Bronny’s bound to be a Buckeye

Bronny James

Has there been an athlete ever more hyped before becoming a professional, and lived up to those expectations, more than LeBron James? How many other high schoolers got solo covers of Sports Illustrated? Kevin Garnett graced the magazine’s front before James, while Sebastian Telfair did after. It’s completely hit-and-miss for future expectations but sets the stage for a ceiling of expectations to be in the stratosphere. And James conquered all of them on the court.

Imagine being his eldest son, Bronny James, who is in his senior season for one of prep basketball’s most recognizable brands, Sierra Canyon. The Los Angeles-area powerhouse has been at the core of three seasons of a Freevee (formerly IMDBtv) documentary, with the younger James becoming a more central figure each season as he’s gotten older. His Hall of Fame father is an executive producer on the show. Bronny’s future is about to become clearer, according to a report from the Los Angeles Times.

Narrowing it down

Bronny James, who is a top-40 prospect in the Class of 2023, has a top three of where he’ll attend college. Ohio State is LeBron’s favorite — duh — alongside other strong contenders, USC and Oregon. The report states the high-school James will make his collegiate decision after the Trailblazers’ season ends, which will likely be in mid-March. No high-level conference school is giving out a scholarship to anyone they don’t believe can live up to high expectations, name recognition or not. Regardless of his father being one of the hardwood’s GOATs, Bronny has developed his own reputation and there’s no reason to think he can’t hang in the Big Ten or the Pac-12. And making it to the NBA is far from a shoo-in, despite what LeBron wants. 

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It’s gotta be Ohio State

Let’s not pretend like Ohio State isn’t going to be his destination barring something completely unforeseen. The Buckeyes missed out on bringing the greatest basketball player from the Midwest — much less their own backyard —ever into the fold by none of their own doing. LeBron was NBA-bound even if name, image, and likeness were in full swing in the early 2000s. But that’s the exact reason the influence on Bronny will likely draw him to Columbus. With his father placing some phone calls, getting a nice multi-million-dollar NIL package for Bronny shouldn’t be that hard. The amount of goodwill and publicity it would do for Ohio State basketball would far outweigh any costs to a true freshman.

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Of course, anything can happen and James should have the respect of his father to truly go anywhere for college. But when your family is in the public eye and outside pressure may influence your hand, it’s hard to ignore that and shut it out. Bronny’s probably heard stories not for public consumption about what his dad would’ve done if he had the one-and-one rule, or if he delayed his NBA future by a few years. Becoming a Buckeye is in his blood and we’ll see that come to fruition in about two months. 

LIV Golf nearing TV deal with the CW because that’s what it’s come to

Image for article titled LIV Golf nearing TV deal with the CW because that’s what it’s come to

The LIV Golf tour may finally have a broadcast partner, and it’s every bit as bootleg as you’d imagine for a league that stays putting the cart before the horse. According to reports, the Saudi-funded golf league is nearing a deal with the CW. Yes, that’s right. The network that brought you The Flash, the frog, and other C-list programming could be dipping its toe into sports.

The deal was first hinted at by David Feherty, who joined the tour to fill the role of token, weird, non-threatening golf TV personality. That gave it enough credence for Sports Illustrated to run with it because we don’t need another Fox Sports rumor.

That rumor, which Immortal Joe CEO Greg Norman shot down, said the golf league would have to pay the network to air its funhouse tournaments while providing its own TV production crew. That’s apparently not the case with a potential LIV-CW partnership. However, a GOLF story said the deal is rumored to be worth considerably less than what other major sports get for their live TV rights.

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If you’ve been following the LIV-PGA drama, it’s not a surprise that it appears LIV is taking pennies on the dollar to get their product on TV. No one wants to touch the radioactive sports upstart because of its association with Saudi Arabia and the heaps of problematic baggage that come with being in business with the crown prince.

Putting a little spin on this shank

Despite the cloud of cancer-inducing chemicals that are sure to come out of Norman’s mouth spinning this deal as a positive for the league, it’s not ideal. Yes, the CW has a national reach, a young audience demo, and shiny new owners, Nexstar. That doesn’t mean the same group that enjoys The Flash or All-American is going to stay tuned to watch Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson play Acey Ducey while Feherty makes obscure jokes that no one understands.

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Also, if you’re wondering, “What is Nexstar? They sound like a real-life Waystar Royco.” You’d be absolutely correct. The media company owns a litany of local news stations, and has seen a bevy of departures since taking over the CW due to concerns about management making the decision to lean right. Some of the employees left of their own volition, and others were laid off as the company tries to streamline its business model. And many of those low-key popular TV shows that attracted young people are either ending or being discontinued as part of the new direction.

Basically, it’s an ideal match for the two companies after a long search for that certain someone detestable. Like when uncle Jack met his third wife in a PizzaGate Facebook group. Nobody in their right mind wants to visit them in Fort Lauderdale — or tune into the CW to watch the LIV — but at least they’ve found each other.

Who gets ‘the yips’ and why?

Cowboys’ kicker Brett Maher had the entire sports world talking about the yips Monday night.

Monday night, Dallas Cowboys’ kicker Brett Maher, a man who has made more 60-yard field goals than anyone in NFL history, went one for five on extra points. Because Tampa Bay basically had their asses handed to them by Dallas, (despite the ESPN crew’s insistence that “you can never count Tom Brady out!”), the topic of conversation online quickly devolved from talking about the game itself to talking about “the yips.” Before long, names like Chuck Knoblauch and Rick Ankiel were trending.

What are “the yips?”

The yips are well-known to baseball fans, but are probably actually more common in the game of golf. At the very least, there have been more studies and more science applied to golfers with the yips than baseball players.

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The phrase “the yips” was invented by golfer Tommy Armour back in the mid-1900s, as he struggled to give a name to what was happening to his game. In baseball, the yips were, for a long time, commonly known as “Steve Blass Disease,” after the Pirates pitcher who notoriously struggled with wild pitches in the early 1970s. But then came Rick Ankiel, a pitcher who suddenly couldn’t get the ball over the plate and converted himself to an outfielder, Steve Sax and Chuck Knoblauch — second basemen who developed an inexplicable inability to throw the ball to first base, and Jon Lester, the Cubs’ former ace who suddenly could no longer throw the ball to first base – at least in a conventional manner.

The baseball yips have made their way into popular culture, as well. Chad Harbach’s popular 2011 novel The Art of Fielding tells the story of a generational talent at shortstop whose career is derailed by the yips. The book was okay, but nowhere near as good as the episode of Pysch where Sean gets the yips on the softball field (insert obligatory pineapple).

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Can NFL kickers get the yips?

It’s not just baseball players who suffer from the yips, of course, any athlete who has to use fine motor skills (so, all of them), are easy prey. Golfers like Padraig Harrington, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, and Tommy Miller have all suffered from yips. The NBA’s Nick Anderson lost his ability to hit free throws. Kickers Nick Folk and Roberto Aguayo suddenly couldn’t get a ball through the uprights to save their lives. Snooker and darts players, cricket bowlers, archers, tennis players – they’re just some of the elite athletes who have dealt with the yips.

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In the past, “the yips” has always been equated with choking or buckling under pressure, but now scientific evidence is casting doubt on the idea that the problem is completely mental. At least not at by the time the yips has manifested into a major problem for an athlete.

So how do the yips start? Well, no one really knows. And there are different theories. Some athletes, like Steve Sax, can trace the start of the yips back to a single error. Opening day of 1983, Andre Dawson was on the base paths, and Sax attempted to throw him out at the plate, but he made an errant throw and the relay bounced off catcher Mike Soscia’s shin guard. Sax says he kept thinking about the error, over and over for days. And before he knew it, he couldn’t throw accurately anywhere on the diamond.

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It’s possible, of course, that the yips really IS all in some player’s head. But scientific research over the last decade has indicated there’s something more to it. In fact, if you google “the yips,” one of the first things that comes up is The Mayo Clinic’s website with a formal definition. Here’s what it says:

“The yips are involuntary wrist spasms that occur most commonly when golfers are trying to putt. However, the yips can also affect people who play other sports — such as cricket, darts and baseball.

“It was once thought that the yips were always associated with performance anxiety. However, it now appears that some people have the yips due to a neurological condition affecting specific muscles (focal dystonia).”

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But the yips aren’t always jerks of the wrist. It can also manifest as twitches, jerks, shakes, and jitters. Basically, it’s a loss of fine motor skills for reasons that aren’t well understood. Even more inexplicable is that the yips happen most often to veteran players with years of experience. In 1990, Mets catcher Mackey Sasser found one day that he could no longer throw the ball back to the pitcher without tapping his glove at least 4 times. By that time, Sasser was in his 4th year in the majors. Yankee Chuck Knoblauch had been in the league for 8 years by the time the yips caused him to he miss first base so badly he hit broadcaster Keith Olbermann’s mom in the stands.

One of the things that makes the yips so difficult to overcome is that they’re task-specific, or typically limited to a problem with a specific skill. NBA players who can’t hit free throws can still hit jumpers from the perimeter. Golfers who can no longer putt still hit drives well. Pitchers who can’t throw to first base are still able to strike out hitters at the plate with regularity. As Stephanie Apstein wrote in her excellent piece on the yips in Sports Illustrated, former MLB pitcher Jon Lester “(C)an paint the black with the game’s fiercest cutter, which heads for the lefthanded batter’s box before making a sharp right turn. He can curl a curveball past a bat, mix and locate his offerings with precision, and make them all look identical coming out of his hand. Lester is one of the best pitchers of his generation. So why can’t he turn 90 degrees to his left and do the same thing he does toward the plate?”

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It’s difficult to say if the yips are more physical or more mental, though it’s clear that both the brain and the muscles are involved. Scientists have learned that while stress can make the yips worse, anxiety alone is not the root of the problem. sports psychologist Debbie Crews told the New Yorker. Crews explained that the yips are often present in a golfer’s swing whether they anxious or not, and even when the golfer is unaware of them. “In one of the studies we did,” Crews said, “we had people try seventy-five putts—from three feet, six feet, and eight feet—and some of them would do that and then walk away and say, ‘I’m sorry I didn’t yip for you today.’ And we had just watched their hand turn on every putt, and we could see it on the EMG. They had no idea, because they don’t feel it until it gets big. But it was still there.”

Perhaps the only thing that seems clear when it comes to the yips is that it originates, somehow, in the brain and goes on to physically affect an athlete’s muscles.

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So how do sports psychologists begin treating an affliction that is so poorly understood?

Just like with the the yips themselves, there are a myriad of ideas – everything from medication to visualization. And scientists have also discovered that overthinking one aspect of whatever motor skill a player is struggling with, say, kicking a football at the right angle or judging the distance to shoot a basketball, can interfere with other aspects of the skill, like balance and grip. So relaxation, refocus, and re-learning mechanics can be part of alleviating the problem.

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Some players, like Rick Ankiel and Chuck Knoblauch, were able to switch positions to alleviate the yips. Some players can work through their issues out of the public eye — an attempt to improve their mechanics away from prying eyes. But sometimes the yips can force a player out of the game.

Which brings us to pitcher Jon Lester, whose struggle with throwing to first base has been well-known since at least 2015, when he signed a massive 6-year, $155 million dollar deal with the Chicago Cubs. At first, Lester’s inability to throw to first base was a problem, as teams ran on him early and often. But over the years, Lester learned to adjust through a variety of tactics. Sometimes he ran towards the bag and underhanded the ball to first baseman Anthony Rizzo from a short distance away. He also resorted to tossing his entire glove, with the ball inside, to his first baseman on more than one occasion. Towards the end of his time with the Cubs, Lester focused on one-hopping or bounce-passing the ball to first – more of a basketball pass than a baseball play. But it worked.

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Of course, Lester didn’t have to throw to first every play, and, for that reason, he was able to find ways to compensate for this small part of his game. When a pitcher can no longer locate his pitches over the plate, or a shortstop can’t accurately throw to first, it’s a much bigger problem.

As of now, there is no diagnostic test for the yips, but with so many researchers taking a scientific look at the phenomenon, it could be just a matter of time before we have an integrated medical and psychological treatment for the yips that will work for everyone. And not just athletes. Writers, musicians, artists — basically anyone who works with fine motor skills — have also been known to suffer from the yips.

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But for now, the words “the yips” strike terror into the hearts of professional athletes, with every pro hoping that the worst thing that can happen to a player’s game won’t happen to them.