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The SportsThink Weekly Review #64
August 12, 2022
Greetings everyone, hope the week is wrapping up nicely. Busy week at SportsThink HQ as I wrapped up summer school and prepared a paper for a conference, but I did have time to come across a few things worth sharing. Here they are…
Tribute to the GOAT
With good reason, Serena Williams’ impending retirement was the big sports news of the week. She’s been such a dominant force in tennis and is just an overall badass. I can of course never fully appreciate what it means, but I’ll never forget that she played and won matches while pregnant. Seriously, badass. There’s been a ton of ink spilled on her retirement, but I’m partial to this video, scripted and narrated by Howard Bryant, who’s a badass himself. Well worth the four minutes of your time.
A Dubious Study
In Redondo Beach, CA, at the intersection of Manhattan Beach Boulevard and Inglewood Avenue, you’ll find El Gaucho Meat Market. Nominally a butcher shop and small grocery, the little cafe at the back is the real star of the show at El Gaucho. Excellent empanadas, milanesas, and more, but the steak sandwich is something else. Simple, but excellent. Given the Argentine background of the owners, no surprise that this is also a soccer spot. In the 90s, before soccer was all over American cable TV, I’d skip class and go watch international matches via satellite. But back to the steak sandwich: I ate A LOT of these. But then, in 2000, I went vegetarian. (This lasted about a year and a half). My dad and I went in for one of our regular visits and I ordered something that wasn’t steak…probably cheese empanadas? One of the owners (Toni or Abel, I can’t remember) was surprised. “No steak?” “No, I’m vegetarian now.” (Of course, I had to stick to the time-honored vegetarian tradition of telling everyone.) He looked at me with grave concern. “My friend. You are a goalkeeper. Goalkeepers must eat meat.” He looked devastated as he handed me my food.
This sort of folk sports wisdom abounds in the so-called old-world. At 17, I knew that he was wrong, these days, maybe not? Anyway, steak is delicious and I had my best goalkeeping performances after I resumed eating meat. I was also training way more seriously, but let’s say it was the steak. This is essentially the premise of this study, which I found totally amusing. The authors have this to say: “We provide novel evidence that poor individuals born in countries with high consumption of meat are more likely to show soccer prowess.” It’s a fun piece of research to sift through, but I can’t say I’m buying it. I shared it with Brian Mills, a colleague who is recognized for his expertise on data and his response included no commentary, just a link to this site, which is pretty fun to read through.
Soccer x Twitter x3
As I mentioned, I spent the week writing a paper for a conference. Writing means procrastination and procrastination means Twitter. But the paper is done and I think it’s pretty good. More importantly, I found these gems to share with you.
Part 1: An excellent thread on the obscure and tiny championship of Greenlandic football. I love trivia like this on the logistics and challenges of small-scale sport. Should be interesting for everyone, not just the soccer folks.
Part 2: Meticulous, detailed analysis of a novel development in strategy and tactics. Threads like this justify the existence of Twitter, which is generally a cesspool. I don’t know this guy, but he appears to be a hobbyist who goes DEEP. This will be most fascinating for soccer nerds, but the commitment and effort here should be impressive to everyone. For those keeping score, he’s looking at a team in the German second division. True nerd business. Love it.
Part 3: Ridiculous and perfect.
As always, thanks for reading. Please share the newsletter!
See you next week,