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Yesterday’s news: Who can hold a candle to these low-grade scandals

Tom Hoffarth / FartherOffTheWall.com

From chess. To poker. To fresh-water fishing.

Scandal, after scandal, after scandal.

Even founding members of the Houston Astros, circa 2017-19, are embarrassed.

From rook to royal flush to rainbow trout, all this unethical behavior comes to light when the simple act of maintaining a poker face — literally, in one case — is so difficult that the opponents sense deceit and the violation of being cheated. That’s the issue with all three. Let’s “Judge Steve Harvey” some video-evidence outrage while the dialogue is fresh:

Chess master Magnus Carlsen has alleged that rival Hans Neimann has been up to no good, twice withdrawing from head-to-head matchups in two separate events against him last month. In a subsequent statement, the 31-year-old Carlsen said he knew something was wrong when 19-year-old  Neimann “wasn’t tense or even fully concentrating on the game in critical positions, while outplaying me as black in a way I think only a handful of players can.” Masters can sense that in an opponent, when the other is too fast or skillfull.

Carlsen says Niemann poses an “existential threat” to the sport’s integrity.

The other day, something called Chess.com, an online platform where many top players compete, issued a 72-page report reviewed by, of all media outlets, the Wall Street Journal. It’s research accused Niemann of receiving illegal assistance more than 100 times in his online professional career, as recently as 2020, with prize money on the line, doing it with a pattern of “remarkable signals and unusual patterns.”

Yeah, you’ve heard about the anal beads. And artificial intelligence. Or whatever other gizmo will help you decide how a rook moves versus a pawn.

Neimann had supposedly admitted he cheated twice in online chess way back when he was age 12 and 16, but he’s outgrown that. Matured. Learned from his mistakes.

Washington Post master sports columnist Sally Jenkins writes that “the Carlsen-Niemann confrontation raises the important matter of ‘techno-solutionism.’ Too much machine intelligence in problem-solving, as it happens, can be more confusing — and weakening — than helpful. The long-term cost of techno-solutionism can be a fatal slackness, both mental and physical. You don’t want to lose your conditioning for decisive human judgment. … ‘Recommendation algorithms’ can solve some problems, but they don’t always make us smarter or stronger.”

Kinda like when SABR masters fill MLB R&A offices and pollute the decision-makers in the dugout into yielding to their data about how to circumvent things like extreme defensive shifts (soon to be eliminated), use relief pitchers as starters to mess with lineups strategy, or even resort to a need for an electronic system in the ear of the pitcher and catcher so they can discuss slider/curveball selections – all to avoid the ballpark nuanced sounds of thumping trashcans?

We all feel like pawns in a system of checks and checkmates. No solution yet — just a stalemate. Please, show us all your cards.

Which leads to …

Poker veteran player and TV reality star Garrett “Gman” Adelstein has accused newcomer Robbi Jade Lew of cheating after she pulled off an improbable upset win at a Hustler Casino Live event in Gardena.

(We’ve always been taught: What happens in Gardena usually has a stay-over at a Circle K in Harbor City where justice is ultimately carried out).

When confronted, Lew didn’t admit to anything, but reportedly offered all the money back from the $269,000 pot to him that she won. Even though she felt bullied into doing so. 

Late at night on Sept. 29, Adelstein may have looked like the bigger boob by posting on social media that he reviewed Lew’s previous 11 hours of footage and thought what she did was “extremely out of character compared to prior hands.”

(Personal question: Is Lew married? Can we cross-examine her husband as a character witness?)

The poker world chimed in, trying to stay abreast with Lew’s every move.

Commentator Bart Hanson put up a 27-minute dissertation on the subject on YouTube and said “maybe there is a 20-to-30 percent change of cheating” in this case, but it’s not likely. There’s a zero percent chance we’ll watch his video for verification of this assessment.

Lew isn’t buying it either.

That was “either an insane hero call, or cheating,” is how one summed up the play in which Adelstein had an open-ended straight flush draw and went all-in on the turn, at which time Lew had a weak jack-high hand but also curiously went all-in and messed up everyone’s strategy.

We have no idea what the paragraph above means, or if it’s even possible. Our anal beads tell us to move on. This all feels like a problematic way of playing “Go Fish.”

Speaking of which …

A fishing tournament in Cleveland last weekend, the Lake Erie Walleye Trail, went sideways when the tournament director held up five live fish that were estimated to be four pounds each — 20 pounds total.

They ended up weighing in at nearly 34 pounds. Enough to make the guy working the fresh meat section at Ralphs have a double take.

Alleged fisherman Jacob Runyan and Chase Cominsky stood to win a prize of about $30,000 for their haul. But then they were left to answer — or not — as director Jason Fischer took a knife, cut the fish open, and weights started falling out of it.

Teach a man to fish, and he loads the catch with thirty pieces of lead.

This also cast a shadow of doubt of the Runyan-Cominsky previous wins over the last three months. Obviously. Experts in this competition say technology and increasing prizes has incentivize cheating to a point where many can’t be trusted any more.

This makes us all uneasy — like shooting fish in a barrel of monkeys who are playing poker with a bunch of dogs who think they are playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers.

We assume these people are in the cerebral worlds of chess, poker and fishing because they like being off the non-intellectual sports radar of fantasy football. They don’t have the villainous tendencies for something as wicked as throwing 20-pound cornhole bags, hollwed-out horseshoes or using illegally modified 3-D printer paintball guns (purchased without an intelligence background check).

There is a way to resolve these three stains on our competitive sporting landscape.

First, make all chess, poker and fishing part of the Olympic movement, preferably by 2028 when the Los Angeles Organizing Committee people can take ownership of another toxic-mess cleanup. That’s our thing.

Next, invite Magnus Carlsen and Hans Neimann, Garrett Adelstein and Robbi Jade Lew, and Jacob Runyan and Chase Cominsky to a Hollywood studio (Gardena-adjacent), trust enough that we can give them a plane ticket and a phony brochure, then invite them to participate in a three-part episode of a revival of the mashed-up reality show “Temptation Island: Cheaters Edition.” Martha’s Vineyard will be accommodating host on short notice.

Each day, the six of them rotate partners as they compete in extensive exercises of chess, poker and fishing. Rule books be damned. The players enforce things themselves on the dis-honor system.

Poetic justice.

The trickster’s triathlon hosted by Alex Rodriguez.

Losers, and winners, get a weekend of soul cycle cleansing with Lance Armstrong.

Yesterday’s news: The prop bets of 26 and 27, measured by your desire to be bamboozled

Tom Hoffarth / FartherOffTheWall.com

Since the Official California Sample Ballot officially arrived in our home mail box, we’re officially forced to come to terms that State Measure 26 and State Measure 27 will appear on the Nov. 8 election.

Game on.

Just look at ‘em. Properly coded and aligned graphically as two of the seven life-altering referendums that also address reproductive freedom, reduced air pollution, music education in the schools, flavored tobacco sales and more rigmarole about kidney dialysis clinics.

Also known as Prop 26 and 27, per the paid ads that choke off any spare TV airtime and billboard space, the general idea here is that the state is properly asking if you’d like to engage in the exciting world of sports wagering, and, if so, where would you like your mounting losses go — toward benefiting the current tribal land casino structure or the expansion of mobile and online companies miles away from where the damage is done?

The entirety of Prop 26 comes weighs in at 15 pages, while Prop 27’s submission rambles on for 65 pages. Neither are easy reads.

But ultimately, this isn’t a pick-your-poison decision.

You can simply vote “no” and “no thanks” and we’ll all be better off.

If the only thing you come away with here is a link to the most important thing we’ve read on the subject — Christopher Caldwell’s piece for Compact Magazine titled: “America’s Bad Bet on Sports Gambling” – and then decide to vote yes, your disconnect is beyond reasoning.

Those who stand to profit most from this are measuring us up for sports gaming enthusiasts, because all the cool kids around this country are on board, and, as far as they know, none have resorted to 1-800-GAMBLER confessionals.

The con has premeditated dozens of states already. This is a chance for California to show restraint beyond its otherwise progressive nature.

Based on ads, a good number of voters won’t even know this is a sports-wagering prop bet, led instead to believe it will help the homeless crisis. That’s as far from reality, and insulting to those who are a home-need situation.

A month ago, when the Los Angeles Times editorial board came out with its no-endorsement of both, it was clearly pointed out: “If the companies that own betting platforms and the tribes that run casinos have their way, California will be the next state to embrace this foolish scheme. … The normalization of sports betting has been egged on by betting platforms, athletic leagues and media companies, which see profit in convincing people to gamble away their dollars. That’s why gambling interests are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into Propositions 26 and 27 — blasting through past spending records on state ballot measures.”

The San Francisco Chronicle agrees. The Orange County Register/Southern California News Group seems to get it. As does the Sacramento Bee.

It’s obscene, really, when one considers the record-breaking amounts spent supporting and denouncing both propositions versus what could really be put to better social use. Most has come from the pro-27 camp of DraftKings, Fanduel, BetMGM, Ballys and other enterprises that stand to benefit most from its passage.

Follow the money, right?

If you’ve been in a city where tax payer dollars were once approved to help an already well-to-do sports-team owner finance a new facility, you are aware enough of what’s happening here.

A month from now we’ll see the outcome of a huge misguided bet that our state citizenry is gullible enough to be bamboozled into believing the outright lies and bait-and-switch tactics that seem to perfectly mirror the entire business ways of both measures. It’s a tough business to avoid, when so many media companies and sports leagues normalize its look, feel and simplicity of participation.

And if/when support fails for the sports gaming in California this time, it will likely return in a two years, crafted differently, with the same major players trying to yell over each other.

Don’t wait up dazed and confused about how there are really two choices to vote on here. It’s not an either-or proposition. Those in the industry of earning an income based on your naïve nature about how gambling works may even couch this as a way where you really could support both ballot measures and come away all the better.

Don’t wait until you see your college-aged kid plop down in front of the TV set to watch a Major League Baseball game he cares nothing about, just to see if either team scores in the first inning and he’s successfully wagered the correct way.

Now you’re into a world of NRFIs and YRFIs, and there’s the red flag warning of a tsumami of ignorance about to cascade into your life.

Not here. Not now.

Two thumbs down.

One more way to incentivize you: If this doesn’t pass, fewer will come to visit and more may even move away to get their fix.

Ballots will start being mailed out Oct. 10. Last day to officially register for this election is Oct. 24. Before all that, you’re free to buy a lottery ticket and help the local school system pay its teachers.

The Sports Media Misery Index: October 2022

Tom Hoffarth / FartherOffTheWall.com

Our monthly Sports Media Misery Index is a standard check and imbalance of what we’ve loathed, liked or learned from a measured consumption of the various media platforms.

It’s our dysfunctional erectile thermometer, pointing true south.

See if you can follow along without getting ticketed:

TESTING OUR PAIN THRESHOLD

Anyone seemingly connected to the New York Yankees — team, fans, George Constanza wannabes — who believe there is an inherent need for any network from ESPN to TBS to the Home Shopping Network to risk a live cut-in to follow Aaron Judge’s swing-and-a-miss chase for … what is it now? … the American League (and franchise) single-season home run record … Naw, we’re good.

The only treat is listening to YES Network play-by-play caller Michael Kay try to set the scene “for those joining us now” as the moment unfolds. Those who are there against their will pretty much can be heard screaming on social media immediately, which gives context and angst to this whole New York-shout-it-into-existence charade. The languish is almost over — four more telecasts in Texas (Monday at 4 p.m., Tuesday DH at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., and the Wednesday finale at 1 p.m., all Pacific times). Check local listings, then cringe.

We actually know where to go if we truly needed access — and now know what to avoid. How about some live cut-ins when Shoehei Ohtani is throwing his next no-hit bid? He’s back for the Angels’ season finale in Oakland on Wednesday.

On Amazon Prime’s rocket launch of its first NFL Thursday Night Football telecast of the season — that rib-bashing Sept. 15 Chargers-Chiefs matchup, if you’ll recall — they managed to wait until five minutes before halftime before the obligatory shot into the luxury suits to find Roger Goodell with Jeff Bezos.

Unexpectedly, we actually felt as twisted as the NFL Commissioner’s body language as he made his Sit of Shame to fill the frame with this latest deal-with-the-devil financial funder to The League. It was made even more demeaning when Bezos’ gal pal, former TV news person Lauren Sanchez, saw her chance to squeeze into the shot to share a Dr. Evil moment together.

Bezos decided to pay about $1 billion a year for the package last March when the league held hostage all its rights holders to cover an 11-year stretch to the tune of about $100 billion. Amazon’s deal wasn’t supposed to start until 2023, but they decided why not go now, because it “creates incremental economic and strategic value for the League and our fans,” the NFL said in a statement.

Amazon has 200 million Prime subscribers around the world. This is one expensive home page screen shot.

It’s been noted that in our current streaming-of-consciousness existence, viewers may push back on how Apple+ has become a tough-to-find platform on the MLB’s new sellout for Friday night games (insufferable minor-league broadcasting crew aside). But the much easier to track down Al Michaels-Kirk Herbstreit tag-team for the Amazon Prime access shows its acceptance and reach. If you enjoyed watching this, you might also enjoy … Much easier, of course, for those digital natives. They field the phone calls from their parents right after kickoff asking: “Is this game on Anaheim Live or Omicron Prime Booster?”

We anticipated this happening last week — Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, helped off the field in a groggy, unnerving state, and the scroll reads: “Based on your viewing, you may also like the movie “Concussion” starring Will Smith. Rents for $2.99″)

We’re still extremely uncomfortable with this whole idea that Bezos/Amazon can continue to worm its way into acting as our sports viewing fulfillment center. As well as its impact in the journalism world with a problematic Washington Post ownership. Just hope the NFL lawyers have checked the legal terms of Bezos’ return policy.

The LIV Golf tour’s inevitable rejection from all the major media players, and at a point where it will apparently just buy airtime to have a TV partnership with FS1, has finally made the existence of the USFL not look so desperate. Considering how often Fox channels replay those persistent ads trying to track down Camp Lejeune Water Contamination victims, the LIV Golf people have probably found their right demographic.

Besides, Fox, as a football company, has enough problems as they realize weekly they’ve lost the latest game of musical NFL analyst chairs.

The Reggie Bush Redemption Tour, supplemented with income from spotty commercial spots for Wendys, only serves to embarrass the former USC tailback and the food-adjacent delivery company. “You can’t take this away from me … back to its rightful owner,” as he says in the tagline, a confusing way for Bush to make light of the fact the Heisman people haven’t returned his trophy in the aftermath of … what? Are they legally obligated to do so? It’s their trophy.

The laugh’s still on Bush and he doesn’t get that he’s the punchline. What’s his beef? If he really wants that Heisman back, trying to shame the old folks in New York into doing it through this kind of desperate playground messaging just shows how detached from reality the somehow still current Fox Sports college football studio analyst must be. Try doing some ads instead for Depends. Lots of potential for laughs there, after the Fox network execs someday realize they can appeal more to younger viewers by replacing him with Lyle, Lyle Crocodile.

Once ESPN decided that two weeks into its “College GameDay Built by The Home Depot” show had a need for Pat McAfee to pollute its set with well-respected dignitaries like Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard, Lee Corso and Desmond Howard, we’ve stopped making the effort to rise early or even DVR it for later consumption. “GameDay” has a comfortable vibe going. This will prove to be an unnecessary disrupter. McAfee, 35, with his talk show on YouTube and appearances on WWE’s “Friday Night Smackdown” and a $120 million deal to promote FanDuel, brings with him a built-in social media fan base. Other media companies hopefully have learned that isn’t such a wise gameplan (see: L.A. Times/Arash Markasi). This has the feel of 20 years ago when ESPN brought in Rush Limbaugh to be on its Sunday NFL Countdown pregame set. No, it didn’t end well – but what did they expect? Learn from history.

MID-LEVEL UNCOMFORTABLE

The 2022 local MLB broadcast in review interruption:

= The Dodgers’ rotation on SportsNet LA of Orel Hershiser anchoring the game analyst chair on home games, then pivoting to Eric Karros, Dontrelle Willis, Jessica Mendoza, Nomar Garciaparia and even Rick Monday on roadies, managed to keep things fresh without confusion. There was definitely a different tone each one brought based on their personality, and it was then up to test Joe Davis’ versatility to figure it all out — perhaps against his will, but he masterfully made it work to his immense credit. It’s a feat no other Dodgers broadcaster has ever had to endure, and its degree of difficulty made obvious when he needed to jump off on weekends for a Fox national MLB or NFL broadcast, and the remarkably pedestrian Tim Neverett (never was, never will be) was never going to be our Plan B, but there it. Karros and Willis are keepers for their energy, knowledge and chemistry. Mendoza’s nervous laughs and somewhat muted audio was never really helpful. Kristin Watson finally looks comfortable and actually informative on the field, and David Vassegh as the occasionally fill-in has learned to jump into a broadcast for dutiful updates without breaking a leg in the process. Only wish we could have seen more of Jose Mota, who seems to be the most likely candidate to slide into Jaime Jarrin’s chair on the Spanish-language radio broadcast.

= The Angels’ stagnant offerings on Bally Sports West and KLAA-AM (830) go against all that is supposed to happen in a major media market like Southern California. In the absence of Victor Rojas (nice knowing you) and an inconsistent post-COVID lockdown appearance rotation of Matt Vasgersian after fumbles with Daron Sutton and Rich Waltz (gone and goner), resorting to a very green Patrick O’Neal making an apparent cost-efficient segue from field reporter/studio host up to TV play-by-play was a Double-A attempt to solve a MLB issue. There are plenty of other seasoned broadcasters who put in the reps and may have been more deserving. A very likeable, personal professional, O’Neal must realize this really isn’t his strength, but the audience didn’t need to be on the other side of the two-way mirror watching the audition play out, especially with historic performances playing out by Shohei Ohtani in need of the proper captioning rather than jaw-dropping hyperbole. If all he was asked to do was set and serve to longtime Angels broadcast fixture Mark Gubicza, O’Neal wasn’t put into a position to succeed as he naturally tried too hard to add his own knowledge and mix in too many cliche captions. They’ve got an offseason to study the tapes and come back with a new gameplan. On radio, it will forever be an untenable, unlistenable mix of Terry “Smithers” Smith (really, in his 21st season?) and Mark Langston that has somehow been as sustainable as a daily series of paper cuts. Please, just cut your losses. New ownership will have to take ownership of this marketing mold.
Here’s an idea:

A HIGHER TOLERANCE

The “Saturday Night Live” cold open paying homage to ESPN’s Monday Night Football “ManningCast” shows how quickly this alternative viewing set up has become part of our mindset. If only ESPN could figure out a way to have Joe Buck and Troy Aikman come in as a guest for Peyton and Eli Manning, to remind folks they’re still doing a game on the other channel. Tonight’s Rams-49ers telecast might be the time to test that idea. Because if one really wants to learn how a quarterback thinks during the fourth-quarter chaos, this is the place to default after the first three quarters. Our only suggestion: Find a way to get former SNL cast member Tracy Morgan five minutes on each broadcast, maybe for halftime analysis, we’d make a point to never miss it.
(On that note: Tonight’s Rams-49ers contest airs in the L.A. market on KABC-Channel 7 and ESPN. Which means it pushes ABC’s syndicated version of “Jeopardy!” to … where? It remains absent tonight/Tuesday AM on our TV menu. Unacceptable.)

The semi-annual Clippers-Ball Sports West contract renewal played out as expected — they’ll stay connected in an act of convenience, not real love, until the team figures out how he can cut ties and move into its own TV-controlled situation. The fact the team announced a deal with KTLA-Channel 5 before last weekend’s formal announcement to air a handful of games was only the result of anticipated NHL schedule conflicts with Bally Sports West’s Kings games. There will be more bluster from the team and how it handles its local TV rights after it settles into a new arena and tries to establish its own narrative.

And finally:

Yesterday’s news: Would the NFL consider making Sept. 29 as important as the MLB’s April 15? Consider Kenny Washington and the Rams …

Tom Hoffarth / FartherOffTheWall.com

The date is important.

Seventy-six years ago today — September 29, 1946 – Kenny Washington strapped on a modest, facemask-less leather football helmet, subbed in for injured star quarterback Bob Waterfield, and the newly relocated Los Angeles Rams’ season opener was even more historic.

The first Black player to reintegrate the National Football League, and the first professional Black player on the progressive West Coast, came into play. It blotted out more than a decade of an exclusionary, unwritten policy about franchises signing anyone of that particular race.

All heck did not break loose as some-30,000 at the Coliseum saw it happen on that sweltering 96-degree Sunday afternoon. No grief either that the Rams lost to the Philadelphia Eagles, 25-14 – the last two points, when Washington’s right foot went over the back line of his own end zone for a two-point safety as he was launching a not-yet-phrased Hail Mary.

This was still 6 1/2 months before Washington’s former UCLA football teammate, Jackie Robinson, made much bigger headlines by breaking Major League Baseball’s color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

It makes the Washington moment even more astounding.

These days, they erect statues, name stadiums and build museums for Robinson.

In Lincoln Heights, almost 10 years ago at the intersection of North Broadway and Lincoln Park Avenue, near his Lincoln High football field, they have a square named after Washington.

Maybe that’s not a fair comparison. Washington, had he not died far too young at age 52 in the summer of 1971 from a rare blood disorder, might have had more to say about it. Robinson died about a year later at age 53.

Yet it was Robinson who was once quoted: “Kenny Washington was the greatest football player I have ever seen. He had everything needed for greatness – size, speed and tremendous strength. … It would be a shame if he were to be forgotten.”

For context, only a couple books have come out, and only recently, that helps explain all these dot-connections. But for the most diligent project to shed a spotlight on more of what we’d like to consume comes from Dan Taylor’s new book, “Walking Alone: The Untold Journey of Football Pioneer Kenny Washington” (Rowman & Littlefield Publishing, 256 pages, $36).

Taylor’s two-and-a-half-years of research and writing reveals even more that, without Washington, there’d likely not be the Robinson we’ve come to know and hold in such high esteem.

Taylor writes about how when the two were at UCLA, Washington became a calming influence for Robinson, often seen as volatile and frustrated. Washington went with Robinson on walks around the Westwood campus to talk about dealing with life issues.

Taylor is also profoundly baffled why more isn’t known about how Robinson lobbied Branch Rickey to sign Washington as the Dodgers, and MLB’s, second Black player. Washington, not Robinson, was UCLA’s first black baseball player. It appears the Dodgers considered it. Washington’s health was an issue.

“I found Kenny Washington to be a remarkable life story,” Taylor says. “He’s undeniably one of the great football players of all time and one of America’s greatest athletes. It’s unfortunate he has been forgotten. Someone so talented who made such an impact on not just UCLA, but Los Angeles, the Rams, and the NFL, should not just be remembered but held in great regard and celebrated.”

The Rams were only proactive in signing Black players because local media — the Black newspapers — demanded it as part of the Coliseum Comission’s decision to allow them to circumvent a rule that no pro football could be played at the facility as long as USC and UCLA called it their home field. Washington appears on the October, 1946 cover of Ebony to accentuate this development — even though he’s not wearing his familiar No. 13.

We may never see a day in the NFL when everyone wears Washington’s No. 13 – or at least sports a patch for it on their jersey. Fritz Pollard is considered the Jackie Robinson of the NFL in most historical accounts.

The Rams may never feel a need to retire it themselves – Washington, already a couple years into a pro football career with the local Hollywood Bears of the Pacific Coast Professional Football League, playing at Gilmore Field, battling some surgically repaired knees, played just three seasons as a halfback/split end/defensive back for these L.A. NFLers. He had just five starts in 27 games for the team (at age 28, 29 and 30, gone by ’48), and had only one outstanding season where he continues to hold the franchise’s longest run from scrimmage – 92 yards on Nov. 2, ‘47. (Something called DiscoverLosAngeles.com includes in the Top 10 moments in the franchise history, from a list in 2019).

Washington’s No. 13 remains unclaimed among the eight already retired, even if game MVP Kirk Warner wore it while leading the franchise to the Super Bowl XXXIV title.

Could the Rams at least sport a No. 13 patch somewhere, or post a plaque, somewhere in SoFi Stadium, just as the Coliseum has a plaque for him in its Court of Honor – which is just for his UCLA achievements?

“Any of those suggestions would be appropriate,” said Taylor. “This is a big part of the Rams heritage. They should celebrate it. It’s more than a little perplexing that they haven’t. I don’t understand how something so significant has been ignored for all these years.”

A headline in Slate’s culture section posted last December asked: “Why Isn’t Kenny Washington an American Icon?” Last year, on the 75th anniversary of Washington’s appearance, why wasn’t it a bigger deal during the Super Bowl run by the Rams, who were led by such Black stars as Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey, Odell Beckham Jr. and Von Miller? The franchise is also known for Hall of Fame players with retired numbers like Eric Dickerson, Marshall Faulk, Deacon Jones, Jackie Slater and Isaac Bruce. The legacy of Black running backs with the Rams includes Deacon Dan Towler, Dick Bass, Cullen Bryant, Lawrence McCutchen, Stephen Jackson and Todd Gurley.


It doesn’t seem as if Washington is forgotten. It’s more that he’s not all that well remembered.

“He paved the way for so many individuals that we see playing today,” said Johnathan Franklin, another former UCLA star running back and current Rams director of social justice and football development.

There are far more questions than answers about Washington’s impact, his influences … things that biographers like Taylor seek to excavate in projects like this. Washington leaves almost a mystical legacy defined by superlatives than statistics. Washington’s true story may never be resolved.

“As much as ‘Walking Alone’ does reveal about Kenny Washington, there is much still to be learned,” said Taylor. “The inability to get answers to so many key questions about Kenny was a very frustrating part of this project. I would agree that we are left with a degree of mystery about him.

“Baseball’s popularity led to so many interviews, articles and books about Jackie Robinson which helped the public develop an understanding of his journey. While we can appreciate Kenny’s remarkable skills and accomplishments, our inability to get inside his head and learn what he thought and felt, how his character was built, and how he built the strength he exhibited does probably prevent fans and the general public from embracing him with the same level of esteem as Jackie Robinson is accorded.”


Now think about what happened 52 years today – September 29, 1970.

More than 1,000 friends of Kenny Washington gathered at the Hollywood Palladium on Sunset Blvd., for a benefit. They knew he was in poor health. They want to help thank him for what he brought to sports and Los Angeles, and perhaps prolong his existence by funding medical treatment.

He concluded his speech: “This tribute to Kenny Washington should be a tribute from Kenny Washington to you.”

Soon, he was buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Boyle Heights with a simple headstone that includes the line: “Our Loved One.”


It definitely feels as if Washington made bigger headlines in L.A. and the nation when he signed his contract with the Rams on March 21, 1946, as the team was still considered by some to be the Cleveland Rams. The photos and headlines above attest to that, how he was framed as “the first Negro in Major Pro Football” or “the first Colored Star in Modern Grid Circles” or in the “reorganized pro game.” But Rams GM Chile Walsh was no Branch Rickey. Walsh, and the Rams, felt pushed into this arrangement, with no guarantees Washington would even play despite a “five-figure salary.”

Focusing on that date seems more disingenuous even if it was when the league lifted “the unofficial blackout.”

Last May, the Rams seized on that occasion to establish a Fulfillment Fund project and launch the Kenny Washington Memorial Scholarship to give to “13 students from lower-resourced communities who are among the first in their families to pursue post-secondary education.” Said the Rams’ Franklin: “We created this scholarship to highlight his core values. When I think about Kenny, I’m reminded of our scholars today.”

Perhaps September 29, then, may be as an important a date on the NFL calendar as April 15 is in MLB?

“Without question,” says Taylor. “It is a bit surprising that it has never before been held up as an important date in the history of the NFL. I certainly understand that when Jackie Robinson debuted with the Dodgers baseball was far-and-away America’s national pastime. In 1946 professional football was not the popular sport it is today. Jackie’s signing thus received wide spread attention, far more than Kenny’s and that plays a big part in why it is remembered and he is celebrated today. I also understand that Fritz Pollard and other African-American players were tremendous pioneers in the 1920s and we don’t want to diminish their contribution or accomplishments.

“Still none of it should make what Kenny Washington achieved any less important. What he overcame, and all he had to deal with was tremendous and should be remembered. September 29 is a date the league should always showcase.”

== More on Kenny Washington and Dan Taylor:

= Taylor talks to the Good Seats Still Available podcast as well as the “11 Personnel” podcast via The Athletic.

= Two more books on the subject:
The Black Bruins: The Remarkable Lives of UCLA’s Jackie Robinson, Woody Strode, Tom Bradley, Kenny Washington and Ray Bartlett” by James Johnson (2018, University of Nebraska Press)
The Forgotten First: Kenny Washington, Woody Strode, Marion Motley, Bill Willis and the Breaking of the NFL Color Barrier” by Keyshawn Johnson and Rob Glauber (2021, Grand Central Publishing)

= Another new book related to this subject: ESPN’s Andscape, former known as The Undefeated, keeps its focus on the intersection of sports, race, culture in publishing Jason Reid’s book, “Rise of the Black Quarterback: What It Means for America.”

While the focus may be more on names like Doug Williams, Warren Moon, Colin Kaepernick and Patrick Mahomes — even the Rams’ James “Shack” Harris in the ’70s, the 1974 Pro Bowl MVP — Washington is mentioned as well as the start of the process, again the focus of his signing date with the Rams and how the rival All-American Football League had promised to also sign a Black player in the first season in L.A. The local franchise, the Dons, didn’t do so. “Washington, (Willie) Strode, (Bill) Willis and (Marion Motley) highlighted a promising future for Black football players,” writes Reid. “But their troubles and those of the players who followed in their cleat marks, especially any who dreamed of playing under center, were far from over.” Reid also points out how the Chicago Bears owner George Halas had “expressed interest” in possibly signing Washington in the early 1940s “but abandoned the idea after he failed to get the backing of other owners.”

Yesterday’s news: There was always something dumber about Favre

Tom Hoffarth / FartherOffTheWall.com

Brett Favre wasn’t the first or second choice for that Hail Mary/NFL quarterback cameo role in the 1994 flick “There’s Something About Mary.”

In 2014, speaking to the NFL Network’s Rich Eisen, writers/directors/producers Peter and Bobby Farrelly explained how New England Patriots QB Drew Bledsoe was their No. 1 overall pick for the ultimate part for a celebrity love interest with Cameron Diaz. Including a near-kiss scene. But yikes – Bledsoe and a teammate apparently had just injured a woman in a mosh pit at an Everclear concert, and he was worried about how doing the flick might affect his name, image and likeness. He knows now he blew his shot.

Pass.

The Farrellys next sought out San Francisco 49ers QB Steve Young, at the height of his NFL career. But the Mormon King turned them down. He wasn’t keen on children seeing him in an R-rated movie.

Pass.

And then came Favre. He had no baggage. Then.

If asked today, the Farrellys might admit they goofed by casting him. All things considered.

But the reason isn’t what you think.

Forget the third choice for “Mary,” he should have been first choice a couple years earlier when they made “Dumb and Dumber.”

And all he had to do was act naturally.

Just Google “Favre” and “stupid,” and stuff happily pops up from hibernation. Written in 2008. Or in 2009. Written in 2010. Or in 2017. Or 2021.

Favre’s IMDb.com profile, which will never be confused with Jon Favreau, includes not just five acting credits, but also as the executive producer on the 2021 documentary, “Concussed: The American Dream.”

Favre may have to use that as Exhibit A when he appears before a judge when trying to explain how his head just wasn’t in the game when buried himself in his latest legal entanglement.

We may be a little slow on this, but apparently Favre got some Mississippi lawmakers engaged in diverting some $5 million in state welfare funds into help him get a new volleyball athletic facility at his alma mater, Southern Miss.

Credit FrontOfficeSports.com for heading this garbage off at the pass with stories here and here. We gleaned from the Associated Press’ latest report that Mississippi’s largest-ever public corruption case has ensnared several people, including a pro wrestler whose drug rehab was funded with welfare money.

But it’s getting dumb and …

Does that make him an accomplished accomplice? In the meantime, the court of public opinion, Favre should be wearing a cheese head made of real limburger.

Here is the NFL’s answer to Curt Schilling.

There was that running joke in “Something About Mary,” where Ben Stiller’s character couldn’t pronounce his name. He mangled it into “Far-vra.” Or “Fav-ruh.” Favre was a known commodity – a three-time AP MVP from ’95 through ’97 as the Green Bay Packers burgeoning star when this movie emerged. It was a name John Madden couldn’t stop repeating in every sentence for about 10-straight years.

But now there’s something about anyone even trying to defend Farve’s name. The Notorious No. 4 is a wanted man.

Yahoo!Sports columnist Charles Robinson calls this a cautionary tale about hero worship? Even O.J. Simpson is laughing at that headline.

But not Jenn Sterger.

Favre can’t deny culpability, because we know which playbook he’s working from now.

Jeff Pearlman wants people to stop buying the bio he did on Favre a few years back: “So, sincerely, don’t buy the book, don’t take it out from the library. Leave it. There are sooooo many better people worthy of your reading hours. Of your time. I prefer crumbs like Brett Favre shuffle off into the abyss, shamed by greed and selfishness.”

Do us all a favor, Favre. Stop trying to scramble out of this.

Even if this all isn’t really on you.

By the way, if there is any playbook to get out of this mess down the road — way, way down the road — to repair whatever image he has left, see what Tom Brady did.

In the 2015 Seth MacFarlane movie, “Ted 2,” the sequel to “Ted,” Mark Wahlberg and a stuffed teddy bear are in a scene where they’re trying to break into Brady’s house and decide to dupe him into signing off on a broken air condition order.

Brady plays himself as a straight man.

“If you could just write … to John and Ted, from Number 12 … and you’re not a cheater. I mean, I think you’re balls are perfect,” says Walhberg.

Brady sighs.

The reference was to Deflate-gate. Everyone can laugh it off, apparently.

Here, it’s different.

Favre has balls, too, just very imperfect ones. And, at the moment, what he did doesn’t look all that ballsy.

Maybe just use this as a new mantra … or the Farrellys might consider a new casting idea: