The Long Sports Read Thread

S2J Members Posts: 28,458 ✭✭✭✭✭
edited July 2014 in From the Cheap Seats
I think this should be a new thing. Any type of interesting, but long article, story , etc, drop it in here for those know, read.

Can you also put them in spoilers with maybe a brief description of what the article is about? Just a suggestion with mobile in mind.


  • S2J
    S2J Members Posts: 28,458 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited July 2014
    "Play Their Hearts Out"- An article about the book about the modern day AAU circuit and how the powers that be tried to sabotage a HS kid's career
    There's a political movement underway in basketball. Powerful people, from Sonny Vaccaro and William Wesley to Billy Hunter and David Stern are all fed up with the status quo, and they and their allies have been trying to do something about it for the better part of a decade.

    They dream of reforming American basketball development. All those coaches and runners buying and selling players. All those agents and sneaker companies bribing their way close to teenagers with potential. All those top players surrounded by, coached by, and essentially raised by, connivers -- while the best mentors in the world are fed up, marginalized, or out of elite development entirely. Nobody going to much trouble to see to it the athletes get an education, a decent childhood, good parenting or meaningful relationships.

    Everyone knows the system is broken. But as much as power brokers and insiders have long realized something fishy was afoot, (they started iHoops!) and all this, nothing, essentially, has changed.

    If they were a political party, they would have lost ten straight elections, despite strong insider connections. What gives?

    The problem is the message. The message of this hoops reform movement is ... what exactly?

    NBA agents, Nike, the NCAA and a few others run the show now. But no one can agree if some or all of those powerbrokers should be kicked out, or empowered to lead the reform. A complicating factor is who will pay for all of this, and those power brokers have deep pockets. Kicking them out is expensive.

    So the movement is left trying to fire up the base, even while left unanswered are key questions like: Who are the bad guys exactly? Who are the victims? What are the crimes?

    A fight against ? youth basketball is like a fight against pollution. Nobody likes pollution. But it doesn't seem that bad in most places, and finding who's responsible seems like a lot of work nobody has all that much time to do. And while there have been several good books about the filth of hoops, there has not yet been the book.

    Until now.

    "It was an insane thing to do," admits Sports Illustrated investigative writer George Dohrmann. "I had just won the Pulitzer. I was young. I didn't think about anything like book sales, marketing, long-term anything. I just thought that I was going to tell this story, no matter how long it took."

    Eight years later, "Play Their Hearts Out," is done. It's the tale of an AAU coach in California, Joe Keller. Before he found basketball, Keller's great passion was winning one of those car stereo competitions. He was obsessive enough about the project, and willing to spend beyond all sense for it, that he pulled it off. He won.

    Then he became obsessive about basketball. Not about the game. Not about coaching. Not even about the players. But about the money that could be made by those who earned the best players' trust.

    As Dohrmann outlines, Keller was very close to a young Tyson Chandler, but let rival AAU coach Pat Barrett come between them. By the time he had made the NBA, Dohrmann reports that Barrett received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Chandler, as a thank you. Barrett also had the potential to earn untold amounts for steering Chandler to this or that sneaker company or NBA agent.

    Keller was a laughingstock among his AAU peers. As Dohrmann's book opens, Keller resolves not to make the same mistake again. The first step in the process was to find a prospect so young that Keller would have no obstacles to becoming the child's de facto father. They'd have years to bond before the player was a cash cow. Eventually, Keller found an outstanding sixth grader, Demetrius Walker. Keller attached himself to Walker like a barnacle, to the exclusion of Walker's mother, and Keller's own wife and children.

    Continued in next post...
  • S2J
    S2J Members Posts: 28,458 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited July 2014
    Pt. 2 of "Play Their Hearts Out"
    Dohrmann spent the better part of a year with Keller, but now that the book is out, he says he never expects to hear from Keller again. And it's no wonder why. The book is a raw catalog of Keller's countless missteps as a leader of youth. Some favorites: •When Keller's team beat a feared rival in the semi-finals, they were due to face the same team again in the finals. Scared of losing, Keller instructed his team not to compete, and sat all of his best players in a loss he declared meaningless. (Years later, Walker would similarly run from challenges, hiding in the bathroom through some of his most important tryouts.)
    •One of Keller's players' mom assigns herself the role of team academic adviser -- and does an amazing job putting in long hours getting the team to focus on things like homework and life outside of basketball. (In Memphis, for example, she pushed Keller to let her take the team to see the civil rights landmarks.) As she gained influence over the players -- who benefited from her input -- Keller marginalized her entirely.
    •Keller vehemently defends playing his best players wire to wire in a 116-13 crushing that left the humiliated opponents near tears. The players were 11 at the time. Keller's rationale: Winning by 100 is the kind of thing that gets teams noticed, and that's how players and coaches succeed in AAU basketball.

    The book becomes almost impossibly sad as Keller achieves his goals: On the back of Walker, he makes a name for himself as a grassroots basketball power broker (running the Junior Phenom camp), and enough money to build, he brags, a nicer swimming pool than Sonny Vaccaro's. Only, there's a problem: Walker doesn't progress as hoped. He doesn't grow tall enough to keep playing in the paint, and there is no structure to coach him into a wing player. Keller has touted him, for years, as the top player nationwide in his class. As he slips down those rankings, there is humiliation to be born by somebody.

    So Keller dumps him. Cold. Keller has his money and his house. Walker, still in high school, is no longer "the next LeBron James" and is therefore of little use. Walker believed in Keller as more than a coach, but also, by Keller's design, as a father figure. Walker writes e-mails and texts hoping to at least remain friends, but Keller stops replying. (Walker drifts around hoops a bit, and is now sitting out a year, in accordance with NCAA rules, after transferring to the University of New Mexico.)

    "That just broke my heart," remembers Dohrmann. "I went down to see Demetrius, and we're in the car, driving. I know he's not OK. I ask him how he's doing, and he won't talk about it. The journalist in me needs him to talk about it. I pushed him. I said come on D, I really need to know how you're feeling. I need to hear it. And he said: 'Man, I'm not gonna lie, it does hurt. I mean, I looked at stuff like ... like he was my pops, you know. I didn't have a pops and he was like my pops and, you know, okay, I'll just say it: I loved him like he was my pops.'

    "I remember him saying that, and how he felt, and how I felt, hearing that. He was, what, 14 or 15 at that moment, but he was still a boy. That just broke my heart. Really. It broke my heart. I'd known him for five years or so at that point. To hear him say that ... I'll never forget it.

    "D was struggling as a player at the same time Joe was figuring out that he could run the Junior Phenom camp and make all this money. But if Demetrius still could have made Joe money on the back end, Joe still would have been his pops.

    "Even in that moment, the kid didn't see it. Even in that moment he didn't understand, fully, why Joe was leaving him. It took him a while to figure out Joe was just a bad guy. Joe was a guy who was just going to use him."

    "Play Their Hearts Out" matters because of this story. Keller does more or less precisely what the existing system encourages him to do. And it's blatantly horrible, and the victim is a child.

    And this is the normal model of basketball development.

    Through sheer naivete, people like Walker entrust important things to people like Keller, who lead them down all the wrong roads. Read this book and it's so plain to see that this broken system needs to be changed, even if it means stepping on some toes in the process.

    That political movement that I was writing about ... it doesn't have a plan yet. Nobody can agree on a fix. But at least how it has its foundational document, in this book.
  • S2J
    S2J Members Posts: 28,458 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited July 2014
    Florida State Football Using GPS Technology to Monitor Player Performance
    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- It was hot and it was muggy and it was a Friday in the middle of summer, all of which should've been enough to strangle any enthusiasm from a group of Florida State's skill-position players running through offseason drills with the team's strength-and-conditioning staff last week. But as freshman tailback Dalvin Cook eased to a stop after an obviously impressive 40-yard sprint, a mad scientist on the sideline with his face buried in a laptop had everyone's attention.

    The man is Chris Jacobs, an honest-to-goodness rocket scientist tasked with monitoring every movement the Seminoles make in practice and in the weight room. Jacobs had worked as a propulsion engineer with the space program before government cutbacks forced him out of the job, but a timely meeting with a member of Florida State's booster club brought him here.

    The players call him "Rocket Man." Jacobs' computer is fueled by data that arrive in real time, courtesy of GPS monitors the players wear in specially designed straps across their chests -- sports bras the team has renamed "bros" -- that track everything from acceleration rates to heart rates and, most important to the dozens of Seminoles patiently waiting for official results, speed.

    Twenty-two point eight, Jacobs confirms, and history is made. Cook's top speed during his 40-yard dash -- 22.8 mph -- pushed him past veteran receiver Rashad Greene for the team's best mark, and the other players quickly offered congratulations to the rookie. Greene, too, was impressed, but also inspired.

    For players who just won a national championship by setting offensive records and winning every game by an average of nearly 40 points, this is the value of those GPS devices. They provide the benchmark for a juggernaut for which the biggest challenge comes by competing against itself.

    "He beat my record," Greene said. "So I've got to go get him on Monday."

    If the players see the monitoring system mostly as a souped-up speedometer, Florida State's coaching staff knows better. For the coaches, it's the technology that has undercut conventional wisdom by providing immediate feedback on every facet of a player's exertion on the field, opening the door to a new way of running practice and designing a program.

    "It's not the reason you win," coach Jimbo Fisher said. "But it takes a lot of the guesswork out of how your team is feeling, how individuals are performing and how you moderate practice."
  • S2J
    S2J Members Posts: 28,458 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited July 2014
    Pt. 2 Florida State Football Using GPS Technology to Monitor Player Performance
    Four years ago, Erik Korem and Joe Danos, who were FSU assistants at the time, brought the idea to Fisher after seeing the devices used by an Australian rules football team. The Australian company that makes them, Catapult Sports, had never had an American football client, but Fisher was quickly sold on the possibilities of designing highly specialized training programs for his athletes that promised increased production and fewer injuries.

    "He knew at some point in time, we were going to be ready to face the best of the best, and we had to be a little bit different," head strength coach Vic Viloria said. "His little bit different turned out to be really, really impressive."

    Still, there were some immediate concerns. The GPS monitors aren't cheap. Florida State began with 30, which Catapult rented to the team for about $25,000 per year, according to the school's records. In the wake of the Seminoles' national title in January, the team has expanded its use to 95 monitors beginning this spring.

    The cost is dwarfed by the sheer scope of information the devices provide. Each GPS monitor returns about 1,000 unique data points per second, which for 95 players practicing for a few hours a day amounts to an overwhelming amount of information for coaches to dissect. Florida State now employs two assistants working full-time hours -- Jacobs and Kratik Malhotra, a data analyst with a degree in electronics engineering -- just to sift through the numbers.

    But the most immediate concern was that Florida State was entering uncharted waters. There was no instruction manual for how to apply the devices' output toward American football and no baseline for success.

    "We had to educate ourselves on what we were really looking at," Fisher said. "There's a lot of learning. It's not like they print it out and say, 'Do this.'"

    The first two years were largely trial and error, a time to collect data and test assumptions. As Jacobs explained, the staff "stepped on a lot of land mines" early on.

    Catapult offered help in understanding the data, but it was up to Florida State to decide how to use it. That took time.

    "It's an investment in patience more than anything," said Gary McCoy, one of Catapult's sports scientists based in the U.S. Once a plan was in place, however, the results were immense.

    Florida State's run to a national championship last year hinged greatly on an unusually low number of injury casualties, which Fisher hardly chalks up to luck. With information gleaned from the GPS devices, Florida State virtually eliminated soft-tissue injuries -- muscle pulls and strains -- and Fisher adjusted the team's practice schedules to reduce midweek workload and ensure his team peaked on Saturdays. The more FSU's coaches learned about the data delivered by the GPS systems, the more the team's conditioning and practices could be tailored to the specific needs of each player.

    As Florida State unraveled the potential of the GPS system, others have been quick to follow suit. Five of the Seminoles' assistants have been hired away, including Korem, now with Kentucky, and Danos, now a strength coach with the NFL's New York Giants. There are at least 14 NFL teams using the technology, and a small cadre of affluent college programs have followed suit.

    But although they all have access to Catapult's hardware, none has perfected the recipe for using the data quite like Florida State.

    "We're OK talking about this," Viloria said, "because everyone else is just learning how to turn the things on."

    Jacobs' office is situated in a hallway that bisects Florida State's recently renovated locker room and its state-of-the-art weight room. On a desk next to his computer sit rows of GPS devices; lights flickering like slot machines while they charge. On a white board hanging from the wall, complex algorithms are sketched out in red ink.

    "I've got all sorts of goodies in my head I've already started rolling on," Jacobs said. "It's what we nerd types do."
  • S2J
    S2J Members Posts: 28,458 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited July 2014
    Pt 3 Florida State Football Using GPS Technology to Monitor Player Performance
    Of course, the transition from vector curls on a white board to concise reports on Fisher's desk is a crucial ingredient in using the information Florida State is collecting on its players, and the language of rocket scientists doesn't easily translate to coachspeak. Viloria acts as the interpreter. He has made small tweaks, such as converting the output from metric to standard measurements, and has developed complex formulas to help coaches turn the myriad data into concise goals for the coming day's practice.

    But although he's a staunch advocate for the GPS systems now, Viloria was hardly an easy convert. After 15 years training football players, Viloria knew how to coach athletes without spreadsheets, and letting math nerds behind the curtain of the ? culture was anathema to the old guard.

    "I didn't want to tell a coach that's been doing something for 30 years that he's wrong," Viloria said. "I didn't want to find out that what I'd been doing was wrong."

    As it turned out, the GPS devices had the opposite effect. The data didn't uncover any stunning secrets but instead gave Viloria the evidence he needed to better deploy plans he already had embraced. Each day after practice, players drop their monitors off to be downloaded. Jacobs and Malhotra sift through the output and filter out the most significant numbers -- max speeds, total distance, player workload, high-impact change of direction and myriad other measurables -- creating reports that illustrate the physical cost of that day's practice.

    Those numbers are passed along to Viloria, who translates the information to Fisher, who then lays out his expectations for the next day's practice. Together, Viloria and Fisher create a detailed plan for each period of each practice using the metrics they've established through years of data collection. For the always-demanding head coach, that often means scaling back what he asks from his players.

    "It's against a lot of the thinking you do as a coach," Fisher said. "But the results talk to you as if it's a doctor."

    Two years ago, Fisher was troubled by an obvious gap between Greene's routinely impressive practice performances and the receiver's inconsistent numbers on game days. He wanted answers, so he pressed his conditioning staff. It turned out the problem wasn't with Greene. It was with the practices. Greene was Florida State's most refined receiver, so when Fisher would grow agitated with poor routes or dropped ? by other players, he would ask Greene to illustrate the proper form. Again and again, Greene would run a route or catch a pass, and his workload mounted. The GPS device offered clear-cut data that showed Greene was simply doing too much.

    Fisher responded by lightening Greene's reps on Wednesdays and Thursdays to ensure a productive Saturday. "My legs were with me in every game last year," said Greene, who set career highs with 76 catches, 1,128 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013.

    Little changes in the practice routine can have massive effects on the bottom line of player health, Viloria said. Running laps used to be punishment for poor performance, but now Florida State's staff understood that extra work was just as likely to create more problems the next day.

    Of course, the flip side is true, too. As much as players are eager to see results of sprints at practice, the GPS devices can quickly expose those who are slacking. Viloria gets the data in real time and lets coaches know when it's time to ? the whip. In strength training, Viloria said, it's easy to test a player's limits and prescribe a routine. On the practice field, however, effort often was measured by simply asking a player how he felt and recovery times were set uniformly for everyone on the field.

    "Historically, there was no way to get a max for what a typical Tuesday is [at practice]," Viloria said. "Now we can do that for every single athlete we have."

    This summer's new arrivals at Florida State will get their introductions to the rocket scientist and the GPS monitors this week, and the staff has a unique greeting in mind.

    "We're going to make them run," Jacobs said. Coaches will monitor each new freshman to get baselines to prescribe training routines and compare against future results. The process, Jacobs said, has been refined to a science at Florida State.

    McCoy was at a meeting with a professional basketball team in New York last week when he got the question he always gets from prospective clients. They want to know who's using the data the best, and McCoy's answer is always Florida State. From the prescriptive practice plans to the unique design of their "bros," FSU's deployment of the technology is the gold standard, having taken Catapult's basic analytics and expanded upon it by leaps and bounds.

    It's their secret sauce. If they continue to scout well and they continue to use this model, they're going to build a dynasty out of this. There's no question.
    ” -- Catapult sports scientist Gary McCoy

    "It's their secret sauce," McCoy said. "If they continue to scout well and they continue to use this model, they're going to build a dynasty out of this. There's no question."

    But Florida State isn't interested in simply continuing with its model. It's working every day to build upon it. Beyond the reams of data sent along to the coaching staff, Jacobs is compiling mountains of information for side projects. He calls it his "black ops."

    He's working on a formula to identify players who are at risk for concussions; a potentially monumental advancement for a sport whose very future is threatened by the risk of head injuries. Although the GPS devices are banned from use during games, it is those kinds of advancements that could persuade the NCAA to reverse course.

    Fisher said that the devices have already saved a half dozen of his players from heat stroke and that the personalized practice plans allow athletes to stay sharp when their focus turns to academics, too.

    "This has been a total culture change," Viloria said. "For [Fisher] to do this, it's beyond cutting edge. He's changed the game."

    Fisher has toed the line between championing the progress and protecting his trade secrets, but Florida State has clearly benefited from the emerging hype. Recruits are impressed; the NFL has taken notice; and a program that was languishing in stale traditions five years ago is at the forefront of a brave new world in college football.

    For Greene, however, the formula is still pretty simple. The rocket scientist with the laptop is tracking his every move, but it's still Greene who gets to feed the machine.

    "We see Rocket Man every day on the field," Greene said, "and we can't wait to hear his voice."
  • playmaker88
    playmaker88 Members Posts: 67,905 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited July 2014

    We were beefing with these guys called the Puma Boys. It was 1976, and I lived in Brownsville, Brooklyn, and these guys were from my neighborhood. At that time I was running with a Rutland Road crew called the Cats, a bunch of Caribbean guys from nearby Crown Heights. We were a burglary team, and some of our gangster friends had an altercation with the Puma Boys, so we were going to the park to back them up. We normally didn’t deal with guns, but these were our friends, so we stole a bunch of ? : some pistols, a .357 Magnum, and a long M1 rifle with a bayonet attached from World War II. You never knew what you’d find when you broke into people’s houses.

    So we’re walking through the streets holding our guns, and nobody runs up on us, no cops are around to stop us. We didn’t even have a bag to put the big rifle in, so we just took turns carrying it every few blocks.

    “Yo, there he goes!” my friend Haitian Ron said. “The guy with the red Pumas and the red mock neck.”

    When we started running, the huge crowd in the park opened up like Moses parting the Red Sea. It was a good thing they did, because, boom, one of my friends opened fire. Everybody scrambled when they heard the gun.

    I realized that some of the Puma Boys had taken cover between the parked cars in the street. I had the M1 rifle, and I turned around quickly to see this big guy with his pistol pointed toward me.

    “What the ? are you doing here?” he said to me. It was my older brother, Rodney. “Get the ? out of here.”

    I just kept walking and left the park and went home. I was 10 years old.

    I often say that I was the bad seed in the family, but when I think about it, I was really a meek kid for most of my childhood. My first neighborhood was Bed-Stuy in Brooklyn. It was a decent working-class neighborhood then. Everybody knew one another. Things were pretty normal, but they weren’t calm. Every Friday and Saturday, it was like Vegas in the house. My mom would have a card party and invite all her girlfriends, many of whom were in the vice business. She would send her boyfriend Eddie to buy a case of liquor, and they’d water it down and sell shots. My mom would cook some wings. My brother remembers that besides the hookers, there’d be gangsters, detectives. The whole gamut was there.

    When I was just 7 years old, our world got turned upside down. There was a recession and my mom lost her job and we got evicted out of our nice apartment in Bed-Stuy. They came and took all our furniture and put it outside on the sidewalk. The three of us had to sit down on it and protect it so that nobody took it while my mother went to find a spot for us to stay.

    We wound up in Brownsville. You could totally feel the difference. It was a very horrific, tough, and gruesome kind of place. Cops were always driving by with their sirens on; ambulances always coming to pick up somebody; guns always going off, people getting stabbed, windows being broken. We used to watch these guys shooting it out with one another. It was like something out of an old Edward G. Robinson movie. We would watch and say, “Wow, this is happening in real life.”

    My mother would do whatever she had to do to keep a roof over our heads. That often meant sleeping with someone that she really didn’t care for. That was just the way it was.

    By then, I was going to public school and that was a nightmare. I was a pudgy kid, very shy, almost effeminate-shy, and I spoke with a lisp. Sometimes my mother would be passed out from drinking the night before and wouldn’t walk me to school. It was then that the kids would always hit me and kick me. We would go to school and these people would pick on us, then we would go home and they’d pull out guns and rob us for whatever little change we had. That was hard-core, young kids robbing us right in our own apartment building.

    Having to wear glasses in the first grade was a real turning point in my life. My mother had me tested, and it turned out I was nearsighted, so she made me get glasses. They were so bad. One day I was leaving school at lunchtime to go home and I had some meatballs from the cafeteria wrapped up in aluminum to keep them hot. This guy came up to me and said, “Hey, you got any money?” I said, “No.” He started picking my pockets and searching me, and he tried to take my ? meatballs. I was resisting, going, “No, no, no!” I would let the bullies take my money, but I never let them take my food. I was hunched over like a human shield, protecting my meatballs. So he started hitting me in the head and then took my glasses and put them down the gas tank of a truck. I ran home, but he didn’t get my meatballs. I still feel like a coward to this day because of that bullying. That’s a wild feeling, being that helpless. You never ever forget that feeling. That was the last day I went to school. I was 7 years old, and I just never went back to class.
  • playmaker88
    playmaker88 Members Posts: 67,905 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited July 2014
    Part 2
    One day during the spring of 1974, three guys came toward me on the street and started patting my pockets. “Got any money?” they asked. I told them no. They said, “All the money we find, we keep.” So they started turning my pockets out, but I didn’t have anything. Then they said, “Where are you going? Do you want to fly with us?”

    “What’s that?” I said.

    So we walked over to the school, and they had me climb the fence and throw some plastic milk crates over to them. We started walking a few blocks and then they told me to go into an abandoned building. I didn’t know if they were going to ? me. We climbed up to the roof and I saw a little box with some pigeons in it. These guys were building a pigeon coop. So I became their little gofer, their schmuck-slave.

    Flying pigeons was a big sport in Brooklyn. Everyone from Mafia dons to little ghetto kids did it. It’s unexplainable; it just gets in your blood.

    One day we were on the roof dealing with the pigeons and an older guy came up. His name was Barkim, and he was a friend of one of these guys’ brothers. He told us to tell him to meet him at a jam at the rec center in our neighborhood that night. The jams were like teenage dances, except this was no Archie-and-Veronica ? . All the players and hustlers would go there, the neighborhood guys who robbed houses, pick­pocketed, snatched chains, and perpetrated credit-card fraud. It was a den of iniquity.

    So that night I went to the center. I didn’t know you were supposed to go home and take a shower. I went straight to the center from the pigeon coops, wearing the same stinky clothes with all this bird ? on me. I thought the guys would accept me as one of their own, because I was chasing these ? birds off these buildings for them. But I walked in and those guys went, “What’s that smell? Look at this ? , stinking ? .” The whole place started laughing and teasing me. I didn’t know what to do; it was such a traumatizing experience, everybody picking on me. I was crying, but I was laughing too because I wanted to fit in. I guess Barkim saw the way I was dressed and took pity on me. He came up to me and said, “Yo, Shorty. Get the ? out of here. Meet me back at the roof eight in the morning tomorrow.”

    The next morning, I was there right on time. Barkim came up and started lecturing me. “You can’t be going out looking like a ? ? in the street. What the ? are you doing, man? We’re moneymakers.” He was talking fast, and I was trying to comprehend each word. “We’re gonna get money out here, Shorty. Are you ready?”

    I went with him, and we started breaking into people’s houses. He told me to go through the windows that were too small for him to fit through, and I went in and opened the door for him. Once we were inside, he went through people’s drawers, he broke open the safe, he was just really wiping them out. We got stereos, eight-tracks, jewelry, guns, cash money. After the robberies, he took me to Delancey Street in the city and bought me some nice clothes and sneakers and a sheepskin coat.

    Barkim started introducing me to people on the street as his “son.” It was street ­terminology that warned people not to ­disrespect me. It meant: “This is my son in the streets, we’re family, we rob and steal. This is my little moneymaker. Don’t ? with this ? .” He bought me a lot of clothes, but he never gave me a lot of money. He’d make a couple thousand from robbing and he’d give me $200.

    Some people might read some of the things I’m talking about and judge me as an adult, call me a criminal, but I did these things over 35 years ago. I was a little kid looking for love and acceptance, and the streets were where I found it. It was the only education I had, and these guys were my teachers.

    One day I went into this neighborhood in Crown Heights and I robbed a house with this older guy. We found $2,200 in cash, and he cut me in for $600. So I went to a pet store and bought a hundred bucks’ worth of birds. They put them in a crate for me, and the owner helped me get them on the subway. When I got off, I had somebody from my neighborhood help me drag the crate to the condemned building where I was hiding my pigeons. But this guy went and told some kids that I had all these birds. So a guy named Gary Flowers and some friends of his came and started to rob me. My mother saw them messing with the birds and told me, and I ran out into the street and confronted them. They saw me coming and stopped grabbing the birds, but this guy Gary still had one of them under his coat.
  • playmaker88
    playmaker88 Members Posts: 67,905 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited July 2014
    “Give me my bird back,” I protested. Gary pulled the bird out from under his coat. “You want the bird? You want the ? bird?” he said. Then he just twisted the bird’s head off and threw it at me, smearing the blood all over my face and shirt.

    “Fight him, Mike,” one of my friends urged. “Don’t be afraid, just fight him.”

    I had always been too scared to fight anyone before. But there used to be an older guy in the neighborhood named Wise who had been a Police Athletic League boxer. He used to smoke weed with us, and when he’d get high, he would start shadowboxing. I would watch him, and he would say, “Come on, let’s go,” but I would never even slapbox with him. But I remembered his style.

    So I decided, “? it.” My friends were shocked. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I threw some wild punches and one connected and Gary went down. Wise would skip while he was shadowboxing, so after I dropped Gary, my stupid ass started skipping. It just seemed like the fly thing to do. I had practically the whole block watching my gloryful moment. Everybody started whooping and applauding me. It was an incredible feeling even though my heart was beating out of my chest.

    I started getting a whole new level of respect on the streets. Instead of “Can Mike play with us?” people would ask my mother, “Can Mike Tyson play with us?” Other guys would bring their guys around to fight me, and they’d bet money on the outcome. I would win a lot too. Even if I lost, the guys who beat me would say, “? ! You’re only 11?” That’s how everybody started knowing me in Brooklyn. I had a reputation that I would fight anyone—grown men, anybody. But we didn’t follow the Marquess of Queensberry rules in the street. If you kicked someone’s ass, it didn’t necessarily mean it was over. If he couldn’t beat you in the fight, he’d take another route, and sometimes he’d come back with some of his friends and they’d beat me up with bats.

    I began to exact some revenge for the beatings I had taken from bullies. I’d be walking with some friends, and I might see one of the guys who beat me up and bullied me years earlier. He might have gone into a store shopping, and I would drag his ass out of the store and start pummeling him. I didn’t even tell my friends why, I’d just say, “I hate that ? over there,” and they’d jump in too and rip his ? clothes and beat his ? ass. That guy who took my glasses and threw them away? I beat him in the streets like a ? dog for humiliating me. He may have forgotten about it, but I never did.

    I was in Times Square in 1977 just hanging out when I saw some guys from the old neighborhood in Bed-Stuy. We were talking, and the next thing I knew one of them snatched the purse of this prostitute. She was furious and threw a cup of hot coffee at my face. The cops started coming toward us, and my friend Bub and I took off. We ran into an ? -rated theater to hide, but the ? came in shortly after with the cops.

    “That’s them,” she pointed to Bub and I.

    “Me? I didn’t do ? ,” I protested, but the cops paraded us out and put us in the backseat of their car.

    They looked at my rap sheet, and I just had too many arrests, so I was going straight to Spofford.

    Spofford was a juvenile-detention center located in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx. I had heard horror stories about Spofford. I was terrified. I had no idea what was going to go down in that place. But when I went to the cafeteria for breakfast, it was like a class reunion. “Chill,” I said to myself. “All your boys are here.”

    After that first time, I was going in and out of Spofford like it was nothing. Spofford became like a time-share for me.

    I never saw my mother happy with me or proud of me doing something. I never got a chance to talk to her or know her. Professionally, that would have no effect on me, but emotional and psychologically, it was crushing. I would be with my friends, and I’d see their mothers kiss them. I never had that. You’d think that if she let me sleep in her bed until I was 15, she would have liked me, but she was ? all the time.
  • playmaker88
    playmaker88 Members Posts: 67,905 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited July 2014
    A few months before I turned 13, I got arrested again for possession of stolen property. They had exhausted all the places in the New York City vicinity to keep me. I don’t know what kind of scientific diagnostic tests they used, but they decided to send me to the Tryon School for Boys, an upstate New York facility for juvenile offenders about an hour northwest of Albany.

    The fact that they were sending me up to the state reformatory was not cool. I was with the big boys now. I got in trouble right away. I had a bad attitude. I’d be confrontational and let everyone know that I was from Brooklyn and I didn’t ? around with any ? .

    I was going to one of my classes one day when this guy walked by me in the hall. He was acting all tough, like he was a killer, and when he passed by, he saw that I was holding my hat in my hand. So he started pulling on it and kept walking. I didn’t know him, but he disrespected me. I sat in the class for the next whole 45 minutes thinking about how I was going to ? this guy for tugging on my hat. When the class was over, I walked out and saw him and his friends at the door.

    That’s your man, Mike, I thought. I walked up to him, and he had his hands in his pockets, looking at me as if he had no worries in the world, like I forgot that he had pulled my hat 45 minutes ago. So I attacked him rather ferociously.

    They handcuffed me and sent me to Elmwood, which was a lockdown cottage for the incorrigible kids. On the weekends, all the kids from Elmwood who earned credits would go away for a few hours and then come back with broken noses, cracked teeth, busted mouths, bruised ribs—they were all jacked up. I just thought they were getting beat up by the staff. But the more I talked to these hurt guys, the more I realized they were happy.

    “Yeah, man, we almost got him, we almost got him,” they laughed. I had no idea what they were talking about and then they told me. They were boxing Mr. Stewart, one of the counselors. Bobby Stewart was a tough Irish guy, around 170 pounds, who had been a professional boxer. I was in my room one night when there was a loud, intimidating knock on the door. I opened the door and it was Mr. Stewart.

    “Hey, ? , I heard you want to talk to me,” he growled. “I want to be a fighter,” I said. “So do the rest of the guys. But they don’t have the ? to work to be a fighter,” he said. “Maybe if you straighten up your act and stop being such an ? and show some respect around here, I’ll work with you.”

    So I really started to apply myself. I think I’m the stupidest guy in the world when it comes to scholastics, but I got my honor-roll star and I said “Yes, sir” and “No, ma’am” to everyone, just being a model citizen so I could go over to fight with Stewart. It took me a month, but I finally earned enough credits to go. I was supremely confident that I was going to demolish him and that everyone would suck up to me.

    I immediately started flailing and throwing a bunch of punches and he covered up. I’m punching him and slugging him and then suddenly he slips by me and goes boom and hits me right in the stomach. I was trying desperately to breathe, but all I could do was throw up. It was just horrible ? .

    “Get up, walk it off,” he barked.

    After everyone left, I approached him real humble. “Excuse me, sir, can you teach me how to do that?” I asked. I’m thinking that when I go back to Brownsville and hit a ? in the stomach like that, he’s going to go down and I’m going to go in his pockets. That’s where my mind was back then. He must have seen something in me that he liked, because after our second session he said to me, “Would you like to do this for real?” So we started training regularly. I started to get a lot better. I didn’t know it at the time but during one of our sparring sessions, I hit Bobby with a jab and broke his nose and almost knocked him down.

    Shortly after that Bobby came to me with an idea. “I want to bring you to see this legendary boxing trainer ? D’Amato. He can take you to the next level.”
  • playmaker88
    playmaker88 Members Posts: 67,905 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited July 2014
    So one weekend in March 1980, Bobby and I drove to Catskill, New York. ? ’s gym was a converted meeting hall that was above the town police station. ? looked exactly like what you’d envision a hard-boiled boxing trainer to look like—short and stout with a bald head, and you could see that he was strong. He even talked tough, and he was dead serious; there wasn’t a happy muscle in his face.

    “How you doin’, I’m ? ,” he introduced himself. He had a strong Bronx accent.

    Bobby and I got in the ring and started sparring. I started out strong, really knocking Bobby around the ring. We would usually do three rounds, but in the middle of the second round, Bobby hit me in the nose with a couple of rights and I started bleeding. It didn’t really hurt, but the blood was all over my face.

    “That’s enough,” said Teddy Atlas, another trainer.

    “But, sir, please let me finish this round and go one more round. That’s what we normally do,” I pleaded. I wanted to impress ? .

    I guess I had. When we got out of the ring, ? ’s first words to Bobby were, “That’s the heavyweight champion of the world.”

    Right after that sparring session, we went to ? ’s house for lunch. He lived in a big white Victorian house on ten acres. You could see the Hudson River from the porch. I had never seen a house like that in my life.

    We sat down, and ? told me he couldn’t believe I was only 13 years old. And then he told me what my future would be. “If you listen to me, I can make you the youngest heavyweight champion of all time.”

    ? , how could he know that ? ? I thought he was a pervert. In the world I came from, people do ? like that when they want to perv out on you. I didn’t know what to say. I had never heard anyone say nice things about me before. I wanted to stay around this old guy because I liked the way he made me feel. I’d later realize that this was ? ’s psychology. You give a weak man some strength, and he becomes addicted.

    I was excited on the ride back to Tryon. I was sitting with a bunch of ? ’s roses in my lap. I had never seen roses in person before, only on television, but I wanted some because they looked so exquisite. I wanted to have something nice to take back with me, so I asked him if I could take some. Between the smell of the roses and ? ’s words ringing in my ears, I felt good, like my whole world had changed. In that one moment, I knew I was going to be somebody.

    I started going out to ? ’s house every weekend to work out. There were a few other fighters living there with ? and his companion, a sweet Ukrainian lady named Camille Ewald. When I first got to the house, I would steal money from Teddy’s wallet. Hey, that ? doesn’t go away just because you got some good ? going on. I had to get money for weed. I would hear Teddy tell ? , “It has to be him.”

    “It’s not him,” ? said.

    When I first started going to ? ’s, he didn’t even let me box. After I finished my workout with Teddy, ? would sit down with me and we’d talk. The first thing ? talked about was fear and how to overcome it.

    “Fear is the greatest obstacle to learning. But fear is your best friend. Fear is like fire. If you learn to control it, you let it work for you. If you don’t learn to control it, it’ll destroy you and everything around you.

    “You think you know the difference between a hero and a coward, Mike? Well, there is no difference between a hero and a coward in what they feel. It’s what they do that makes them different. The hero and the coward feel exactly the same, but you have to have the discipline to do what a hero does and to keep yourself from doing what the coward does.”

    I was only 14, but I was a true believer in ? ’s philosophy. Always training, thinking like a Roman gladiator, being in a perpetual state of war in your mind, yet on the outside seeming calm and relaxed.

    ? was also big on affirmations. He had a book called Self Mastery Through ­Conscious Autosuggestion by a French ­pharmacist-psychologist named Emile Coué. Coué would tell his patients to repeat to themselves, “Every day in every way, I am getting better and better,” over and over again. ? had a bad cataract in one eye and he would repeat that phrase and he claimed the phrase had made it better.
  • S2J
    S2J Members Posts: 28,458 ✭✭✭✭✭
    ^^^Yea i'll def be readin that on the train home. This thread will be pefect for my commute lol
  • playmaker88
    playmaker88 Members Posts: 67,905 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited July 2014
    ? had us modify the affirmations for our own situation. So he had me saying, “The best fighter in the world. Nobody can beat me. The best fighter in the world. Nobody can beat me,” over and over again all day. I loved doing that; I loved hearing myself talk about myself.

    I was this useless, Thorazined-out ? who was diagnosed as ? , and this old white guy gets ahold of me and gives me an ego. ? was such a deep guy. No one ever made me more conscious of being a black man. He was so cold, hard, giving it to me like a bitter black man would. “They think they’re better than you, Mike,” he’d say. If he saw somebody with a Fiat or a Rolls-Royce, he’d look at me and say, “You could get that. That’s not the hardest thing in the world to do, getting wealthy. You’re so superior to those people. They can never do what you are capable of doing. You got it in you.”

    ? wanted the meanest fighter that ? ever created, someone who scared the life out of people before they even entered the ring. He trained me to be totally ferocious, in the ring and out. At the time, I needed that. I was so insecure, so afraid. I was so traumatized from people picking on me when I was younger. I just hated the humiliation of being bullied. That feeling sticks with you for the rest of your life. But ? gave me confidence so that I didn’t have to worry about being bullied ever again. I knew nobody was ever going to ? with me physically.

    A lot of people assume that Muhammad Ali was my favorite boxer. But I have to say it was Roberto Duran. I always looked at Ali as being handsome and articulate. And I was short and ugly and I had a speech impediment. When I saw Duran fight, he was just a street guy. He’d say stuff to his opponents like, “Suck my ? ? , you ? . Next time you’re going to the ? morgue.” After he beat Sugar Ray Leonard in that first fight, he went over to where Wilfred Benitez was sitting and he said, “? you. You don’t have the heart or the ? to fight me.”

    Man, this guy is me, I thought. That was what I wanted to do. He was not ashamed of being who he was. I related to him as a human being. As my career progressed and people started praising me for being a savage, I knew that being called an animal was the highest praise I could receive from someone. I was sad when Duran quit during the “No más” rematch with Leonard. ? and I watched that fight in Albany, and I was so mad that I cried. But ? had called it. “He’s not going to do it a second time,” he predicted.

    I think both ? and I realized that we were in a race with time. ? was in his seventies. It wasn’t like I was going to go to school and they were building my character to make me a good, productive member of society. No, I was doing this to become heavyweight champion of the world. ? was aware of that. “? , I wish I had more time with you,” he said. But then he would say, “I’ve been in the fight game for 60 years, and I’ve never seen anybody with the kind of interest you have. You’re always talking about fighting.”

    All this talk about dedication and discipline and hard work wasn’t enough to keep me from going back to Brooklyn and doing my jostling and robbing. I was playing two heads of the same coin. I’d be up in Catskill and be the choirboy and then I’d go down to Brooklyn and be the devil. Thank ? that I never got arrested for anything. That would have broken ? ’s heart.

    I don’t think that ? , who’d worked with Floyd Patterson, Rocky Graziano, and Jose Torres, thought that in a thousand years he’d get another champion, although he hoped he would. Then I show up there knowing nothing, a blank chalkboard. ? was happy. I couldn’t understand why this white man was so happy about me. He would look at me and just laugh hysterically. He’d get on the phone and tell people, “Lightning has struck me twice. I have another heavyweight champion.” I have no idea how, but somehow he saw it in me.
  • Dave2one6
    Dave2one6 Members Posts: 1,669 ✭✭✭✭✭
    I can make a long sports read, but i will stay classy san diego.
  • zerocool
    zerocool Members Posts: 3,973 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Parallel wrote: »
    Can you also put them in spoilers with maybe a brief description of what the article is about? Just a suggestion with mobile in mind.

    That's a good idea
  • S2J
    S2J Members Posts: 28,458 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Good looks on the spoilers