The Asshole Olympics

Hi guys, welcome to the Asshole Olympics, the competition for the biggest asshole in the world of sports. Let the games begin!

It’s time for the first and only event of the Asshole games: the Biggest Asshole competition. The contestants were chosen by me, and were the first people I thought of after creating that neat logo.

Before we hand out the gold, silver, and bronze medals, let’s take a look at the runners-up:

7th Place: John Terry

In the spirit of international unity and stuff, I’ve invited a special guest to do the first entry. Please welcome my cousin from the UK, Ian Gareth Connelly:

Right, then. Welcome to the Cunt Olympics. Imagine, if you would, the biggest cunt in the world. Oh bollocks, you Yanks are probably just thinking of some huge bird who could fit a whole bloke up her fanny. Across the pond, the word “cunt” is synonymous with John Terry.

John Terry: Cunt personified.

The son of a thief and a drug dealer, John Terry spends most of his time cocking around like a pisshead, running arse over tit about London. In summary, John Terry is a right old cunt who can go have a wank in a trolley.

Yikes. My British cousin is quite vulgar, even by this blog’s standards. But to his point, Terry is a belligerent drinker, known to urinate everywhere and make 9/11 jokes to Americans tourists. Though I’m sure they were a barrel of laughs on the team bus ride, I have to say that September 12th, 2001 was probably a bit soon to be breaking out those 9/11 zingers with folks from the states. I am going to wait until a close family member of John Terry dies, then call him up just to be like: “Hahahahaha!! Loser! I bet you’re all sad and stuff. Your tragedy amuses me.” Then we will be even.

6th Place: Alex Rodriguez

Even a Red Sox fan would admit that A-rod is a great hitter, but even a Yankee fan would admit that he’s a first-ballot Hall of Fame Asshole. Here is a photo to illustrate that point. It is from some magazine story about how he likes herbs and spices a lot.

Nothing to see here, just a regular dude hanging out with some leaves and stuff.

The more news I hear about A-rod’s personal life, the less interest I have in ever hearing it again. In fact, that’s it. I’m tired of talking about this guy already. A-rod gets 6th place just for the funny leaves picture. He’s all like, “Dude, don’t even fuck with me when I’m holding kale. I love this shit.” Let’s just move on.

5th & 4th Place: Joe Buck & Tim McCarver

“Alright, Joe Buck and Tim McCarver are announcing the game!” – Nobody

How do these two jackwagons end up announcing the World Series? Probably because it doesn’t matter. While most fans enjoy good commentators, a sports announcer can rarely be so bad that I turn off the game, which FOX and CBS both seem to have realized. I’m not sure why the winning formula for the networks is “Guy with zero personality” + “Old cranky idiot” but I guess they know what moves the ratings needle more than I do.

Joe Buck is good at talking in a monotone voice, and not much else. He comes off as a detached corporate robot most of the time. Occasionally he’ll make some stupid joke like, “Thanks Tim, I guess now we know why chicks dig the long ball!” What a jerk. Good job reminding me about a lame baseball joke from 10 years ago. Plus it’s stupid, what are you talking about, “chicks dig the long ball”? Most of the “chicks” I know hate baseball. If anything, chicks probably dig strikeouts, double plays, and other events that make the baseball game end sooner. As for female baseball fans, what makes you think they prefer “the long ball” over bunts, stolen bases, or diving defensive plays? I suppose contact hitters like Jose Reyes and Ichiro Suzuki are less popular with the ladies, compared to heart-throbs like Russell Branyan and Wily Mo Pena. Sexist.

As for Tim McCarver, imagine someone like Larry King on crack, but also he’s a former baseball player. An annoying belief among some ex-athletes is that their playing experience makes them superior students of the game, whose opinions should always be considered above those who merely study their sport–this is wrong. Experience can add to the value of an intelligent sports analyst, but it is not a requirement and it is hardly sufficient. I would not ask a horse for its opinion on the Kentucky Derby. Yet sometimes, I fear this is the path we are headed down. I can picture a 2150 version of Woody Paige, wearing one of those future-looking V-neck jumpsuits with a space helmet, going off on a rant like, “I say only an actual horse knows what it takes to win. Until you’ve had metal shoes nailed to your feet, and until you’ve been forced to run in a circle with a tiny man sitting on you, you don’t know what this sport is really about.” I guess what I’m saying is, hearing Tim McCarver speak is about as informative as listening to a horse. There is no reason he should ever be given a microphone.

BRONZE MEDAL: Roger Clemens

To fully appreciate this legendary asshole, from past and present baseball lore, let us travel back in time: one score and zero years ago, to the year 1991.

1991: A year filled with promise

If you asked me twenty years ago, I would’ve told you my favorite song was “Ninja Rap” by Vanilla Ice. But that’s only because I was eight and the songs I knew were that song, “Jump” by Kris Kross, and a few alternate versions of “Jingle Bells” with lyrics about Batman. In spite of all that, MTV actually played music back then–and not just that TRL crap either. ’91 is often remembered for Nirvana’s Nevermind, but a long list of “strong to very strong” bands released albums that year, among them U2, Metallica, Pearl Jam, in addition to the Chili Peppers’ opus Blood Sugar Sex Magic. I think my favorite year for music was 1993, but I find it to be very close between the years 1991-1994.

For a long time, ABC’s murderer’s row TGIF lineup was anchored Family Matters. My favorite episodes where the ones where Urkel got involved in some wacky scheme with Carl Winslow, and they would end up stranded in a blizzard somewhere or being chased by bandits. But then there is a turning point, often accompanied by a poignant Winslow monologue (“Maybe I’ve been too hard on you, Steve…”) where they put their differences aside and come up with a plan. In the end, a good time was had by all.

The funny thing about 1991 is, that year Roger Clemens was my favorite athlete in the world. I had a dozen of his baseball cards, posters, and Starting Lineup figures in my room. I would read about this intense, flame-throwing hurler from Texas, who grew up idolizing Nolan Ryan, and kept his pitching hand strong by sticking it in a barrel of rice every day. I spent a few summer days throwing wiffle balls against the garage door, pretending I was Roger Clemens pitching a shutout in Game 7. When I played Little League, Roger Clemens was who I wanted to be.

Post-1991: not so good

Of course, the years subsequent to 1991 took a tool on these great talents: Cobain is long dead; the Chili Peppers have since evolved into some kind of Maroon 5 tribute band; and Mega-bands like U2 and Metallica can still tour pretty well, but frequently put out poor, hastily conceived studio albums.

TV shows are better today than in 1991, but if you were somehow unfortunate enough to have a television that only received ABC, you would probably think the opposite. I’m not entirely sure what they show on ABC today, but it seems to involve a lot of chimps in tuxedos juggling on unicycles, or people getting pied in the face, or both. Family Matters seemed to fall off a bit after Urkel built a machine that turned him into some GQ douchebag named Stefan Urquelle. I’m not sure why Urkel needed to build an elaborate machine to make him wear nice suits and talk three octaves lower. Couldn’t he just do that without any technology? I guess my reaction to Stefan was similar to what it would be if one of my nerdy friends showed up to work like that, wearing flashy suits and flaunting how suave he was. I wouldn’t be like, “Hey, great job being an asshole. Your performance is very convincing.” On the contrary, I would advise him not to act in such a way.

As for Clemens, his denouncement has been detailed at length, notably in the book: The Rocket That Fell to Earth: Roger Clemens and the Rage for Baseball Immortality by Jeff Pearlman. Clemens eventually left the Red Sox in 1996 and achieved success in Toronto, New York, and Houston–but burned bridges in all of those towns. In particular, Clemens pulled the old switcheroo on the Yankees by retiring in 2003, receiving dozens of farewell standing ovations in his final games, then un-retiring over the summer to sign with Houston. More famously, his steroid saga exposed him as a buffoon who was also willing to throw people under the bus to clear his name. I think it was Bill Simmons who said that when Clemens goes to the Hall of Fame, his plaque should have a cap with a middle finger on it. Due to his recent scandals, he may not have that problem–but he is always welcome here at the Asshole Olympics.

SILVER MEDAL: Skip Bayless

As a rule, men with the name “Skip” are compelled to pursue careers in meteorology or sports commentary. Our silver medalist is no exception. Bayless is ESPN’s star asshole from everyone’s least favorite sports show 1st and 10.  I find his Twitter account to be a good source of typical Bayless material.

Point: Michael Bolton sucks. But he did eat a jelly doughnut yesterday. Give him that. This is the kind of hard-hitting analysis you can count on from Skip Bayless.

WATCH THIS HATERS here’s another one.

Thanks for the heads up, Skip.

Right, 1st and 10 is going to be crazy today. I heard. By the way, this is not some Skip Bayless impostor we’re talking to here–we’ve all been fooled by one of those before. The Real Skip Bayless says today’s 1st and 10 is going to be epic, i.e. “Heroic or grand in scale or character.” What sort of magical tales does Skip Bayless have in store for today?

Here Skip, let me help you out: no, no & no, no, and no. That was not epic at all. The first topic is more or less summerized by the two Bayless tweets below:

Holy shit, Rob Ryan said some stuff, then Mike Vick also said some stuff. Stop the presses–we’ve got our headline. I am not at all joking, I totally give a monkey’s ass about this.

To the extent that I care about sports after the final whistle blows, I am mostly interested in highlights, X’s and O’s, trades talks, and so on. If an athlete does something noteworthy off the field, by all means report it. What I am tired of is: ESPN reporters shoving microphones in athletes faces, demanding they make controversial remarks about someone, then contriving a story when none exists. Bayless is the poster boy for this new media age, where athletes are made to go after each other, whether they like it or not.

GOLD MEDAL: Murray Chass
Some may consider it passé for a blogger to pick on Murray Chass. After all, negative opinions about Murray Chass are fairly easy to find on the internet.
Frankly, this is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel. I could probably keep going here.
Chass has recently become a whipping boy for angry baseball nerds, most too young to appreciate his respected career as a baseball reporter. What do these young punks know about the award-winning Murray Chass? Not to mention, after his recent Asshole Monthly cover story, isn’t it time we gave poor Murray a break?

Why waste your money at news stands? Order now and get a free football phone.

Others warn that by attacking Murray Chass, I am falling into some clever trap of his, and merely emboldening his cause. Perhaps he’s using us naïve bloggers as pawns in a brilliant strategic play to increase the hit-rate for website. Let’s never speak of Murray Chass again, lest he profit from his online notoriety.

I reject both these schools of thought: criticism of Murray Chass should continue as long as he continues to write crap. It would be inaccurate to call this exercise beating a dead horse. It is more like attempting to kill a very resilient horse. For example, I am probably the 14 millionth person to point out that Murray Chass hates blogs, even though his website is by definition a blog. He says of his blog:

This is a site for baseball columns, not for baseball blogs … Murray Chass, who created this site, will do the column writing but will invite others to join him, the others being long-time columnists for daily newspapers who no longer work for newspapers.

According to Chass, modern parlance should explicitly distinguish between blogs written by former newspaper writers (“columns”) and blogs written by everyone else (“blogs”). The reason so many people have written about this is threefold:

  1. It makes no sense.
  2. It is the first thing on his about page, which he commands you to read before reading any of his “online columns” which happen to be in reverse chronological order.
  3. Despite being corrected thousands of times, Chass continues to claim, in the face of worldwide disagreement and mockery, that his website is not a blog.

Furthermore, it seems far-fetched to me, the suggestion that Murray Chass would read a blog like this one, condemning him as a worthless hack, and think, “Ha ha ha, he’s playing right into my hands. I want to be known the world over as a hated individual.” Although it is common in our society for people to profit from being uniquely terrible, it is rare that someone sets out ahead of time to accomplish that. What is far more likely is for a fool to believe, upon hearing a loud chorus of boos, it is because they are doing something profound and revolutionary. This attitude was addressed by one of the first Chass-hating bloggers who noted: “You should take no joy in being so wrong about something that throngs of people rise up as one to denounce you. This should not be what it means to be a writer.”

Even if Chass has really devised a secret plan to get rich by creating the Plan 9 From Outer Space of sports blogs (which I doubt since there are no advertisements on his website) who am I to stop him? It’s not like my ambition is for Murray Chass to become a homeless bum. The real endgame for critics is not to destroy Chass’s career, but his reputation.

Sorry for the lengthy introduction. I could fill a book with thousands of stories of the woeful writing of Murray Chass. For now, I will just tell one. It’s about a couple of shitty columns he wrote (he even has me calling them “columns” now, they are actually “blog posts”) one week in late March 2011.

March 20, 2011
Chass publishes an entry that is largely standard fare for him: TAKING A SABRE TO SABREMETRICS. To those unfamiliar with the silly feud Chass is involved in, let me try and explain this in the least-nerdy way possible:

Murray Chass is a baseball fan. For a long time, he and others relied on statistics in order to measure the success of baseball players: batting average, wins, and fielding percentage to name a few. Eventually, what happened was some people came up with better statistics, and started using those instead.

For some reason, this makes Murray Chass furious. The fact that statistical analysis of baseball has evolved somewhat in his lifetime is utterly unacceptable to Chass. Forget that Major League Baseball is a huge money-making endeavor, and that the jobs of baseball front offices depend on the ability to field effective baseball teams. These people cannot afford to ignore new trends–that may give their teams a competitive advantage–just because they are stubborn blowhards who think baseball is “drowning in numbers.” While we’re at it, I think financial analysis is drowning in numbers. Hey Wall Street, stop ruining my enjoyment of stock trading with all this complex mathematical hoohah. I prefer having no information besides giant green up or red down arrows next to each stock. Besides, what does “drowning in numbers” even mean? Until the day that a bunch of engineers break down Murray Chass’s door and force him to look at spreadsheets, I simply do not see what his problem is.

This was the backdrop for the book Moneyball, which documented Billy Beane’s Oakland A’s, and more generally the challenge of fielding competitive teams for less money. Naturally, when Sheldon and Alan Hirsch came out with their book, The Beauty of Short Hops: How Chance and Circumstance Confound the Moneyball Approach to Baseball, Murray Chass was happier than kid in a candy store. The one extraordinary bit in this column, where Chass transcends from asshole to mega-asshole, is the following passage:

An obvious shortcoming in UZR, the authors say, is its consistently low ratings Derek Jeter earned until 2009. Jeter has demonstrated many unrated intangibles, most notably his retrieval of an errant throw and his backhand flip to get Jeremy Giambi at home plate for a series-saving out in the 2001 playoffs.

I wanted to highlight this passage because of the number of fallacies that are crammed into just 51 words. I will list the ways these two sentences fail as writing:

  1. They were written by Murray Chass, whose credibility was suspect before this article.
  2. The “low ratings Derek Jeter earned” are described as an “obvious shortcoming” with no further explanation.
  3. Jeter is described as having “unrated intangibles” even though the example used to support this, the “backhand flip to get Jeremy Giambi” is in fact tangible. Jeter is credited with an assist (a baseball stat) on that play.
  4. If any aspect of the play could be considered “intangibile” it would be the backhand flip, which has no impact on the outcome of the game. You don’t get more outs for throwing the ball behind your back to the catcher, nor for doing a flip in the process. The fact that he made a creative play does not make him a more effective fielder than someone who fields the ball normally, throws it overhand, and also gets the runner out.
  5. No statistic, by definition, can measure intangibles. The fact that UZR does not capture Jeter’s “unrated intangibles” is not because it is a faulty statistic. “Unrated intangibles” can never be measured by any statistic.
  6. One play is not indicative of a player’s overall defensive ability. I probably made a diving catch in Little League once, and it wasn’t like the coach said, “Billy, get the hell over to left field. Connelly’s our new shortstop now.” Good defense is more a matter of consistently executing the proper fundamentals, as opposed to occasionally making flashy plays.
  7. Even if UZR were wrong about Derek Jeter, a supposedly self-evident fact according to Chass, that would not be grounds to trash the entire metric altogether. How well does measure the other players in the league? Who cares, any statistic that describes Derek Jeter in a less than favorable light is utter malarky.
  8. The subtext here is that Jeter’s low UZR is an indictment by statisticians of Jeter as a player. This is a classic straw man argument–no baseball nerd worth his salt would argue that Derek Jeter is not a great player. Even a nerdy, blogging Red Sox fan would consider Jeter the 3rd best shortstop of all-time. But it is mostly due to his productive bat, and the fact that even below-average defense at shortstop is still valuable to a team. No one ever said Jeter was so bad that you might as well put Cecil Fielder out there.
Shockingly, this was only Round 1 for Murray. Chass would spend the next three days feeding pigeons and shaking his fist at young people, before putting on his writing cap once again.

March 24, 2011

Murray Chass wakes up, eats his breakfast, and thinks to himself: how can I take my asshole status to the next level? Attacking bloggers and nerds won’t do it, I need something bigger. Something that no one in the world will agree with, and many will find shocking and terrible.

Well, Murray Chass woke up on March 24th and wrote one of the most awful rants I’ve ever seen in print: Musial No Man of Honor, Mr. President.

I’m not sure where to begin here. Let’s start with Stan Musial. I read a great SI article about him a while back, he’s generally described as a kind man who used his celebrity for good, but also a nice guy you wouldn’t mind having a few beers with. No, says Murray Chass, he’s a racist prick. This just doesn’t square up with anything else I’ve heard.

I have no particular rooting interest for Musial, and might have been even more upset if Ted Williams or Pedro Martinez were the target. But generally, I think when any regular guy is being publicly admonished by a fruitcake on the internet, that more rational folks on the internet should come to the regular guy’s defense. There was a funny thread I read where people took turns coming up with fake Murray Chass headlines. Since this is technically supposed to be a humorous blog, I should try this one too:


Sensational headlines are nothing new. But what particularly boneheaded writers like to do is take something people generally agree on, then proclaim: “You know what? No. I say the opposite is true.” This is only a good strategy once you have actually found information that casts doubt on the conventional wisdom. In lieu of that, you should at least have an idea of what your readers will take seriously.

The first paragraph of this abomination adds more egg to the face of Chass, even before he launches into his argument:

With the economy and international turmoil, President Obama has enough headaches; he doesn’t need any more. But his staff has created one for him with its failure to investigate fully the career and life of Stan Musial before recommending him for a Presidential Medal of Freedom that Obama bestowed on him last month.

Advisor: Sir, this just came over the news wires.
Obama: What the–Joe, get the door.
Biden: (shuts door)
Obama: What is the meaning of this?!? Stan Musial? No man of honor??
Advisor: Murray Chass broke the story wide open, sir.
Obama: Damn it. Murray Chass, you mean the online columnist?
Advisor: That’s affirmative. Chass is no blogger, he used to write for a newspaper.
Obama: Wait, what did you just say?
Advisor: He used to write for the New York Times.
Obama: Fuck me running, are you serious?
Advisor: That’s correct, sir.
Obama:  Well, I can forget about a second term now. Yep, you really got us by the balls this time, Murray.
Advisor: Sir, are you smoking again?
Obama: (sigh) When this job gets too tough, sometimes, the Marlboro Man is the only one I can depend on.
Advisor: I’ll cancel all of your meetings, sir.
Obama: Another headache, this is the last thing I need.

Even if Chass were a respected writer, which he is not, why on earth would President Obama lose sleep over a sports writer’s opinion of Stan Musial? With a smug, ridiculous line like, “President Obama has enough headaches” Chass is not only over-estimating the stakes involved here, he is also assuming the sale in regard to his bizarre accusation against Musial.

At this point, you’re probably wondering what sort of bombshell Murray is holding onto here. This most positive description I could find of the ensuing story came from Joe Posnanski, who called it “unethical and vomitous — with almost comically irresponsible phrases like ‘said a lawyer with no first-hand knowledge of the incident’.” In a nutshell, Chass talked to Marvin Miller who said Curt Flood said Stan Musial owned a restaurant that was racist to Flood one time in 1963. This is offered as evidence by Chass, despite the fact that Curt Flood himself wrote a book in which he described Stan Musial as ardently non-racist. He pads the article with this doosey about Jackie Robinson:

“When it became known that the Dodgers were going to bring up Robinson,” said a lawyer with no first-hand knowledge of the incident, “Musial tried to organize a boycott against playing them if he was on the team. Musial was outraged.”

Again, it is easy to make up arbitrary, insane claims about people. It is a bit harder to find out the actual truth, but this should be the job of a dedicated reporter. No, Stan Musial did not try to organize a boycott against Jackie Robinson. That simply did not happen.

You see the problem here, eventually one begins to lose energy addressing all of the wrong claims Chass makes. But that’s just in time for Murray to catch his second wind, and get riled up about something. “Ah, but what about this breaking story: I have it on good record that Rogers Hornsby was terrible at bridge! That’s right, mock my claims if you will!” Fine Murray, whatever.

March 27, 2011

I forgot to mention before, Murray Chass does not own a computer. Every morning, Chass rides his horse to the village square, where the local town cryer yells out the new emails of each villager, starting at sunrise and continuing in alphabetical order until high-noon.

Upon his return, he dictates each of his online columns to a stenographer, who records his musings with an ink quill. The outgoing columns are then tethered to the leg of a carrier pigeon, who magically delivers them to the internet somehow.

So you can forgive him when he takes a few days to respond. That I understand. But any response other than, “Oh my god, I was just kidnapped by a cult of Stan Musial-hating Wiccans. Did they attempt to write anything under my name?” would have been insufficient from Murray. Instead, we are left with this footnote at the end of his column (blog):

Among the many e-mail responses I received about last week’s column on Stan Musial, most but not all negative, two comments in particular prompt me to comment.

Several readers asked why I would trust the mind of a 93-year-old man, Marvin Miller, about something that happened 40 years ago or more. All I can tell you about this 93-year-old man, whom I have known and admired for 40 years, is his mind is as sharp and retentive as the mind of anyone a third his age.

On another matter, a couple of readers suggested that I wrote a deliberately controversial column about Musial to raise my page views. I barely know what that means, but I know it has something to do with the number of people who come to this Web site.

The idea that I would write a column to increase readership is interesting because I have no idea and have never cared what the readership of the column is. I write the columns because I enjoy writing them and I know there are people who enjoy reading them, people like George and Peter and Jason and Kevin, and I appreciate their interest.

I also appreciate, believe it or not, the readers who are consumed by sabermetrics. Their single-minded focus is mind-boggling. I miss the Red Sox fans who used to write. They probably think I have fallen off the face of the earth while Musial fans, who have set an e-mail record for this Web site with their responses, wish I would fall off the face of the earth.

This is hardly an apology, though it is not meant to be one. Nor does it help me understand what the hell is wrong with Murray Chass. The fact that he claims to be so stupid, he cannot infer what the term “page views” means in regard to webpages, almost makes me think he really is pulling a fast one on us.

What the hell, Murray. Look at this long, rambling blog you made me write. You suck.