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The SportsThink Weekly Review #76
December 9, 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!
Happy Friday, y’all. My apologies for the recent radio silence, I guess it’s just that time of the year. Last time around I shared some pieces on the World Cup and threw my support behind the three North American teams, who have long since come home. Canada was perhaps the second-worst team (after hosts Qatar), just total shambles. Mexico forgot that they had to score goals to win games. The US performance was somehow quite strong and totally disappointing all at once. There’s plenty of discussion and critique of the US tactics, but it ultimately came down to a total lack of creativity in attack and our insistence on hitting cross after cross at some of the best defenders in the world, hoping for God knows what. We still looked pretty good though. Like many people, I’m now a dedicated fan of Morocco, whom I’ve passionately supported for almost a week.
I might bring myself to write something longer on this World Cup, but that’s a task for another day. It’s been a good tournament, with the final group stage matches proving unusually meaningful. Attendance in person has come in under expectations, but TV viewership has broken records around the globe. I think we’re also seeing a reorienting of the whole “sports and politics” conversation, but I can’t quite articulate where we have landed….those who have sought to pretend (or deny) that sports are political have always been wrong, but it feels like the way in which sports are political has changed. Or maybe it’s the way in which the media presentation of the sports/politics intersection has changed? Like: the politics are out in the open now and somehow have been neutered through exposure? I’m not sure. I don’t quite have the words yet, but hopefully I’ll find them soon. Anyway, enough rambling. Let’s get to the reads…
Highly recommended. Not to be presumptuous, but I’m guessing most folks aren’t that familiar with the life of Eleanor Holm. An Olympic Gold medal swimmer, she was perhaps most famous for getting kicked off the US team while en route to the 1936 games in Berlin. The official narrative was that she repeatedly broke team rules, drinking champagne well past curfew on the steam ship and receiving a diagnosis of “acute alcoholism” from the team doctors (I think that means she was drunk). Holm never denied the partying (and felt she was entitled to it), but always maintained that her dismissal was retribution for turning down US Olympic chairman Avery Brundage’s sexual advances. Brundage would go on to head the International Olympic Committee and was, by most accounts, a raging asshole. I’m inclined to side with Holm, who lived a fascinating and occasionally controversial life beyond the pool. She made it to Berlin, eventually partying with the top Nazis now that she didn’t have any swimming to do. Before Berlin, she was mired in a bit of controversy when her top competitor at the 1932 Games was rendered unable to compete under suspicious circumstances (details in the story, a bit of Nancy and Tonya before Nancy and Tonya). After swimming, she was a socialite and stage performer and just an all-around interesting character, as Bense’s piece reveals.
I first came across Holm when occasional SportsThink contributor Austin Duckworth made mention of her in some of his work and I’ve long been fascinated by her. Her name sits on a list of “topics I’d like to write about” and I’ll occasionally dig around to see what I can find. I found myself doing that this week and stumbled upon Bense’s piece, which is damn good and might render my potential product irrelevant. Worth it.
Some more soccer reading
I trust you’re good on the day-to-day coverage, but here are a few notable pieces I enjoyed. Tis the season, after all…
I liked this article by James Montague on the Qatari importation of “fans” and hooligan culture from abroad. Sarah Lyall’s essay on the Qatari stadia is really well put together, definitely one I’ll be using in my graduate class on facilities and events next semester. As is tradition, the World Cup makes Americans ask, “why are we not better at this game?” The answer is multivariate, but much hinges on our approach to youth soccer (and youth sports more generally). The culprits, for the most part, are parents and money. This short NPR piece captures things well.
As always thanks for reading. Please send along your recommendations and share the newsletter with folks who might enjoy it.
See you next week,