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The SportsThink Weekly Review #75
November 18, 2022
Welcome new readers! The SportsThink Weekly Review highlights my favorite sport-related reading of the week. Most articles are recently published, but some are not; the only rule is that I’ve read them within the past week. 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 Pains and Pleasures of the World Cup
We’re two days out from the first the match of the World Cup, with hosts Qatar taking on Ecuador this Sunday (10AM for my fellow Central Time folks). We’ll be treated to a month of (hopefully) world class action. I’m excited, but haven’t found myself as obsessed in the lead-up as I usually am. This isn’t due to internal moral conflict (although I have some of that), I think it’s just that I’ve been busy and a winter World Cup is flat out weird. I’m not supposed to be hyped for the greatest tournament in sports this time of year; I’m supposed to be bemoaning Longhorn Football and the Raiders (which, I am). As for that moral conflict, I can’t blame you if you don’t feel like tuning in to a sporting event that will bring glory to an autocratic regime in stadia at least partially built by exploitative (if not outright slave) labor. But I’m watching, with big time sports remaining my most Faustian bargain. FIFA are as corrupt a bunch of bastards as anyone, but I’m willing to tolerate them because I simply cannot fathom not watching. Judge me as you will.
This is good and the one to read this week. I’m suspicious of the “how thing X explains everything” format, but credit to Murphy, he acknowledges that in this piece. A long and very well reported deep dive into the money and politics of world soccer, sort of a “where are we now and how did we get we here?” that really does do a decent job of explaining (some of) the world today. Worth your time. Thanks to Matt Bowers for sharing.
There are no shortage of these out there, but I like this one because it’s relatively brief. A quick team-by-team look at all of the countries in tournament, with links to read more about each, which should help you pick some sides to root for. With Turkish soccer in shambles, I’m all in on the US, but really have no idea when it comes to expectations. Our group includes Wales, Iran, and England. On paper, we’re good. We’ve got great players who play in some of the top leagues in the world, but have been beyond lousy in the lead-up when they’re playing together. We’re young, which is good or bad depending on whom you ask. Many pundits are predicting 3 losses and an early trip home, which is certainly possible. If I had to bet, I’d bet on weirdness. We could very well beat Wales, lose to Iran, and draw with England, and sneak into the knockout stages in second place in the group. Who knows?
Beyond the US, I’ll be cheering for our fellow North American squads as well. Mexico is the traditional US rival, but as long as it’s not head-to-head with the US, I always support the Mexican national team. A great soccer culture, solid enough to contend, but often on the border of being the underdog on the international stage, they’re always a fun squad to root for. Plus, I’ve spent most of my life in California and Texas, so this is pretty much my national team as well. Meanwhile, Canada has had a somewhat unexpected surge in performance in recent years, making their first World Cup in 36 years. Another young and entertaining team who are very easy to root for.
As always, thanks for reading. Please share the newsletter with anyone who might enjoy it. Gonna take next week off for the holiday, but I’ll be back soon.
See you in two weeks,