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The SportsThink Weekly Read #20
May 13, 2020
Welcome new readers! The SportsThink Weekly Read highlights my favorite sport-related article of the week. On the last Friday of each month, I send out the Monthly Review, a longer digest of readings and other content of interest. Most articles 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. I also occasionally share articles and assorted musings on Twitter. 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!
The Weekly Read(s)
You’ve likely seen some of the recent headlines surrounding bigger and bigger paydays for college athletes…Xavier Worthy, the star wide receiver from Texas, reportedly turned down a cool 5 million to transfer to USC (not sure what he got to stay). His teammate, Longhorn running back Bijan Robinson, just signed a deal with the Lamborghini dealership in Austin. I feel it’s important to note that, a) the Lambo shop sits next to a very dilapidated animal hospital and b) I’ve yet to see Bijan rolling on campus in the new ride. Parking remains problematic on the 40 Acres.
We are decidedly in the Full Blown Chaos era of Name-Image-Likeness and related player compensation in NCAA sports. Even for those (like me) who are so excited to see athletes get in on the action, it’s hard not to feel like we are losing…something.
But still, I’m Pro-Chaos. Finger pointing and the blame game are afoot; the boosters are evil (duh), the players are greedy (get outta here). Any grievances we/you may have should be forwarded to Indianapolis, c/o the NCAA. Perhaps they can get their heads out of the sand long enough to read your salvo.
There have been a lot of perspectives trying to reconcile “how we got here,” but this recent one by Alex Kirshner is my favorite. I pretty much agree with his take 100%. Read the whole thing, but here’s the gist:
Years of living in denial have caught up with the NCAA in a big way. Third-party payments to players have, in the absence of clear rules, given rise to the thing the NCAA really abhorred from the start: players getting paid to play for specific teams. By going all-out against athlete pay of any kind and declining to engage with even a relative half-measure like name, image, and likeness payments, the NCAA played itself.
The link above goes to a site that stitches tweets together into something resembling an article. Here’s the source:
I was not familiar with Sherman before I read this, but he seems to have a very sound philosophy of how to think about playing golf (and there’s a book coming out). In short: focus on reducing mistakes rather than making the big plays/shots. It reminds me of something I once read about tennis, that it’s a “loser’s game,” one that is more often lost by one player than won by their opponent. Just focus on keeping the ball in play and let the other guy lose points. As an approach to life, it may come off as too conservative or risk-averse, but I think there’s something there. If we can minimize bad decisions and let the good decisions (and luck) come when they may, things will likely turn out pretty well.
The Mostly Untold Story Of How The Sports Bra Conquered The World And Tore Its Inventors Apart, by David Davis (Defector).
Trust me here. You may think you don’t need 5,000+ words on the history of the sports bra, but you do. (I should also point out that Jaime Schultz, whom I mentioned two weeks ago, has done very good academic work on the sports bra) Great article by Davis, who writes a lot of good stuff, including an excellent biography of surfing legend Duke Kahanamoku, which was just adapted into a PBS ‘American Masters.’ Perhaps most importantly, he’s a SportsThink subscriber, so he’s very clearly a man of taste. (Congrats, David, on the PBS show!!)
The Road Ahead…
I’m about to wrap up the semester next week and hit the road with the family for the better part of six weeks. For the first time in my life, I feel like I’ve earned a vacation. There won’t be a Monthly Review for May, but I plan on keeping up with the Weekly Reads. They will most likely be favorites from the past, but I’ll attempt to stay current as time and life allow. Should be back to regular action by mid-July. Please keep sending articles you enjoy, feedback, hot tips on crypto, etc.
As always, thanks for reading. Please share the newsletter!
See you soon,