Crash Bag, Vol. 48: This Cosmic Tilt-a-Whirl
They say you shouldn’t go grocery shopping on an empty stomach, but I did it anyway on Tuesday. The result: I bought a bunch of things I wouldn’t ordinarily buy, including a jar of pickles. And to save about 80 cents, I went with the store-brand kosher dills over something more…well, let me just say it was a mistake.
It must sound strange to complain that food that is, by definition, soaked in brine is too salty, but these pickles are terrible–each bite is like a cross between being pulled the surface of the ocean and running for 200 yards on the Dallas Cowboys. But I’m going to finish that jar of pickles, because I paid $2.38 for that jar of awful generic pickles and by God I’m not going to let them go to waste. I’m not sure what this says about me, but it’s true.
@fotodave: “where does Kevin Ware’s injury rank in the all time list of horrific injuries?”
I didn’t see it. I was doing something else on Sunday afternoon and decided not to look up photos or video of the injury. Not that I’d judge you if you wanted to see it–it’s certainly newsworthy, and sometimes even important to see. Everyone ought to get a warning, and if they want to see it, see it.
And just to be up-front about where this is going, there will be no posting of photos or GIFs of this injury in the comments, nor will there be linking to videos of it without a clear and explicit warning. Them’s the rules, and violators will be dealt with appropriately.
But I didn’t have any particular interest in watching Kevin Ware’s tibia explode out of his shin like the title character in Alien blowing up John Hurt’s chest. And even not having seen it, just thinking about Ware’s injury is making my legs ache. Emma Roller of Slate attempted to answer, essentially, the question Dave asked, and she lists a few that I haven’t seen, including Sabres goalie Clint Malarchuk having his carotid artery slashed by a skate and almost dying on the ice, which is such a horrific spectacle I struggle even to imagine it. Another Ware comparison I heard a lot was Marcus Lattimore blowing out his knee against Tennessee last fall, which came in a game I couldn’t watch live and is a video I have purposely avoided, despite literally dozens of people coming up to me with laptops or smartphones in the past six months and saying something along the lines of: “Hey, you’re a South Carolina fan–you’re going to love watching your star running back getting his leg torn off!”
Anyway, here’s a top 5 of the most horrific sports injuries I’ve seen on video, just off the top of my head. You can find videos or still photos of almost all of these pretty easily, if you so choose, so I won’t post any here.
- 1955 Le Mans Disaster. It’s the only sports-related Wikipedia page that makes my blood run cold to read. The short version of the story is that Pierre Levegh gets cut off by a car in a slower class and loses control, sending his Mercedes flying into the crowd, killing Levegh and 84 others. I’d been aware of this crash for some time when I brought it up on Twitter in response to that tire going into the crowd at Daytona a few weeks ago, but I’d never seen the video until then.
Most fatal auto racing accidents are relatively unspectacular–Dale Earnhardt and Ayrton Senna just sort of ran straight into walls and that was the end of it–and nowadays, the most spectacular videos result in relatively minor injuries for the driver. That’s because after NASCAR and Formula One lose their biggest stars (Earnhardt and Senna, respectively) to fatal accidents, the focus shifted from making the cars go fast to making the cars go fast but also making sure they stayed 1) on the ground 2) with the cockpit intact. That’s how, in 2011, at the same track where Levegh went a couple hundred feet in air and perished in a ball of fire, Allan McNish went into a tire wall, had his Audi disintegrate around him, and walked away.
Anyway, you don’t see anyone burning to death or getting decapitated in the grainy black-and-white video. But what makes this one so awful is that you know what’s happening, and somehow, imagining makes it worse.
- Joe Theismann’s Broken Leg. Everyone’s seen this one. The 90-degree tibia never stops being terrifying. Underrated part of this video: Lawrence Taylor getting the sack, then immediately jumping up and down to call for a stretcher. You know a football injury is particularly awful when the guy who makes the tackle reacts. I remember seeing a video on Deadspin a couple years ago where an FCS running back broke his femur. You can’t see much gore in the video, but the bone breaking sounded like a gun going off, and the guy who made the tackle sat down, took off his helmet and started crying.
- Eduardo da Silva’s Broken Leg. This one, from the descriptions I’ve heard, is the most like Ware’s injury. A defender comes in with a late sliding challenge on Eduardo, catching him in the ankle and causing a compound fracture. The video for this one isn’t as bad because, like most soccer game footage, it’s filmed from a couple hundred feet away. But I did see a close-up still of a different camera angle, moments after the tackle, where Eduardo is still upright, but the bone of his broken leg is not only coming through his skin, but his sock as well. In the immediate aftermath, there was talk that Eduardo might not only never play soccer again, but that there was a remote but non-zero change he might lose his foot. He didn’t, of course, and went on to become the Croatian national team’s second all-time leading scorer. I could go on and on about the impact of that play on that era of Arsenal soccer, but trust me, it’s bad enough on its own merits.
- Jacob Brumfield and Dave Clark‘s Outfield Collison. Not really a memorable injury historically, but this was back when I watched a lot of Braves games on TBS. Jeff Blauser hit one into the gap and Brumfield, playing center field for the Pirates, ran into Clark. The ball went God only knows where, and both Brumfield and Clark collapsed on the warning track. It got scary when Clark’s head kind of sagged up against the wall, the way one’s head might if one’s neck were broken. Not the worst injury I’ve seen live (Brumfield was out a couple days with cuts and bruises, while Clark broke his collarbone), but at eight years old, I was terrified to watch it live.
- Willis McGahee Blows Up His Knee. This one’s memorable. On the last night of the second Miami Hurricanes dynasty, Willis McGahee’s thigh divorced itself from his shin during the 2003 Fiesta Bowl. After seeing that one, zoomed in and in slow motion, I’m not sure that any knee injury has really shocked me since.
Other horrific sports injuries: anything with blood and hockey, because the combination of skates/sticks/pucks around the face is really scary and frozen blood on the ice has a certain Robert Rodriguez quality to it. Malarchuk and Richard Zednik had scary incidents, Ian Laperriere’s slapshot to the face against the Devils in the 2010 playoffs was pretty bad and even Sidney Crosby breaking his jaw recently was no picnic to watch.
That was a really morbid first question. Let’s change to a happier gear.
@CogNerd: “Phils were best team in ML in 2010/2011 & didn’t win WS. My straw to clutch at: sneak in playoffs & cause havoc. Sane?”
That’s the way you have to look at it. If the Phillies make the playoffs, they won’t be the best team, but considering how much shorter the pitching bench gets in the playoffs, any team that leads off its rotation with Hamels and Lee, then hands off to a bullpen of Bastardo, Adams and Papelbon has to feel good about its chances. The playoffs are a crapshoot in which, as you said, don’t always favor the best team (and failing some sort of epidemic in Washington, Atlanta and Cincinnati, the Phillies wouldn’t be the best team in the NL playoffs). But that crapshoot favors top-heavy teams–shorten the benches and pitching staffs, eliminate the attrition that comes with a 162-game season, and suddenly a team that gets most of its value from four or so pitchers and four or so position players looks good. I mean, the Giants have won two World Series in three years with Cain, MadBum, Buster Posey and the cast of The Full Monty, so there’s no telling what can happen.
So I’m with you–there’s a non-trivial chance that the Phillies make the playoffs, and once there, the style of play favors them. But that’s not the real question.
@VojirEsposito: “more likely: Phillies make the playoffs, or JBJ wins AL ROY”
This is the real question. As of game time Thursday, Baseball Prospectus had the Phillies’ playoff odds at 27 percent. I think that’s more likely than Jackie Bradley winning AL Rookie of the Year, because award voting predictions in April are even more of a crapshoot than the playoffs.
As well as Bradley’s played in a week, give or take, of major-league games, it’s a long season and a big field of rookies. The thing about Bradley is that he’s not going to put up sexy stats–he’s not projected to be, even in his prime, the kind of player who tops MVP ballots and WAR leaderboards, and considering that he’s only about to turn 23, and that much of his value comes from walks and defense, he’s not going to put up eye-popping numbers. I’d be absolutely giddy with a full season of .270/.350/.400 ball from JBJ with maybe 15 or 20 stolen bases. That’s why even I, the internet’s leading Jackie Bradley advocate, picked Trevor Bauer to win AL Rookie of the Year.
@gberry523: “how worried should I be about Hamels based on opening day?”
Not at all. Apparently Hamels is historically bad in his first outing of the season, which may or may not mean anything, but it’s true. And getting knocked around his first time out hasn’t hurt him so far in his career, so I’m willing to ignore Opening Day for now. Hamels isn’t the only pitcher the Braves are going to knock around this season.
Let’s just say that one game in, I was having a much harder time trying not to get excited about Chase Utley than I was trying not to worry about Hamels.
@uublog: “how worried should we be about Roy Halladay?
Somewhat. I’m not ready to put him on an ice floe just yet, but early returns haven’t been encouraging. I’m concerned about the loss of velocity, but he’s still got quite a bit of movement on his pitches and is still making guys swing and miss.
Take Wednesday against the Braves–sure he got knocked around and threw a lot of pitches, but it’s one game in April, in the rain against a good team. The trendy thing to say, even going back to last year is that Halladay, about to turn 36 and struggling for the first time in a decade with performance and injuries, will never again be the pitcher he was at his peak, but that he, being possessed of good baseball smarts and an arsenal of pitches that’s still better than what, say, Kyle Kendrick is working with, will adjust and settle in as a good mid-rotation starter as long as he wants to.
Roy Halladay: “I’m going to fix it. I’m going to fix it. It will be fixed. And the results will be better.”
— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) April 4, 2013
See? He’s going to fix it. It’ll be fine.
Greg Maddux got his last Cy Young vote at age 34 and posted his last ERA+ over 150 at age 36, but he was still good for around 200 innings with a league-average ERA until he retired at age 42. He’s getting older–that’s all.
@SoMuchForPathos: “What was a worse idea: telling my 16-year-old students that there might not be free will, or telling them that playoffs are dumb?“
Telling your students that there might not be free will. I think there’s a fine line between accepting the things you can’t change and zen-like fatalism. The hardest thing about sportswriting, at least for me, is telling a good story when there are so many parts of a team’s fate that it (let alone individual players or journalists or fans) can’t control. It’s so immensely unsatisfying to read that events shook out in a certain way for no real reason. That doesn’t mean there’s no free will–if Ryan Howard‘s contract extension was somehow preordained, I hope it’s also preordained that I be let off this cosmic tilt-a-whirl posthaste–only that we’re insignificant and powerless beings in the hands of either a vengeful God or a mercilessly amoral universe, depending on what beliefs you hold that you’re probably not tell your public school students about. That’s why I fall closer to the other end of the existentialist-determinist continuum, choosing to believe that we have at least some agency over our own lives, but that all that agency doesn’t stop external factors from sending us around and around the metaphysical toilet bowl in a never-ending but futile struggle to overcome not only our own inherent weaknesses as human beings, but external forces as well.
Which brings me to the second point: the playoffs are dumb. Well, not dumb, exactly. They’re equal measures unfair and exciting. On the one hand, you’ve got college basketball, which invites almost 20 percent of Division I to single-elimination tournament to crown a champion. That would be chaotic enough, but then you have to factor in that almost all of the D-I conferences give an automatic bid to a conference tournament champion, so for the overwhelming majority of teams, you can lose every single game from the start of the season to mid-March, but once the tournament starts, you win the national championship unless someone beats you.
It’s a very cool thing to consider, but it also leads to Butler going to back-to-back national championship games. Now, I find Brad Stevens as adorable as the next guy, but I don’t think anyone believes that Butler was the second-best team in the country in 2010 or 2011. So all that chaos means you reach an unfair result, but you have a ton of fun getting there.
The alternative is the European soccer model. Let’s take the English Premier League, which has no salary cap, no draft and no limits on free agency. Every team plays the same schedule: you play each of the other 19 teams once at home, and you visit each of the other 19 teams once. You get three points for a win, one point for a draw, and at the end of the year Manchester United has the most points and wins the title.
Because that’s what a level playing field gets you: the most boring, perfectly Randian outcome you can imagine. Whoever has the most money and the best manager will win the vast majority of the time. That’s not an exaggeration, either: Manchester United had half a billion dollars in revenue last year, plus Sir Alex Ferguson buying and coaching the team, so they’ve won 12 of the 20 Premier League seasons and are on their way to a 13th. A while back, Arsenal and Chelsea have won a couple by virtue of spending almost as much money as Man U and having better coaches (though Arsene Wenger is entrenched firmly in his “Latter-Day Andy Reid” phase and the Gunners haven’t shown signs of anything but torpor and morbidity since 2008), and last year, Manchester City bought an all-star team and picked off Ferguson’s boys in a down year. But fairness gets you this: you show up in August, play soccer for eight months, and at the end you give the trophy to Manchester United.
So while the playoffs are cruel and stupid, they’re the only thing standing between us and 60 Yankees World Series titles instead of only 27.
@Major_Hog: “Why do the Blue Jays get to have such awesome uniforms?”
Why indeed? They are awesome, particularly the royal blue alternates. It’s such a wonderfully bright color of blue in a sport that really doesn’t do enough with bright colors. And yes, I’m aware of the stately pleasure dome decreed by Jeffrey Loria and the taxpayers of Miami-Dade County. It’s just that with every team wearing white home uniforms and defaulting to road grays, and with many teams incorporating quite a bit of black in their color palette, baseball can get a little grayscale. That’s why I’m a big fan of those Blue Jays uniforms, as well as the Rockies’ use of purple and this glorious new alternate Mets jersey.
Oh me oh my, be still my beating heart. What a gorgeous uniform that is. What bright, clear, crisp, vibrant colors it has. It’s like most of baseball is directed by David Fincher (except the Marlins, who are being directed by Baz Luhrmann), while the Mets and Blue Jays have the beautiful, vibrant colors of…whoever directed Hero. Zhang Yimou. Who apparently also did the opening and closing ceremonies at the 2008 Olympics. How about that–you learn something every day.
Anyway, long have I enjoyed that David Wright, American Hero, the David Backes of baseball even, wore an orange t-shirt under his jersey. I’ve always thought that more players should wear bright contrasting undershirts (imagine Cole Hamels wearing a blue undershirt! The thought makes me giddy), and it’s almost as if seeing Wright wear the orange shirt made the Mets bigwigs think, “Hey, you know, that much orange does look good with blue, particularly if we tune up the brightness level on the blue a little bit.” It’s time to start letting your hair down, baseball, and thinking in full color.
@Major_Hog: “I feel like buying another Phillies jersey, who’s should I get? I already have an Utley and Stutes jersey”
I’ve never owned a Phillies jersey, or a baseball jersey of any kind, for that matter. Jerseys are pretty big commitments, both in terms of money and style, just because they’re so different from normal shirts that you’re really making a statement if you wear one. And if you’re out of middle school or so, wearing a jersey to a place you’re not going to expressly to watch and yell about sports is kind of a faux pas in my book. Except soccer jerseys, which are cut like t-shirts and tend to be interesting and colorful and are acceptable in all occasions, particularly if you’re wearing the Barcelona away kit to, like, a funeral or something.
So I’m a big fan of the shirsey, a garment that is acceptable wherever t-shirts are worn. I currently own four Phillies shirseys: first, a green Roy Halladay shirsey bought explicitly for the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Scranton (an event that if you’re still young and spry enough to party for 18 consecutive hours, I recommend. Those days are long gone for me) and worn only on St. Patricks’ Day. Also, a red Carlos Ruiz shirsey, a sky blue Steve Carlton shirsey (to replace the one I bought and wore out) and a red Jimmy Rollins shirsey (to replace the one I bought and wore out, which in turn replaced one that I bought and wore out).
I’m holding off on a Jackie Bradley shirsey for two reasons: 1) He’s wearing No. 44, but with Bradley’s college number on the back of a 38-year-old relief pitcher (No. 19, Koji Uehara), I wouldn’t be shocked if he changed it before too long, and 2) I’m not in an emotional space where I’m okay wearing Red Sox gear right now. Now, if Michael Roth, who just got called up to AA, makes it to the majors in Anaheim, I’m pulling the trigger on a shirsey immediately.
I did the bulk of my shirsey-buying, however, in the salad days of the Utley/Rollins/Howard/Hamels, etc., dynasty, when the roster was largely stable and the easily cheerable players plentiful. Now, the roster is considerably less stable and the good players less plentiful, which means you need to get creative.
The thing about buying player merchandise is that you want to make a statement with it, not only that you like a certain team, but that you like a certain player. I once wrote at some length about why I love Jimmy Rollins above all other Phillies, and a big part of that, as I said then, is that I’m a Phillies fan because of where my parents found work years before I was born. I had no say in where I grew up, but I did have a say in what I value in a baseball player.
It’s easy to just pick the best player on the team, but you want someone with a quirk, either on or off the field, that really speaks to you personally. The trouble is that I wouldn’t bet any significant amount of money on 22 of the current 25 Phillies being on the roster 24 months from now, the exceptions being Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard and Jonathan Papelbon. I expect more than those three to be around by then, but I wouldn’t stake the cost of a jersey on any single one. And by that point, Howard and Papelbon will probably just be bad contracts.
All things being equal, if I were in the market for more Phillies player gear, I’d probably go with Antonio Bastardo, Phillippe Aumont or Domonic Brown, though Ben Revere shows early promise. Or you could play it safe and go with Hamels–certainly nothing wrong with that.
@Living4Laughs: “How would you Rank Philly sports broadcast teams(radio and tv)?”
Everyone’s got strong opinions on broadcasters, mostly negative, so I’m just going to make a list and y’all can say whatever you want.
- Phillies radio: Scott Franzke and Larry Andersen
- Sixers radio: Tom McGinnis
- Flyers TV: Jim Jackson, Steve Coates and either Keith Jones or Bill Clement
- Flyers radio: Tim Saunders and Chris Therien
- Sixers TV: Marc Zumoff, Malik Rose and Molly Sullivan
- Phillies TV: T-Mac, Wheels, Sarge and Murph
- Eagles radio: Merrill Reese and Mike Quick
@KGEich: “Can you write me a haiku about Dom Brown? I love him and I think we need a Haiku”
Dom Brown is awesome.
Long may we bask in his glow.
Get bent, Delmon Young.
@_magowan: “is Lakewood due for some indescribable PR stunt or are the Phils keeping the crazy to just AA and AAA?”
You think they’re keeping the crazy to the minor leagues? You’re going to beg for the ostriches before too long–you can’t eat Chad Durbin, but you can eat ostriches. Ostrich is delicious.
I don’t know what Lakewood is going to do. I feel like having a crab as your mascot opens all sorts of doors as far as gimmicks go.
But it doesn’t open nearly as many gimmick marketing doors as being located one town over from NAES Lakehurst, site of, well, this:
I’d suggest some, but after spending 45 seconds trying to make a baseball-related pun using the word “immolation,” it’s probably best to leave that one alone. We’re probably going to have to settle for the Iron Pigs having the most entertaining baseball-related pisser since Charley Steiner met Kerry Wood.
Finally, a first for the Crash Bag: a question sent in via text message.
Jim from Philadelphia: “I just saw a great idea. I’m watching MLB Network, Reds and Angels. The Reds broadcast just advertised this Saturday, [Cincinnati] and Louisville in the afternoon, then the Reds game at night. A college-MLB doubleheader. All the fun of a doubleheader, none of the “day-night” empty the stadium for twice the money nonsense. Why haven’t we seen more of this?”
I love this idea. The draw for the college team is obvious–play to (potentially) more fans in a bigger, nicer stadium, make it a big deal for the college kids and use it as a recruiting pitch. Maybe you could put the college game on local TV as well and have the major-league announcers call it. The fans win, too–you get more baseball, and there’s something fun about going to see live baseball on a lower level from time to time. I don’t get to to college or minor league games but once every couple years anymore, but I’ve never had anything but a great time watching lower-level baseball.
But the reason I think we haven’t seen it more often is that the major-league team usually doesn’t stand to gain much by it. You’d have to count on selling more tickets simply because of the college game–enough to make it worth paying double for the grounds crew and concessions crew to work both games. So for that you need a major-league team that ordinarily plays to a lot of empty seats, with a college baseball team that has a fairly big following close by. So that knocks out most of the teams in the North, but if I were in Atlanta, I’d absolutely pay a small markup for Braves tickets if I got to see Georgia Tech and, like, Clemson play beforehand. I certainly don’t know why the Marlins don’t work something like this out with the University of Miami, for instance.
Clemson and South Carolina play each other every year, and a couple seasons ago, they started playing one game in Clemson, one in Columbia and one at a neutral site (either Greenville or Charleston) in between. I bet having Florida and Florida state do the same thing, with the middle game at the Trop, would probably draw some interest, though the travel gets harder the bigger the state. Imagine Southern Cal and UCLA playing the first game of a doubleheader at Angels Stadium, or Cal-Stanford before an A’s game. Rice and Texas or Houston before an Astros game. I don’t know if such an arrangement makes financial sense, but it’d be just tremendous fun.
I don’t know that a college-pro doubleheader is tenable everywhere, but under the right circumstances it would be absolutely great.