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The SportsThink Monthly Review #5
April 1, 2022
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!
Happy April Fools’ Day everyone, may all of your pranks be kindhearted and well-received! The best part of my month was a spring break family road trip, which was an excellent time minus the Applebee’s in Mt. Pleasant, TX (seriously, don’t go there). We found Lexington, KY very charming and Memphis was cool as always. Hot Springs, AR was the unexpected highlight, a legitimately weird place with layers of history. I knew that baseball’s spring training had begun in the city, but I’d never visited before and it was cool to see how Hot Springs has embraced its sporting past with the Historic Baseball Trail. Here’s me and Gus in front of Mel Ott’s historical marker:
Perhaps even cooler is this home plate, in the parking lot of a commercial business, spitting distance from the Hot Springs Alligator Farm and Petting Zoo.
This is the site where—allegedly—the legend of Babe Ruth as a batter was born. The story, as I have gathered from various sources, is that the Great Bambino had been angling for a spot in the batting order and was trying to assert himself by showing off at batting practice. Filling in at first base on St. Patrick’s Day 1918, he got two at-bats from this spot, and crushed two home runs. The second was a monster shot, landing in what is now the aforementioned Alligator Farm/Tourist Trap. A couple online baseball nuts have done the analysis and claim that that home run traveled over 570 feet, which is huge by the standards of any era of baseball. (Speaking of St. Patrick’s Day, we had no idea that it is a massively big deal in Hot Springs, which claims to host the “world's shortest St. Patrick’s Day parade.” Guests this year included Sugar Ray (the band, not Leonard), Cheech Marin, Danny Trejo, and the Paw Patrol. As I said, it’s a weird place.)
The Long Game Conference
I’m excited to announce UT Sport Management’s second annual Playing the Long Game Conference, hosted by yours truly and Jim Rooney of the Pittsburgh Steelers. This is a free, virtual event, next Thursday (4/7) afternoon and our sessions should definitely be of interest to my readers. We kick things off at 1pm Central, with a keynote conversation featuring Emmy Award winning sportscaster James Brown of CBS Sports. The keynote is followed at 2pm by a panel on the future of technology in sports business, hosted by Asher Price of Axios and featuring a really interesting set of voices from the NFL, sports media, and sports gambling. We’ll finish at 4pm with a panel on race and equity in professional and collegiate sport, again with an all-star cast. For a full list of panelists, session descriptions, and registration information, please click here. Hope to see you there and please consider registering even if you might not make it, it helps me out!
The Reads of The Month
Between spring break, conference preparations, and general work demands, I didn’t get to as much reading as I would have liked to in March. But there was good stuff, as always. Here are my favorites, in no particular order. Happy Reading.
I can’t say why, but bowling came up multiple times in my classes this month, prompting me to seek out a good history of professional bowling, which of course used to be a Very Big Deal. I found this piece to be well done; entertaining and informative.
I’ve been chipping away at Chuck Klosterman’s latest book, The Nineties. I know some folks find him exhausting, but I’m still a fan and would recommend this one. It’s gotten me thinking about sports in that decade, the years in which my interest became an obsession. For better or worse, the ESPN Jock Jams CDs came to mind as well (Y’ALL READY FOR THIS? DUN DUN DU DU DU DU DU). I went down a deep wiki wormhole and eventually stumbled on this commemorative piece on Jock Jams from the Huffington Post. It’s good, not great. If you’ve got access to The Athletic, I would highly recommend Rustin Dodd’s history of the albums, which is really great. Both are worth a read if you’re a product of that era or if you’re just generally curious about how the music of gay dance clubs came to be the sound of our most traditionally masculine spaces.
Regular readers know that I love Mirin Fader’s work and that I consider her the best athlete profile writer in the business. Thus, I was stoked to come across her recent piece on Destiny Littleton, the all-time leading scorer in California girls’ high school basketball and a crucial role player for Dawn Staley’s awesome South Carolina Gamecocks squad. This one resonated personally, as Destiny was a student in my class before she transferred and I found her to be smart, kind, and just generally cool. I also remember a couple Texas games where she pulled up and drained shots from like a mile away like she was shooting layups. Badass. It’s a great profile and I always love these pieces that dig into athletes who aren’t superstars or household names. With the Horns out of the tournament, I’ll be cheering for Destiny and her team this weekend in the Final Four.
Speaking of women’s sports, this year marks 50 years since the passage of Title IX and USA Today has published a truly amazing package of content about the history and current state of women’s collegiate sports. Sadly, it’s all behind a paywall. But you can get two months of access for free and I highly recommend this for anyone interested in understanding the current college sports landscape, regardless of gender. There are several articles by great journalists, including Jessica Luther, Nancy Armour, and Steve Berkowitz, to name a few. Perhaps the crown jewel of the content is a searchable database that lets you compare spending on men’s and women’s teams across a range of categories and schools. My favorite nugget to emerge out of the data thus far? Over two years, Louisville spent $24,000 on equipment for women’s basketball, or about a $1,000 per player, per season. They spent over $725,000 on the men over the same period, including a single trip to a sporting goods store where they rang up almost $10,000, including almost $3,000 on…socks. I shit you not.
(Also: what is this athletic department doing shopping retail like the rest of us? What’s that conversation like? “Hey you, unpaid student manager, take this card and head to Dick’s, we need three grand of socks ASAP.” ???)
I enjoyed this NYT article on the emergence of Australia as hot-bed of talent for point guards. Interesting to see how the NBA’s global initiatives are playing out.
I’m a big fan of Jeff Pearlman, who writes some of the best popular sports history books out there. He’s recently been busy promoting HBO’s adaptation of his book on the Showtime-era Lakers, but he still found the time to write this heavy, but very good article on the lives changed by the truly reprehensible car accident caused by ex-Raider' Henry Ruggs. Not an easy read, but very humane and well done.
As always, thank you so much for reading. For more, including all of the Weekly Reads and Monthly Reviews, you can head over to the archive. If you enjoyed the newsletter, I’d appreciate you sharing it with others who might also like it.
See you next week,