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The SportsThink Weekly Review #17
October 2, 2020
Hello and welcome to the seventeenth edition of the Weekly Review! A busy sports week in this bizarre sports year: the Tampa Bay Lightning lifted the Stanley Cup as the Heat and Lakers kicked off the NBA finals, while the massive MLB playoffs also got under way. That sentence would be absurd 6 months ago. On to the reads!
Inside the Lines: The Best Writing on Sports I Read This Week
Hockey Needs Viewers. It Should Not Glorify Pain and Violence to Get Them. by Kurt Streeter, via the NYT. We love the hits, but should we? An incisive piece on our thirst for violence in sports.
Quite the rollercoaster here. Why America Needs College Football, by Matthew J. Mayhew and Musbah Shaheen, via Inside Higher Ed. The authors’ argument essentializing the sport was widely blasted in certain corners of the sports-internet. A strong response came in the form of this letter from Andrew McGregor, a history professor who has written extensively on the politics of college football. And then Mayhew wrote this apology (which doesn’t really engage with McGregor’s letter). As for the arguments, I’m much more in line with McGregor than Mayhew. And while Mayhew’s mea culpa is nice, I’m not 100% in favor of this sort of apology. In part because it seems forced and not genuine, but also because authors of opinion pieces have the right to their positions, even lousy ones. Perhaps the lesson is a simple reminder to really think about what we write before we broadcast our thoughts. And while we’re considering how essential college sports are to American culture, it seems like a good time to revisit Stephen Fry’s visit to the Iron Bowl, truly great:
The Unexpected Journey of Lightning Coach Jon Cooper, by Joe Smith via the Tampa Bay Times. From 2015, sharing on the occasion of the Lightning’s Stanley Cup victory. A great story of a very untraditional path to professional coaching. I especially love this because it challenges the absurdity of standard pro hiring practices, wherein we are often led to believe there are only about 35 some-odd men who are capable of leading the 30 some-odd teams in US leagues. Thanks to ST contributor (and the #1 Lightning fan in Central Texas) Matt Bowers for sharing.
Inside the ‘Tinderization’ of Today’s NBA by Tom Haberstroh, via ESPN. Revisiting this one from 2017. Much has been made about the pandemic’s effects on performance: greater rest and higher scoring, the elimination of home field/court advantage, etc. This piece examines historical shifts in the declining value of home court advantage in the NBA. Three big factors over the last few decades: charter flights, a shift in athlete’s attitudes on recovery and rest, and….social media dating apps. In short: you get more rest if you’re not up in the club.
When Did Competitive Sports Take Over American Childhood? by Hilary Levey Friedman, via the Atlantic. From 2013. We took on the highs and lows of youth sports in one of my classes this week and this piece provides a nice overview of the historical trajectory of the subject. Also of interest, this piece from Henry Bushnell on why American youth soccer remains a predominantly white sport.
(self-promotion!) From Ghost Town to Global Stage, by me, via Stratfor. From 2017. On soccer, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the decades long fight over Nagorno-Karabach. Relevant this week as the regional conflict has escalated once again. (I’m not sure how Stratfor is handling the paywall these days, send me note if you can’t access but want to read this one.)
Tweets of The Week
This one brought back memories of panicked neighbors when our house practically exploded following Turkey’s comeback win over Croatia in the 2008 European Championship.
Heartwarming. Got this one from the Axios Sports newsletter.
The Week on SportsThink
Keeping up with pandemic accelerants in broadcasting and youth sports, some data on Gen Z’s diminishing interest in sports, and a podcast featuring yours truly sounding off on the history of amateurism in America.
Captain Beefheart’s ’10 commandments of guitar playing’ via Far Out. The avant-garde legend thinks we should listen to the birds and marinate instruments in sweat.
'I'm extremely controversial': the Psychologist Rethinking Human Emotion, by David Shariatmadari, via the Guardian. Probably the most thought provoking thing I read this week (although I didn’t have time to read THAT much).
As always, thanks for reading and please consider sharing!
See you next week,