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The SportsThink Monthly Review #1
October 29, 2021
The SportsThink Monthly Review highlights my favorite sport-related content of the previous month. Between Monthly Reviews, subscribers receive the Weekly Read, featuring a sports article that I think is worth everyone’s time. Most articles and content are recently published, but some are not; the only rule is that I’ve read them within the past week (or the past month, in the case of the Monthly Review). Some are relevant to my day job as a professor teaching courses on the business, history, and philosophy of sports. Others are just plain interesting, relevant to my life-long obsession with the games we play. The newsletter is free, but comes with two requests. 1. I’m always open to suggestions, so send me the good stuff that you read! 2. If you enjoy the newsletter, please share it with other folks who might enjoy it as well. Finally, I try to focus on non-paywalled writing, but if you find yourself unable to access anything, just hit reply to the email and I’ll do my best to get you a copy. Thanks for reading!
Welcome to the first edition of the Monthly Review. My thanks, as always, to the longtime readers who have been with me as this newsletter has evolved from the Weekly Review to the current Weekly Read/Monthly Review format. I’m still not totally sure what the final form of the Monthly Review will be, so I appreciate you joining me on this journey!
October 2021: Some Reflections
Is October the peak month of the American sports calendar? It certainly might be. Football at all levels is in full swing, we’ve got what should be good World Series (RIP my Dodgers), basketball and hockey are back, MLS is on the cusp of the playoffs…there’s a lot going on. Last week’s Formula 1 US Grand Prix in Austin smashed attendance records for an American F1 event, with some 400,000 spectators over the course of the weekend and somewhere in the neighborhood of 140,000 for the main even last Sunday. US TV numbers have been great for the sport all season long as well. Minus the hassle of exiting the Circuit of the Americas parking lots (it took some folks several hours!), F1 has very much entered the American sports conversation and I think that’s pretty interesting.
On the personal side of the things, it was a special month for my family, as we enjoyed a trip to Washington, DC, where my wife’s late grandfather and grandmother received the full honors at Arlington National Cemetery. The ceremony for Colonel and Mrs. Dillon Snell was awe-inspiring, truly a highlight of my life. At the risk of making an entirely too-obvious endorsement: if you ever have the chance to attend a service at Arlington, you must take it. And even if you don’t, add the site to your next DC itinerary. Absolutely worth it.
Earlier this week, Katy and I had the opportunity to attend the premiere of The Commissioner of Power at the Austin Film Festival. The film is a documentary about the late Dr. Terry Todd, a personal mentor of mine, but also an absolute legend in the history of American sports (especially those involving very—VERY— strong men and women). Director Todd Sansom put together a wonderful film, truly capturing some of the magic of what it was like to be in Doc’s presence. You can stream the film online starting on November 3rd and I highly recommend that you do so. Here’s the link for that.
I actually wrote some more about both of these men last year, in the “Great Americans” edition of the newsletter. So you can check that out for more details and a pair of really nice obituaries.
Alright…how about some content?
The Weekly Read
The Hidden Mystery of Hoops Diplomacy: France vs. China 1966, by Lindsay Sarah Krasnoff, via the LA Review of Books. From 2019, but new to me this week. A really well done piece of forgotten history on the role of basketball in Sino-Gallic relations, by arguably the top American authority on French sport. Absolutely worth the read.
If you missed the other three weekly reads this month, you can find them all here in the newsletter archive. I didn’t mean for them all to be profiles of individuals, but I guess it was a good month for profiling?
We’re going to overrrrrtime!
We saw some history this month, when the football game between Penn State and Illinois smashed a record by going into nine (!!) overtime periods. Trust me, it wasn’t as exciting as it sounds. The good news is that the game inspired this lovely piece by Scott Hines in his Action Cookbook newsletter. Hines offers some entertaining alternatives for the way we resolve tied games. And consider reading the comments, which include some pretty hilarious takes. Yes, most online comment sections are a cesspool of awfulness, but this one is not.
From there, I found myself going down a wikipedia rabbit-hole on overtime formats, which was more interesting than it might sound. If you don’t want to follow my lead there, I can at least offer you two good nuggets of trivia. First, the current college football overtime format used to be known as “Kansas Style,” owing to its origins in that states high school athletics association. Second, I was fascinated to learn about “California Style” football overtime, which I’d never heard of. No, this does not mean a vegan cook-off was used to determine the winner…it was something more like a tug-of-war, evoking football as a game of territory. Here’s a decent history piece on that.
And here’s some more stuff to read…
I’d rather not spend much time on the ugly side of sports, but we can’t ignore it. In the wake of the investigation into the Washington Football Team and the related resignation of Raiders’ coach Jon Gruden, the NFL remains a (wildly succesful) hot mess. A couple NYT opinion pieces capture the moment pretty well. Here’s one, and another. Not wanting to be left out, the NHL also served us a dose of ugliness, with the ongoing sexual abuse story centered on the Chicago Blackhawks.
Let’s get back to things that are more fun…
Dan McQuade considers whether a play can be a blooper and a highlight at the same time. Short and amusing, click this one if only to watch the video of the goal.
Like death and taxes, my sharing something from Eric Nusbaum and Adam Villacin’s Sport Stories is one of the few guarantees in this life. This one, on the epic life of Grandma Gatewood, is great.
For the league’s 75th anniversary, the NBA released its list of the top 75 players of all time. A notable snub was Alex English, the hall-of-fame small forward who spent the brunt of his career in Denver. The bad news for English is good news for us, as it led to the resurfacing of Pete Croatto’s absolutely bizarre and fascinating story about a forgotten film called Amazing Grace and Chuck, which starred…Alex English. Well worth a read.
I’m not sure how I stumbled upon this short piece on the impact of cigarette smoke on old sports photos, but it’s cool! The photo comparisons are pretty neat.
I found myself absolutely gripped by Jeff Pearlman’s attempt at tracking down Brooks Melchior, founder of the somewhat legendary “Sports By Brooks” website. If you don’t remember the site, it was sort of a Drudge Report for sports, if Drudge had also featured scantily clad women. A bit of a canary in the coal-mine for traditional sports journalism. Melchior built up a massive following and then abruptly disappeared. Pearlman wrote this in 2016, but it was never published until this week, when he featured in his new newsletter.
Thanks so much for reading the inaugural SportsThink Monthly Review. As always, don’t hesitate to reach out with feedback or suggestions. I’ll be back next week with the Weekly Read and might try to get you the November review in time for Thanksgiving travel. No promises though.
Until next time,