The SportsThink Weekly Review #54

August 13, 2021

Hello and welcome to the fifty-fourth edition of the Weekly Review! May your Friday the 13th be free of spookiness and bad luck.

On to the content!

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Inside the Lines: My Favorite Sports Reads of The Week

  1. No Balls, No Nets, by Kyle Beachy, via the Paris Review. An excerpt from the author’s new book, The Most Fun Thing: Dispatches From a Skateboard Life. My copy arrived this week. I haven’t gotten too far into the book yet, but what I’ve read is great and makes me jealous as a sometimes-writer. Beachy is a novelist and literature professor, making him as good a candidate as any to wrangle the abstract greatness of skating. Love this bit: “It is usually pretty clear who to call the best skater at any given session, or among a group of friends. But what looks like victory among pack dogs and, I suppose, salespeople and law students and most other worlds premised on rankings, is among skaters almost wholly irrelevant.”

  2. The Secret Wisdom of George Gankas, Golf’s Radical New Guru, by Zach Baron, via GQ. Regular readers know how much I love unorthodox characters in traditional sports and Gankas is 100% one of those. If I didn’t hate the term “disruption” so much, I’d say he was a great disruptor of the game. In any case, a fun read on a great figure.

  3. Athletes Greatly Benefit From Participation in Sports at Collegiate and Secondary Level, by James J. Heckman and Collen P. Loughlin, via the NBER. What do we have here? A 40 page study from that great bastion of fun, the National Bureau of Economic Research? I need to give this one a second (and maybe third) read, but this is important stuff for those involved and/or interested in the realities of sports in school. Somewhat of a rebuke to critics (myself included) who highlight the downsides of embedding elite sport programs in academic settings. But! Perhaps important to note that the authors have worked for the NCAA. From the abstract: “On average, student athletes’ benefit- often substantially so—in terms of graduation, post-collegiate employment, and earnings. Benefits in terms of social mobility for disadvantaged and minority students are substantial, contrary to the anecdotes in play in the media and in the courts.”

  4. The Lawn Problem, by Arianne Shavisi, via the London Review of Books. Sports adjacent, but on an important topic: grass! As sports (and everything else) wrestle with climate change, a consideration of our playing surfaces seems essential.

  5. The Wisdom of The Crowd, by Rory Smith, via the NYT. A really good look at the influential soccer wesbite, Transfermarkt. “Soccer takes the player valuations posted on the website Transfermarkt extremely seriously. It has never really stopped to ask where they come from.” Nice read for the data and soccer heads.

  6. Giannis Is What Happens When N.B.A. Dreams Come True, by Mirin Fader, via the NYT. Another nice book excerpt. From Fader’s newly released, Giannis: The Improbable Rise of an NBA MVP. I’ve shared several of her pieces in the past and I think this book cements Fader as the best athlete profiler currently active in sports journalism. Fortuitous timing with the Bucks title win, but it would be a great read under any circumstances.

Tweet of the Week

Ok, so this was definitely my favorite trivia of the week: there’s a 3rd division soccer club in Paraguay named after US president…Rutherford B. Hayes??? I had to dig deeper on this and found that there’s actually a Paraguayan department (like a state or province, I gather?) called Presidente Hayes, with its capital at Villa Hayes. The naming comes from Hayes’ involvement in settling a border dispute between Paraguy and Argentina following the Paraguayan war. While we’re at it, friendly reminders that Hayes was raised by single mother, lost the popular vote but won the electoral college, and that the “B.” is for Birchard.

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See you next week,

Tolga