We’re in the business of labels here. Two specifically: Good for Ball and Bad for Ball. Everything in life gets one or the other, and in this very space over the past several weeks, both Fox’s “Empire” and Bill Simmons’ Grantland.com have been assigned Good for Ball status.
So imagine the levels of jog generated when it was recently discovered Grantland offers a comprehensive breakdown of every episode of “Empire” — a more significant cultural pairing than peanut butter and chocolate. Call it Good for Ball Squared.
And with that, you surely remember how we play this game. So in the immortal walk-off words of Lucious Lyon, in closing out Season 1: “Game time, bitches!”:
• Who doesn’t love a good sports conspiracy theory? The frozen New York Knicks envelope, the NFL’s witch hunt against all things Raiders, Kevin Costner getting jiggy with Cal Ripken Jr.’s wife and threatening The Streak. All great stuff. But let’s knock it off with the suggestion that Chris Borland retired because of Jed York. If you follow this space, you know there’s nothing we’d like to do more than blame every single bit of misfortune that goes the 49ers’ way on the Kid Jester, but to blame him for Borland is a little too Stretch Armstrong even here. Bad for Ball.
• Borland made his decision based on nothing more than information not accessible to players of previous generations. Information that told him he was running a significant risk of shortening his life were he to continue to launch himself into harm’s way for a paycheck. Might this be the start of a trend? Maybe. But who cares? Appreciate it for what it is, even if it never happens again. It’s a man choosing quality of life over quantity of money, fame and glory. A quitter? Hell no. That’s ridiculous. He’s not exactly a hero, either — let’s save that label for pro bono pediatric surgeons. But he does seem like a pretty bright guy making a bold decision, and that makes him Good for Ball.
• Larry Brown, whose credentials as a basketball coach are impeccable, thinks this year’s version of the Kentucky Wildcats could make the NBA playoffs. It’s a different version of the same idiotic stance you hear whenever a college team in any sports displays a certain level of dominance. In fact, just this winter we heard people say that Alabama’s football team could beat some NFL teams. And then Alabama lost to Ohio State. Can it, Larry. The second string of even the worst NBA team would beat Kentucky in a seven-game series. Probably in a sweep. Bad for Ball.
• Pablo Sandoval fired back at Aubrey Huff last week, making for a nice little game of Pot Meets Kettle. Both men have come off looking incredibly weak in the whole saga, but the Panda couldn’t resist, pointing out that he’s the one reaping the benefits of a massive contract while Huff is at home, his journeyman career having come to an graceless close with two weird seasons with the Giants and an even weirder few months as a local talk-radio host. Can we just ignore them both from now on and move on with our lives? Yes, we can. And will. Bad for Ball.
• And finally, we offer indisputable proof that spring training is 10 to 14 days too long. Bored with baseball one day, I filled out a bracket for the NCAA Tournament for the first time in a decade. I had stopped because I always got sucked in too far when I had a shot at winning something, only to find myself bitterly disappointed when my pick would lose in the Final Four. It wasn’t worth it, I had decided. But one of the Giants’ recent 11-4 losses pushed me back to the dark side, and I’ll be damned if I didn’t pick UAB to knock off Iowa State on Thursday. I can win this thing, baby! Good for Ball!
Mychael Urban has been covering Bay Area sports for 25 years and has worked for MLB.com, Comcast SportsNet Bay Area and KNBR (680 AM).