Today in sports: Tony La Russa is a tactical genius, more than 125 NFL alums are now suing the league over concussions, and the greatest quarterback in Canadian football history is now an American.
- The St. Louis Cardinals won the first game of the World Series last night. For that, they should thank manager Tony La Russa, who out-maneuvered Rangers manager Ron Washington at every critical moment in the game. This is the kind of uncritical criticism that baseball fans love to toss around, but Grantland's Jonah Keri has a detailed, stats-heavy missive breaking down the ramifications of five strategic inflection points from last night's game where La Russa outfoxed Washington. It's fascinating to see how questionable personnel decisions snowball over the course of a nine inning game. Single baseball games are subject to the kind of scrutiny an NFL gameplan gets every Sunday. Though as La Russa knows, it's a thin line between baseball savant and compulsive overmanager. [Grantland]
- More than 125 former NFL players are now suing the league and helmet-maker Riddell for not disclosing and, in some instances, allegedly hiding the risks of repeated head injuries. There are "at least three" personal injury cases pending in California and one more in Pennsylvania. According to the AP, the cases represent the "first examples of former players joining together to file concussion-related lawsuits against the NFL." Lawyer Thomas Girardi represents dozens of the players in two of the complaints. He says the goal is to enact "necessary changes" to protect future generations of players, as well as "set[ting] up a medical process so [the plaintiffs] can have medical attention for this injury as long as they need it," in addition to financial compensation. The NFL is taking the position that players knew the risks when they made football their career and that there was "no misconduct or liability" on the league's part. The question of what the NFL knew and they knew it regarding concussion is likely to be the sticking point. Players intend to show there was "a history of literature showing that multiple blows to the head can cause long-term damage" that got buried by the NFL and that the league also "fraudulently concealed the long-term effects of concussions," including the increased risk of dementia. The players appear to have allies in Washington. Yesterday, a Senate subcommittee held hearingw on misleading safety claims made by sports equipment companies. One thing is certain: it's going to be a long slog for both sides, without a clear endgame. For example, the players are seeking judgments "in the millions of dollars," though no specific numbers have been listed in the court documents. The consensus from lawyers on both sides is that the lawsuits could take years to be sorted out. Nobody associated with the players, the league, or Riddell was even "willing to guess how long it could be" during discussions with the AP. [AP]
- The head of the English Premier League's Managers Association said last week that "overseas-owned" clubs are already talking about the avoidance of promotion and relegation in the Barclays Premier League." That would effectively end the promotion/relegation system where good teams can get bumped a divisions, while bottomfeeders get demoted. That fear is "rooted in nothing," writes Sports Illustrated soccer columnist Gabriele Marcotti. "In fact," he says, " I don't think you're going to find anybody in the English game -- foreign or otherwise -- who favors eliminating the promotion/ relegation system and is willing to speak up" on the issue because they know it will make them a pariah in the sport. It's just fear-mongering, even if abolishing promotion/relegation would get the game's cost structure under control. But it's just not how it's done. [Sports Ilustrated]
- The greatest quarterback in the history of the Canadian Football League is an American. His name is Anthony Calvillo, he went to Utah State University, and two weeks ago he broke the CFL's all-time passing yards mark. After spending his first four years with two different clubs, he's been on the Montreal Alouettes since 1998. In that time, the team has played in the Grey Cup -- the CFL's Super Bowl -- eight times. He'll play in his ninth on Saturday when Montreal plays defending champion Winnipeg. He's 39 and last offseason overcame thyroid cancer to play in what could be his final season. His best chance to play in the NFL, or "down south" as he calls it, was in 2002, when the Pittsburgh Steelers nearly signed him to be their third string quarterback, only to decide they wanted a younger player instead. By not going, he guaranteed he'd be one of the beloved niche greats, which is really what makes the culture of sports so fascinating. [The New York Times]