dating preferences of BLM cult members. I’m not. BLM cult members speculate about the racial motivations of police officers, district attorneys and grand juries.

There’s no proof that former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin was motivated by George Floyd’s black race. There’s no proof the three Louisville police officers were motivated by Breonna Taylor’s black race. The evidence points to the Louisville cops being motivated by gunfire that struck a police officer with a lawful warrant.

It’s not a coincidence that many of the most strident BLM cult members are mixed race or involved in a mixed-race relationship. Kaepernick, Kenny Stills, Jussie Smollett, Bubba Wallace, Chuba Hubbard. BLM Grand Wizard Shaun King is a white man who has adopted a black identity.

BLM is a cult for people with identity issues. When I worked at ESPN, the common complaint from black male employees was that it was difficult for black men married to black women to rise in the management pyramid.

ESPN disrupted the Western-prescribed all-black nuclear family long before Black Lives Matter called for it on its website.

Let me repeat. I have NO problem with inter-racial marriage. None. If you’re going to do it, just make sure you’re man or woman enough to handle the complications without joining a race-bait cult.

Someone at ESPN should convince Mark Jones to delete his Twitter account and seek counseling. He’s melting down. In 2018, he posted a picture of himself smiling and praising police in Syracuse. Thursday, he tweeted that the picture was actually him thanking a black dude for finding a bag he lost. I’m not exaggerating. Look at the tweet below.

What we’ve seen at ESPN over the past several years and in the last 48 hours in particular is why sports fans should ‘Kick their ESPN habit. We’re not perfect here at Outkick. But we’re not a radical cult promoting a race war in America.

“Introducing your Beloit _______!”

Wisconsin had a whole batch of so-called “organized” minor league baseball teams.

There now are two — the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, an affiliate of the Brewers, and the Beloit Snappers.

That is, they were the Snappers (and before that the Brewers when they were a Brewers affiliate). The team is moving to a new ballpark next year, and with that they are changing their name.

To what, you ask? Well, that may depend on you. The franchise is conducting an online poll through next Friday. The five finalists, chosen out of more than 1,000 fan-submitted ideas, are:

Beloit Cheeseballs: Residing in the nation’s cheese capital, dive into the cheese life with the Beloit Cheeseballs. Producing over three billion pounds in 2019, Wisconsin has been America’s largest cheese-producing state for over 100 years straight years. The New York Times once wrote about Wisconsin that “Cheese is the state’s history, its pride, its self-deprecating, sometimes goofy, cheesehead approach to life” and the Beloit Cheeseballs will add a fun new slice to Wisconsin’s cheesy pride.
Beloit Moo: With its affectionate “America’s Dairyland” nickname, over 1.2 million dairy cows call Wisconsin home, living on more than 7,000 dairy farms across the state. Cows help power a bovine-based economy in the region, helping Wisconsin hold a leading spot in the production of cheese, milk, and agricultural products across the nation. Pay homage to the farmers whose fields surround Beloit and the cows that help feed families across America with this catchy team name.
Beloit Polka Pike: Wisconsin residents have been tapping their toes to polka, the state’s official dance, as long as they’ve been pulling fearsome pike from the Rock River. Grab your accordion and your fishing pole and head to the ballpark where every night will be a music-filled festival as the Polka Pike pay tribute to the river that neighbors the stadium and the state’s history.
Beloit Sky Carp: A slang term for a goose that would rather stay home in Beloit in the winter than migrate south, the Sky Carp name whimsically represents the future of our city, a flourishing, innovative town so strong that no one wants to leave. With the new stadium’s riverside views, flyovers from flocks of sky carp will be common at games for years to come. Join the gaggle of geese fans as this creative team name takes flight next year.
Beloit Supper Clubbers: From relish trays to Old Fashioneds, supper clubs represent an iconic and traditional part of our region’s culinary character. Just like our new ballpark will, supper clubs serve as a popular gathering spot for families young and old, offering great food, great music, and great times night after night. Join the club and place your order for extra fun in 2021.

Two are dairy-based, which puts them in competition with two one-time Timber Rattlers alternates:

Promotions Watch: Turn Back the Clock Nights | Ballpark Digest
The Timber Holsteins?

Wisconsin Udder Tuggers: Timber Rattlers rebrand makes a splash

That isn’t even close to the ultimate T-Rats alternate …

Wisconsin Brats Lineup & Game Notes: June 9, 2018 | by Christopher J Mehring | Rattler Radio

… the Wisconsin Brats.


The latest American division

Rod Dreher:

Gallup’s new poll has some pretty interesting news about the widening schism in American life. It seems that the Great Awokening of professional sports has alienated a lot of white non-liberal Americans:

The sports industry now has a negative image, on balance, among Americans as a whole, with 30% viewing it positively and 40% negatively, for a -10 net-positive score. This contrasts with the +20 net positive image it enjoyed in 2019, when 45% viewed it positively and 25% negatively.

This slide in the sports industry’s image comes as professional and college leagues are struggling, and not always successfully, to maintain regular schedules and playing seasons amid the pandemic. Professional football, baseball and basketball games have also become focal points for public displays of support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

While it’s not clear how much the various challenges and controversies swirling around the industry are each responsible for its slide in popularity, it is notable that sports has lost more support from Republicans and independents than from Democrats. In fact, Democrats’ view of the sports industry has not changed significantly in the past year, while Republicans’ has slipped from a +11 net-positive score in 2019 to a net -35 today, and independents’ from +26 to -10.

The sports industry’s image has also deteriorated more among women than men, and among older adults than those younger than 35. Sports has also lost more support from non-White than White Americans, but given the extraordinarily high ratings from non-White adults a year ago, this group continues to view the sports industry positively on balance today. That is not the case with White adults, who now view the sports industry more negatively than positively, and by a 22-point margin.

Here’s a graphic:

That is remarkable. Sports used to be a unifying phenomenon in American life, but no more — not since athletes got woke.

I can’t find the crosstabs for Gallup’s results about the media and the entertainment industry, but we know from other polls that conservatives feel quite negatively about them.

Look what the Madden video game announced yesterday:

Colin Kaepernick can’t get a job on a professional football team, but he has been affirmative-actioned into virtual football by the woke capitalists at Madden. Insane.

What does it portend for American life to have so many millions of Americans alienated from pop culture institutions (sport, entertainment, media)? Sports, of course, is the big one, because sports never before was politically charged. Now it is. The NFL season is going to be the big one. If conservatives and independents turn off the TV because they don’t want to be preached at by woke football players, it will signal a sea change in American life.