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The SportsThink Weekly Review #43
April 16, 2021
Hello and welcome to the forty-third edition of the Weekly Review! Who wore #43 best? Probably a tie for me, between Richard Petty and Troy Polamalu. A friend who played water polo at USC while Polamalu was beating up the entire Pac-10 told me that Troy was the rare Trojan football player who would interact with other athletes, even making a point to share the bounties of the football cafeteria with others. The thought of the soft-spoken, hard-hitting DB bringing his peers a tray of shrimp still makes me smile.
I’ve got good news and bad news in this late installment: the good news is that I’m done promoting the Long Game Symposium. The event was a huge success and I’m grateful to those of you were able to attend. Looking forward to doing at again in person next year. The bad news is that the conference took up much of time this week and there wasn’t as much reading to be done. Please accept this abbreviated collection of sports reads, I’ll be back with more of the usual next Friday.
Inside the Lines: My Favorite Sports Reads of The Week
A Very Big Deal, by Michael Weinreb, via his Throwbacks newsletter. One of the best sports-and-the-pandemic retrospectives you’ll read, and not just because I’m quoted. Really well done by Weinreb, whose newsletter you should subscribe to.
LaMarcus Aldridge Finally Opens Up, by Michael Pina, via Vice. Aldridge abruptly announced his retirement this week due to a heart condition, bringing a quietly (very) impressive NBA career to an unfortunate end. This great profile is from 2018 and worth the read. I believe credit goes to Eric Nusbaum for putting it on my twitter timeline.
Crack Kills and Other 1991 Pro Set Football Life Lessons, by Ryan Cracknell, via Beckett. This is a phenomenal time capsule, if not a bit random. Context here: I spent the first half of my day finishing up a conference presentation on the 1990s moral panic surrounding gang culture and Raiders apparel in schools across the US. If you don’t remember this era, it went something like this: NWA and gangsta rap get very popular, kids across the country start dressing like Cube and Eazy E, parents and schools freak out. It also put the NFL in a bind: having figured out merchandising in the 1980s, the league was crushing it in the 90s, in part thanks to rappers and the Raiders. While raking in the money, the league also had image problems, owing to labor strife and the increasing bad publicity surrounding steroid and cocaine use. Gang affiliations were far from desirable. The NFL response: they booked rapper KRS-ONE to give some lectures on the ills of gang life and hired MC Hammer (the least gangsta of them all) to film an anti-gang spot for MTV. (side note: I am struggling to find evidence that these things actually happened, I can only confirm that they were planned. anyone remember any of this???) What definitely DID happen were the Pro Set football cards featured in this article, wherein the league seemingly tried to tackle every single social issue of the day. Go take a look, it’s pretty amusing.
And that’s it for this week.
Sorry for the brevity.
As always, thank you for reading. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you’re having trouble accessing any articles, happy to send them directly your way. And, if you’re enjoying the newsletter, please consider sharing it with someone else who might like it.
See you next week,