George Brett and The Pine Tar Game

It’s one of the most replayed video clips in MLB history: George Brett charging out of the dugout like he wanted to kill someone. He had just had a home run nullified because of excessive pine tar and he was displeased. The league office would eventually overturn the call, saying that it was technically correct but stupid. The remainder of the game would be replayed and it became a Kansas City win instead of a loss. No one remembers that part. Nowadays it’s just good for storytellin’, and Sports Illustrated does a good job of getting everyone’s best lines.

An oral history of the Pine Tar Game

SI.com, 7.24.13

The “Moneyball” Draft

The 2002 draft would come to be known as the Moneyball draft due to the bestseller’s focus on that draft for the Oakland A’s. The strategy, which focused on allocating resources to undervalued skills, meant that at the time the A’s identified on-base skills as a talent they could focus on as a small-market team. In the draft their focus was on college talent. Unfortunately for them–the draft had exceptional high-school talent (Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels, Matt Cain, Prince Fielder, Scott Kazmir, Jon Lester, Brian McCann). The A’s did hit on the first-round pick (Nick Swisher) but the rest did not work out as well. MLB.com recaps the famous draft, which despite the top-5 picks all being busts, still produced a ton of quality MLB talent.

#TBT: An oral history of the ‘Moneyball’ Draft

MLB.com, 6.8.17

The 1971 NFL Draft: The First “Year of the Quarterback”

Some of the best-known NFL drafts are the ones that produce a bunch of star-quality quarterbacks, such as 1983 (Elway, Marino, Kelly) and 2004 (Eli Manning, Rivers, Roethlisberger). However, the original “Year of the Quarterback” was 1971 when QBs went 1-2-3 overall and brought a bushload of backfield talent in the league. Jim Plunkett went first overall to the Patriots, followed by Archie Manning to the Saints, and then Dan Pastorini to the Oilers. Also in the draft were Joe Theismann, Lynn Dickey, and Kenny Anderson. All six would have long, productive careers although Manning and Dickey played for consistently awful teams. Sports Illustrated spoke to all six as well as some front office personnel for a fun look back at the beginning of the age of the quarterback.

Oral history of the 1971 NFL draft: The original Year of the Quarterback

SI.com, 4.21.16

Chris Berman Makes Sports Fun Again

ESPN changed television in the last couple decades of the 20th century. An all-sports network? No way that’ll work! Leading the charge was the affable Chris Berman, who changed sports highlights with his nicknames, sound effects, and infectious enthusiasm. Yes, his act wore thin in later years, but he’s an absolute titan of sports media, and Sports Illustrated sends him off into retirement with a fond look back.

Chris Berman: ‘The Vin Scully of the NFL’

SI.com, 1.10.17

The Lakers-Kings Classic 2002 Conference Championship Series

In 2002 the Lakers were coming off back-to-back titles but were starting to show cracks. Salary cap issues drained the team of depth, Shaq got fat, and Kobe’s Alpha Dog routine got harder to manage. Meanwhile, the Sacramento Kings had won the Pacific Division with 61 wins with a fun, creative team led by Chris Webber, Mike Bibby, and Peja Stojakovic. The result was an unforgettable seven-game Conference Finals series between the two teams, finished off by classic “Big-Shot Rob” Horry jumpshot. Grantland does a typically awesome job of recapturing the moment.

All the Kings’ Men

Grantland.com, 5.7.14

Just a Bit Outside: “Major League” (1989)

Major League made baseball fun again. An expertly silly look at the then-perenially awful Cleveland Indians World Series run, led by some of sports movie’s iconic characters: Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn, Willie Mays Hayes, Dennis Haysbert’s Pedro Cerrano. Yes, the oddities and quirks of Major League Baseball were pushed to 11, but the caricatures rang true (and were funny as hell). Sports Illustrated looks back at a beloved classic.

A LEAGUE OF ITS OWN

SI.com, 7.4.11

Miami Hurricanes: The Millennium’s First Football Dynasty

Miami came into the 2000s on a mission, having recovered from the sanctions that plagued them in the second half of the 1990s, they were ready to rumble. In 2000 they would go 11-1, with their only loss a 34-29 crusher in a blisteringly loud Husky Stadium. They came back the next year on a mission and put together one of the most dominant seasons in the history of college football, averaging over 40 points score and under 10 allowed, doing this with five top-15 teams on their schedule. The national championship winning team would eventually have a silly 38 players drafted in the NFL, including 17 first-rounders. Ed Reed, Andre Johnson, Clinton Portis, Jonathan Vilma and Jeremy Shockey led the way, with underclassmen Frank Gore, Sean Taylor, Antrel Rolle and Kellen Winslow Jr. seeing plenty of PT as well. The Hurricanes almost repeated the next year if it hadn’t been for a questionable pass interference call favoring Ohio State. Fox Sports puts together a fitting tribute the century’s first dynasty.

Miami Hurricanes’ pursuit of perfection in 2001: an oral history

FoxSports.com, 9.17.14

 

 

Michael Jordan Takes A Swing At Baseball

When the astonishing news broke that Michael Jordan was quitting basketball at 31 to play baseball, few people gave him a chance to make the big leagues. They were proven right when he quit during the work stoppage after hitting .202 with little power in 1994, but plenty of baseball people think he would have made it if he had stuck with the game. He had natural ability, being named player of the year in North Carolina at age 12, but baseball is not forgiving to 13-year absences, and he needed more time. No one would ever outwork Michael Jordan. Thus, it’s a bit of a what-if that we’ll never know the answer to because Jordan got the basketball itch again and went back to dominate the NBA for years. Complex takes a look back at Air Jordan’s year riding the bus in the bush leagues.

The Oral History of Michael Jordan’s Minor League Baseball Career

Complex.com, 3.2.17

The Ballad of Chipper Jones

Chipper Jones was a perfect fit for the Atlanta Braves. A Southern boy with the drawl and the way he slowly worked the tobacco in his cheek. Also, he could really play. When he broke out in 1995 the Braves dynasty was already well underway, they had lost World Series in 1991 and 1992, then lost the NLCS in 1993. 1994 was the strike year (sigh). Jones proved to be party of the solution as the dynasty recorded their only World Series win in ’95. The Chipper Jones legend was underway, and he would go on to be consistently great for almost two decades, winning the MVP in 1999. He’ll take the Cooperstown stage before this decade is over. Creative Loafing gathers an impressive list of Braves royalty to discuss Larry Wayne Jones Jr.

Chipper Jones: An oral history

CreativeLoafing.com, 9.27.12

Dustin Johnson’s Chaotic U.S. Open Championship

Dustin Johnson has been thought of as one of the best young players in golf for years, but he hadn’t won a major heading into the 2016 U.S. Open. The previous year he three-putted 18 to allow Justin Spieth to win. In 2016 he was in striking distance on Sunday, but needed the leaders to falter a bit. They obliged but a potential rules infraction by Johnson at 5 hung over the round as the USGA refused to make a definitive ruling until after he finished. It ended up being irrelevant as Johnson pulled away but it certainly added some drama! Golf.com revisits the scene.

Inside the stunning rules controversy that rocked the 2016 U.S. Open

Golf.com, 6.2.17

Allen Iverson: Questions and Answers

There are millions of 5’11” guys who think they can play in the NBA. There is one Allen Iverson, a “little” man who had an iconic career first with the Georgetown Hoyas, then with the Philadelphia 76ers. Known for playing with a street attitude, he backed it up by playing as hard as anyone on the court, despite nearly always being the smallest player. Iverson made news off the court as well, including with his groundbreaking 10-year, $60M Reebok shoe contract, the largest such guarantee to that point. Nice Kicks goes all out in an 11-chapter oral history that recaps Iverson’s career and successful partnership with Reebok.

The Rise Of Allen Iverson And Reebok Basketball // An Oral History

NiceKicks.com, 6.7.17

The 1990 USMNT Gets to Their First World Cup in 40 Years

FIFA awarded the 1994 World Cup to the United States, one of the catalysts to growth in the support in this country. One problem: When this decision was made the USMNT had not made the World Cup since 1950. The host country gets an automatic bid, but for national pride the team wanted to make the 1990 Cup and end the drought. Coach Bob Gansler chose to go with college stars over indoor soccer veterans for fitness reasons, but it meant he would have a very young team. Their journey through qualifying was difficult and intense, resulting in a must-win game versus Trinidad and Tobago. They pulled out a dramatic 1-0 victory and started making plans for the World Cup in Italy. The team was handed a tough draw, facing three quality European teams, and lost all three. However, there was a moral victory in a hard-fought 1-0 loss to Italy in Rome, a game the Italians expected to win by double digits. The experience was truly the beginning of a new age in American soccer (they’ve been to every World Cup since) and The Guardian takes a multi-faceted look back at the scrappy group of college kids that made it happen.

An oral history of USA at Italia ’90: the World Cup that changed US soccer

TheGuardian.com, 6.10.15

 

Chris Rock’s Lil Penny: 90’s Advertising Titan

Penny Hardaway’s career was cut drastically short by knee problems, but for a short run in the mid-90’s he was huge, starring with Shaq on some good Orlando Magic teams, playing on the Dream Team, and making some all-NBA teams. Nike capitalized on his notoriety with the Air Pennys and a corresponding ad campaign starring a sassy puppet alter-ego, Lil Penny. Chris Rock got the gig to voice the puppet and ran with it, bringing attitude and humor in improvised lines that made the campaign one of the most successful ever for Nike. Complex looks back at the 90’s classic.

The Oral History of Lil Penny

Complex.com, 10.28.16

 

“O.J.: Made in America”: Eight-Plus Hours In One Sitting and It Works!?!?

On December 8, 2008 O.J. Simpson was sentenced to 33 years in prison and America hoped they’d never hear about him again. Enough, right? However, in 2016 two massive reappraisals of the O.J. saga appeared and surprisingly found both critical and popular success. The first was Ryan Murphy’s dramatic adaptation American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson and the second was ESPN’s O.J.: Made in America. The latter used a unique contextual approach that covered all of O.J.’s life, but also told the story through the lens of L.A.’s history of race relations, as well as America’s. The eight-hour epic was released on a variety of platforms, including in theaters (!), and shocked an American audience who thought they knew everything there was to know about this story. Wired digs into the two-year production process behind the successful documentary.

The Epic Story of O.J.: Made in America’s Creation

Wired.com, 1.9.17

Obama and Hoops

The smoothest president in American history was also known as a baller. During his eight years in office, basketball was the official sport of the White House. A number of members of his staff were ex-collegiate or pro players, most famously his right-hand man, Reggie Love, who played with Shane Battier at Duke. The press was never allowed at the games, and it was a time for Obama to let loose a bit with competition and a bit of trash talking. GQ goes deep to uncover some great anecdotes about the games and the traditions behind them, including the poor staffer that bloodied Obama’s lip, or the time Obama left Chris Paul holding the laundry.

The Oral History of President Barack Obama Playing Pickup Basketball

GQ.com, 1.19.17

 

Griese and Woodson Carry Wolverines to ’97 National Title

The Michigan Wolverines opened the 1997 season with a revenge whipping of #14 Colorado, 27-3, and three weeks later they sounded a cleghorn by marching into Happy Valley and destroying #2 Penn State, 34-8. This team was on their way, and it would be led by their defense, and specifically Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson. The win over the Nittany Lions pushed Michigan to #1, where they would stay until The Game, the annual showdown with arch rivals Ohio State. Woodson would nail down the Heisman with a game for the ages, including a 78-yard punt return for a touchdown, an end zone interception, and a key 37-yard catch into the red zone that set up another TD. Images of Woodson with roses between his teeth would become iconic. Michigan would squeak past Washington State and Ryan Leaf to end the year undefeated. The Detroit Free Press relives a magical season.

Michigan football’s 1997 national championship: An oral history

Freep.com, 5.4.17

Vince Young Upends the USC Dynasty and Becomes a Longhorn Legend

It was the greatest college bowl game ever: Vince Young and the Longhorns going back and forth with the pinnacle of the USC dynasty, led by Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart. Young’s final streaking run to the house to win it all remains one of the most replayed plays in college football history. CBS goes all out with an engrossing oral history of the 2006 BCS championship.

USC-Texas: An oral history

CBSSports.com, 1.4.16

Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans Saints, and the Superdome

The battered Louisiana Superdome became one of the iconic images of Hurricane Katrina, and the dire stories of its time as a “last-ditch” shelter were harrowing. It would close for two years and some wondered whether the Saints would ever return to the decimated city. However, the Saints were part of the fabric of the city like few other institutions, and when they returned it was one of the great moments in American sports history. Sports Illustrated provides an engrossing oral history of a team helping heal its city.

Ten years since Katrina: Oral history of the Saints and their Superdome

SI.com, 8.27.15

An Ode to Streetball: “White Men Can’t Jump” (1992)

Playground basketball is an meritocratic society: If you can play, you’re good. If you can’t play, God help you, because you’re going to hear all about it. Director Ron Shelton (Bull Durham) was a lifelong hoopster who understood the inherent kinetic drama of streetball would make for a good movie. The result, White Men Can’t Jump, follows two scuzzy hustlers (Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrellson) as they try to pull off the big heist. Rosie Perez turns in a predictably engaging performance as Woody’s girlfriend. Grantland revisits the funniest basketball movie ever made.

You Either Smoke or You Get Smoked

Grantland.com, 8.21.12

The Turbulent History of the Sports Blog AOL FanHouse

AOL FanHouse was a well-funded sports blog with a stable of talented writers and editors, but its peak in the late 2000’s was brief because of the notorious dysfunction of AOL. The site launched in time for football season in 2006 as the former team-blog-oriented format transitioned to a single global blog format. Despite the awful name the site was an immediate success and within a couple years was a top-5 sports site in terms of traffic. Behind the scenes, however, the rot had begun to take hold. Along with setting ambitious traffic goals AOL management made the mistake of getting involved with content, resulting in “Fantasy Sports Girls,” a hilariously misguided attempt to draw male viewers via boobs. The in-house editorial staff rioted en masse, and a talent exodus that had already started grew into a flood. AOL’s usual mix of staff shakeups and rebrandings had the usual end result: The site was sold for scraps in early 2011 and disappeared shortly after. The Comeback provides an excellent seven-part oral history of the quick rise and fall of one of the first national-scope sports blogs.

The Oral History of AOL FanHouse

TheComeback.com, 2.29.16