Discover more from The SportsThink Newsletter
The SportsThink Monthly Review #3
January 31, 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!
Hi folks! Squeezing in the Monthly Review on the last day of January. Hope you’re safe and warm, wherever you may be. A busy month for me, but still plenty of interesting and great stuff to read. Let’s get to it…
Sadly, it seems like we’ve had quite the stretch of notable passings. From Desmond Tutu to Betty White, the great beyond has really beefed up its roster in the past several weeks.
The biggest loss in the sports world was John Madden, whose color commentary revolutionized modern broadcasting. He also lent his name to one of the biggest video game franchises ever, introducing the finer points of the game (and plenty of rage-quitting) to millions. Oh, and he was a Raider, so he’s an automatic SportsThink Hall of Famer. There was of course much written about Madden in the wake of his passing, but I quite liked this brief tribute (Tom Ley, Defector). Even better is Patrick Hruby’s excellent history of the Madden video game franchise, first published on ESPN some years ago. A really good read.
We also lost basketball pioneer Lusia Harris. A star at Delta State, Harris was a silver medalist at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, where she notably recorded the first points scored in women’s basketball at the Olympics. Perhaps even more notably, Harris was drafted by the New Orleans Jazz of the NBA, ahead of 33 men in the 1977 draft. She was pregnant and didn’t attend training camp and never competed in a male professional league, although she did play for the Houston Angels of the short-lived Women’s Professional Basketball League. There is some debate as to whether Harris should be considered the first woman drafted by an NBA team: Denise Rife was picked out of high-school by the San Francisco Warriors in 1969, but that selection was invalidated by NBA commissioner Walter Kennedy, “on grounds that, at the time, the league did not draft players straight from high school—nor women” (wiki). Thus, the late Harris maintains the position of being the first and only woman officially drafted by an NBA team. Here’s a detailed obituary by Richard Sandomir, which also notes that Harris was the first black woman inducted into the basketball hall of fame.
Finally, RIP to Meatloaf, if only to share this lovely story about the rock star’s time spent coaching high school softball.
How about an absolutely insane goal?
Great name on the goal scorer as well.
A Couple Pieces I Really Enjoyed
In the 1990s, I enjoyed few things more than a trip to E.T. Surf, Hermosa Beach’s legendary surf/skate/snowboard shop. In those days (and likely still) there was something of a loft that wrapped around the ceiling, where shoe inventory was kept. If you asked for say, a pair of Etnies Sal Barbiers in a size 9, a staffer would scramble up a ladder, and depending on their mood, either toss the shoebox your way or gently bring them down. If he was working that shift, the most likely candidate of the E.T. crew to grab your shoes was Jason Acuña, whose small stature made him ideally suited for the cramped space. But beyond his physique, there is nothing particularly small about Acuña, who is better known to millions around the world as Wee-Man, notably of the Jackass film and TV franchise. I can’t say I knew him well in those days (or now), but I can say that Acuña always radiated good energy, the epitome of vibes. Thus it was no surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed Caity Weaver’s “The Tao of Wee-Man” (NYT Magazine.) On the occasion of the upcoming Jackass 4 (which will be the best movie released this year), Weaver offers a great profile of her subject, along with plenty of good bits on Jackass, skateboarding, and more.
It’s been two weeks since the greatest NFL playoff weekend ever. I think we can agree on that, right? After 3 games won on the final play, it almost felt inevitable that the Chiefs-Bills matchup would end dramatically as well. Somehow, the reality was so dramatic that most of us would have scoffed if the final two minutes of the game were included in a fictional football setting. Quarterbacks Allen (Bills) and Mahomes (Chiefs) made play after amazing play, setting up the most reviled moment in American sports: NFL overtime. If you care about such things, you know how the game ended: the Chiefs won the coin toss, scored, and that was that. Including that game, there had been 11 playoff games decided by overtime in the league’s history; 10 were won by the squad that won the coin toss (and 7 of those 10 were on the first possession). (In fairness, the Chiefs attempted to balance the books a bit yesterday, when they won the toss and lost in overtime, bringing the overall number to 10/12). At this point, it feels like if the OT rules aren’t revised now, they never will be. But I wouldn’t hold out much hope; this is decidedly not a new conversation. All of that said, I highly recommend Michael Weinreb’s history of overtime in the NFL, really good stuff.
And a few more things I enjoyed reading over the past month, in no particular order
Is This Stadium in England or Wales? Fascinating story on the big implications of a seemingly trivial border.
As always, thank you for reading. I’d appreciate you sharing the newsletter with anyone that might enjoy it. See you Friday for the Weekly Read.