Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Sports is a contact politic

-- Keith Olbermann is back. And it looks like he's gotten the band back together.

The ex-MSNBC and Current TV host made his official return to ESPN on Monday night. Olbermann was a staple of ESPN’s SportsCenter from 1992 to 1997, before parting ways with the network in not the most amicable way. But the bridge is magically no longer burnt, and Olbermann opened his new show with, “As I was saying…”

Despite the new subject matter, Olbermann is still the same guy from the old Countdown days. His opening story -- about the New York Jets, coach Rex Ryan, and some sports writer -- was replete with his unique sense of humor, including silly voices while reading quotes and tongue-in-cheek graphics, including the now-infamous picture of Will Smith and his family staring at whatever the hell happened at the VMAs.

He couldn’t help getting a teeny bit political, though, mockingly wincing as he admitted he agreed with New Jersey governor Chris Christie about an “idiotic” Jets beat reporter.

His Monday night show also included “Worst Persons in the Sports World,” taken from his old “Worst Persons in the World” segment, with the same exact music.

You can watch the first ten minutes of last night's maiden voyage at the top link. KO explains here why he is burned out on talking about politics.

-- Speaking of ESPN, they got intimidated by the NFL out of sponsoring the PBS Frontline documentary on concussions. Here's the trailer for that.

-- Did Bobby Riggs tank the 1973 "Battle of the Sexes" between he and Billie Jean King because Riggs owed gambling debts to the mob? The suspicions still linger.

Forty years ago in September, Billie Jean King struck one of the most decisive blows in women's fight for equality, and she did so with her weapon of choice: a tennis racket.

In a ridiculously hyped match, Bobby Riggs, 55-year-old former tennis champ and outspoken "male chauvinist," challenged King, then 29 and coming off a victory at Wimbledon, to a "Battle of the Sexes" tennis match in the Houston Astrodome. To the winner would go $100,000; to the winner's entire gender would go bragging rights for years.

Riggs had earlier that year beaten Margaret Court, the world No. 1, and a thrashing of King, then ranked #2, seemed all but certain. Oddsmakers favored Riggs, the 1939 Wimbledon champion, in an overwhelming tide. "King money is scarce," said another product of the era, gambling expert Jimmy the Greek. "It's hard to find a bet on the girl."

Anybody who did bet on "the girl" would have seen a huge and unexpected payday, however, as King absolutely thrashed Riggs in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. Everyone from announcer Howard Cosell on down could see that King was the superior player, running a clearly winded Riggs all over the court and forcing him into error after error.

But how? Perhaps the greatest women's tennis player ever, Serena Williams, has said she would lose 6-0, 6-0 to Andy Murray. Riggs was no Murray, but then again Williams is in a different time zone from King. How on earth could such a stunning defeat have happened?

The story, according to ESPN's Don Van Natta in a must-read piece, is painfully straightforward: the fix was in, and the Mafia was in on it all.

And here's a trailer from a recent doc of that.

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