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The SportsThink Weekly Review #78
January 6, 2023
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!
Hello everyone, and happy new year! Hope you are sticking to your resolutions and things are off to a good start in 2023. I’ve resolved to be a bit more consistent with the newsletter this year, so here’s to regularly sending you some good stuff to read and think about.
There’s been a lot of action since I last wrote. Isn’t it nice when the Big Games turn out to be as good as advertised? We had two pretty epic college football semi-finals (rooting for TCU in the championship this Monday) and one of the—if not THE—greatest World Cup finals of all time. That final really encapsulated what soccer can be…sort of a one-side slog for over an hour and then, WHOA. Hats off to Argentina and Messi in particular, but let’s not forget this absolutely massive save from Emiliano Martinez. Unreal. (Remember that this was in the 122nd and would have 100% been a game winner. He also saved a couple penalties for good measure.)
Not all of the recent sports action has been so positive. I’m sure I’m not the only one who was watching Monday Night Football this week when the Buffalo Bills’ Damar Hamlin took a hit to the chest and went into cardiac arrest, nearly dying on the field. Hats off to the Bills’ and Bengals’ medical staffs, whose swift use of CPR and AED appears to have saved him. And the most recent reports are that Hamlin is doing well, all things considered. Thank goodness. The NFL took a lot of flack for taking about an hour to officially suspend the game, but I don’t really fault the league here (and I am no great NFL apologist). Yes, they should have some protocols ready, even for unprecedented events, but there are intense logistics at play when you have tens of thousands of people in a stadium and need to get them out safely some 2-3 hours ahead of schedule. All things considered, I think the league did OK here. I don’t have much of a take here beyond that, mostly just wishing Hamlin a full recovery and hoping that the players on both sides get the opportunity to healthily process what they witnessed.
With the new semester approaching, I didn’t have a ton of time to read this week, but I did come across a couple pretty good pieces. Hope you enjoy.
The highlight of my week was giving a talk to a local chapter of the Lions Club, it was a truly lovely time. I had met one of their members in the fall during a lecture at UT on the future of college football in the era of Name-Image-Likeness and realities surrounding traumatic brain injuries. Asked to speak on this topic, I did what historians do, and spent most of my time discussing how concerns about “amateurism” and the brutality of the sport are in fact nothing new and calls for the end of college football date back to the turn of the 20th century. Spoiler alert: we’re still cool with money and violence.
In a cosmic twist, I stumbled across this article shortly after my talk. I didn’t know this story, but it hits on nearly all of the themes I covered. Timely on the eve of the college football championship game, it’s a well researched piece from an LSU fan blog on the 1908 championship that the school has never been able to rightfully claim. The narrative is a bit disjointed, but the research is solid and there’s lots of great tidbits about the early days of the college game: players getting paid, the Bacardi Bowl in Havana, a fan hitting a player with a cane, legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice stirring the pot, and lots of hate on Auburn. As with all of the stuff from this period, some of the anecdotes seem like they are from another planet, but the general nature of the college game somehow feels exactly the same.
PS if you’re wondering if I actually trawl LSU fan blogs for content, alas, I am not that intrepid. I found this on an entertaining Reddit thread about the longest gaps between national championships. The record is currently held by Penn State (1912-1982), but can be eclipsed by TCU, who last won a natty in 1938, which I think is the Sammy Baugh era. GO FROGS!
Sports adjacent, but fascinating. An argument that we’ve been swimming for a very long time. I don’t know much about this site, but it seems to include some legit history alongside some more esoteric “the pyramids were built by OJ Simpson” type speculation, so proceed with caution, but this seems compelling enough. (and yes, I’m more likely to trawl the lizard people portion of the internet than the LSU part. And I’m sure there’s a convergence of the two somewhere out there.)
The Joy of Sports
A little late with this since I haven’t checked in since the World Cup, but if you haven’t seen it already, take a minute and watch this video of Andres Cantor calling the final penalty of the shootout. If you don’t know Cantor by name, you know his voice: he’s the gooooooooooooooooooooool guy. A bit of context, he was born in Argentina and came to California at 14 and has been the voice of Spanish-language soccer in the US for the better part of 4 decades. May this year bring you at least one moment that approaches this level of emotion.
As always, thanks for reading. Please send me the good stuff you come across and share the newsletter with folks who might enjoy it.
See you next week,