Tag: Sports

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There’s a new-agey kind of trend in American professional sports, especially hockey, soccer, and women’s basketball, to name teams with words that have no plural form. Examples include the Miami Heat, the Orlando Magic, the Chicago Fire, Phoenix Mercury, Indiana Fever (?!), Seattle Storm, New York Liberty, and the Minnesota Wild. I don’t understand the reasons […]

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In mid-April I recounted to you the tale of being roped in to manage Xerox’s little league team. It was not a totally happy experience because, quite frankly, there are a lot of two-bit bullies out there and they seem to be drawn to youth sports like a magnet. Funny thing about magnets, though. They […]

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Sports in America is often considered one of our last great meritocracies. Perform well on the field, the diamond, the court, ring, or rink, and you’ll be rewarded. Anyone who has spent any time invested in team sport knows that isn’t necessarily true. In team sports, there are so many variables; so may rolls of […]

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Someone sent me an amazing link that I want to share. God doesn’t make mistakes – He brings reflection of His glory through each of us. This is an extraordinary example of what defines us as a loving country, as well as the amazing power of God’s grace to heal, to bring miracles to ordinary […]

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My dad was a huge Rams fan. He died in 1991 and I’m sure he would have been heartbroken after they moved to St. Louis. But now they’re coming back to L.A. and I’m seriously thinking of becoming a Rams fan (instead of remaining a lukewarm Chargers fan). I even googled “Los Angeles Rams gear” […]

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The Secretariat Maneuver

 

SecretariatOn the sunset of a pretty grim year, let’s have a little lightness, if you please. My father, who passed away when I was 21 (that was quite a while ago) once told me this story. He had read about it, I believe, in Sports Illustrated.

The story concerns Secretariat – arguably the greatest thoroughbred racehorse of all time. In 1973 he won the Triple Crown — the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont – along the way setting a Derby record of 1:59 2/5 (no other horse has bettered two minutes) and beating Twice a Prince by 31 lengths in the Belmont Stakes. He was, as one aficionado put it, instantly recognizable with his glistening chestnut coat, three white stockings and his regal bearing.

It is often the case in sports that the spoils of exceptional athletic achievement extend beyond the years of that achievement. The broadcast booth, the lucrative endorsement, or (if nothing else avails) the cushy job greeting customers outside the Sands Hotel – these are all the perks that derive from those few moments of triumph, those superlative feats of muscle and mind that dazzle the world. Let Springsteen ridicule those “glory days” – but those glory days (if they are glorious enough) can at least pave the way to a comfortable retirement.

What’s Still Great About Sports

 

PHILADELPHIA - DECEMBER 8: The offensive line of the Army Black Knights gets set to snap the ball during a game against the Army Black Knights on December 8, 2012 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Navy won 17-13. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)

A contemporary sports fan with a brain surveys the pro and college sports landscapes and is forced to consider, “is this really worth my time, money, and energy?”

Astronomical salaries, lunatic agents, endless analysis, coaches who think they’re Patton, and fans who feel every blown call is a grounds for an appeal to the Supreme Court — it all takes its toll.

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Boring. Uneventful. Overpriced. That was the general consensus, especially among casual viewers, of boxing’s recent super fight. Mayweather-Pacquiao generated 4.4 million PPV buys, shattering boxing’s previous records for viewership and gross earnings. Despite its runaway promotional and financial success, built on five years of hype and anticipation, most fans were extremely disappointed; the fight lacked […]

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The Primal Conservatism of the Littlest Ram

 

CharlieOutlined against a blue-gray October sky, the mighty Rams stood in the majestic calm of their frigid, pre-game battlefield. Outside without a proper coat, my six-year old, Charlie, stood in an eternal line at the frozen, undermanned concession stand. The undefeated Rams awaited the opening kickoff of their game against the hated Spartans — their bitter rival, the only team to beat the Rams in over three years. Charlie awaited a Styrofoam cup of tepid cocoa — bitter swill, sold for two bucks a slug by the girls in the pep squad. The Rams had been waiting for this game all season. Charlie had been waiting for his cocoa for half an hour. The excitement was palpable. The cocoa? Palatable.

It was a chilly Friday night in America and Charlie had come to cheer his Rams on to victory in the biggest high school football game of the season. Damn the cold, daddy; this is war. And Charlie wanted to be on the front lines.

Over 10,000 people joined Charlie and me at the Rams game that night. To help put that in perspective, that is about 45 percent of all the people who live in our school district. There were, and often are, more tickets sold than there are seats in the stadium. But no one minds. After all, you aren’t really paying to watch the football game. You are paying to be at the football game. The more crazy people there are, decked out in school colors and screaming their heads off, the more certain you feel that you are in the only place in the world that it is truly proper for you to be. If that comes at the cost of a good view of the action, well, so be it.

ESPN Scatters the Embers

 

grantland“Sports serves society by providing vivid examples of excellence.” — George F. Will

Earlier today, ESPN announced that it is shuttering its sports commentary website, Grantland. Dear friends, I am heartbroken. I will miss the well-written, offbeat sports journalism, but I will get over that. Somehow, someway, the internet will provide me with something else to read in the bathroom. The handful of Grantland contributors whose work I followed religiously will no doubt resurface elsewhere. The sun will rise; the world will turn. But my heart breaks, nonetheless, because I cherished the idea of Grantland.

Sports has been America’s great passion since before the invention of the radio. From the beginning, men like Damon Runyon, Ring Lardner, and Grantland Rice told the story of sports in print, describing in often beautiful prose an elegant dance of personality and athleticism for readers with the imagination and attention span to follow sports the way you or I might read a novel. Few fans in those days would ever see a game in person, but they lived and died with their teams through the literary prism of a well-written story.

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There are many reasons I enjoy (American) football less every year. Over-protective and incomprehensible rules increasingly take center stage. In the NCAA, players are ejected from games for even accidentally, unavoidably, tackling with colliding helmets. If the player with the ball drops his head at the last second, that’s somehow the defender’s fault. Excessive celebration penalties […]

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Behind the Mask of the Laughing Buddha

 

Cool_buddhaI have no talent. Neither do you. No one does. Or at least so few of us as makes no difference. Down in the scorched dust of a Dominican sandlot somewhere someone does. Some farm boy somewhere, some Greek god of hayseeds, he does. But those aren’t mortal men. Those bastard sons of Zeus were born to greatness. We, the vast and faceless throngs, meek and ordinary, whose mothers lacked the good fortune to lie with gods or the foresight to dip us like Achilles in the River Styx, were at best born to watch.

The difference between we, the cursed, and they, the blessed, is not that the immortals dared to dream and we did not. Life just isn’t that fair. We all dreamt together, but cruel fate dictated that for we, the humble, there would come a day on which the dream would die, on which we would discover an awful truth about ourselves that we would have to learn to live with, a stain that we would carry with us throughout what remained of our now emptier lives. For some, the day comes mercifully early; for others, it comes late and hard. But however it comes, whenever it comes, it comes. No mere man escapes that day. No man escapes the day it finally dawns on him after years of passionate self-deception that he truly, truly, deep down, at the very core of his being, at the fundament of his essential self … just sucks out loud at baseball.

The reaper came for my baseball career when I was 14. At 11, I was an all-star. There is a trophy in a box somewhere in the attic of the house where I grew up that establishes beyond all doubt that I was great once. Oh, yes, my friends; I was great once. Your faithful correspondent was a mighty slugger, a hitter of prodigious home runs. Those were days of wine, women, and song. Of course, I was 11: my parents wouldn’t let me have the wine and I wasn’t all that interested in the women yet. But, damn it all, if those weren’t days of song.

In Silent Defense of a Fragile God

 

Woodlawn (crop)It was just after 1 PM when I snapped. There was nothing unusual about the day; it was the same as any other Friday in my work-a-day life. But maybe that was the problem. Maybe it was the very ordinariness of the day, the sheer bearability of it, that made it so unbearable. I couldn’t go on. I couldn’t continue to sit there, playing by their rules, like nothing was wrong. I had to leave. I had to get far, far away from that drab prison, with its e-mails, and its production reports, and its soul-rending conformity. I had to break free. I had to run. I told no one. I just walked off the job without a word, drove to a sticky-floored old movie theater on the edge of town, and bought a ticket for 124 minutes of something like escape.

It is the frayed edge of the tapestry of life that is on display Friday afternoons at the cineplex. There are the young, the truant scofflaws, who should be in school learning how to reduce fractions, chat up girls, and process grief, but have slipped the leash for a few hours and have come here to hide out. There are the old, the refugees from a wakeful death, who boarded the convalescent home short bus, destination unknown, just to taste the fresh air, just to feel the sun, and were deposited here, at the old movie house, where the air is stale and the sun never shines. And then there’s me, somewhere in between: grim harbinger to the young, patient understudy to the old, faceless worker who just couldn’t take another minute.

Together, we are the Anarcho-Cinemalists, united in our impotent midday defiance, our shared moment of empty freedom in the flickering darkness, and our passionate love of Mike-and-Ikes.

Media Death Watch: The Sports Edition

 

shutterstock_58823527There have been several threads in these parts noting the threat to traditional media from technology. The conventional wisdom is that live sports is the only thing going for cable and broadcast. Mostly, that’s true. Forbes had a story that 25 of 29 domestic local telecasts of MLB games led their markets in cable viewing this summer. A third of those also led when broadcast stations were included.

But that doesn’t mean anyone is breathing easier tonight. Your sports watching experience is about to get, well, different. In order to compensate for smaller fractionalized audiences and escalating rights fees, both ESPN and Fox Sports are changing the way they cover games.

This winter, chances are you may be physically closer to the action than the production teams covering the college sports telecast you’re watching. These media behemoths have gotten in bed — literally and figuratively — with the conferences and schools they cover and, as a result, they’ve invested heavily in infrastructure.

God and Man at Notre Dame

 

The cocaine was in the back bedroom. NotND my scene. I have always been more of a shot and beer and a shot and a beer and a shot and a beer and a shot and a beer man, myself. I wasn’t in the market for a new habit that evening, so I declined my share of Colombia’s finest, comfortable in the knowledge that my comparatively abstemious nature would mean a healthier portion for someone with a better traveled nose than my own.

At Notre Dame, we are not above trafficking in portents (or narcotics…), so I was especially averse to dabbling in the illicit that particular evening. One ought not tempt the wrath of the Almighty by taking up law-breaking on one’s first night in law school. At least, that was what I believed. But looking around the room at my new classmates, it was clear there was a healthy diversity of opinion as to what constituted impermissible taunting of He under whose sign we had come to study. But what was never in dispute that evening or any other was the sign itself. Pablo Escobar may cater the mixers, but we all knew and would never deny that Christ Crucified quietly watched over even the snowiest noses at Notre Dame.

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Forgive me if this sounds sexist, for that is not my intention. I just tuned in to the National League Wild Card Playoff game between the Houston Astros and New York Yankees on ESPN. I heard a female voice commenting about the game and I assumed she was the sideline/dugout reporter. Quickly, I realized that […]

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