The SportsThink Weekly Review #79
January 13, 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!
Hi everyone, hope it’s been a good week. If you watched the college football championship this week, I owe you an apology, as I think I jinxed things. Last week, I celebrated the quality of the semi-final matchups, as well as the recent World Cup final, as great examples of games living up to the hype. Well, whatever the opposite of living up to the hype is, that’s what we got on Monday. Poor TCU. At least I got to bed at a reasonable hour. Let’s get on with the reading…
Forde is solid as usual here, a nice analysis of just how good the back-to-back champion Georgia Bulldog team is. There’s a good dose about quarterback Bennett, who has been insanely good in big games and yet, according to the Internet and half the football pundits out there, is not actually good??? Yes, at 25 years of age and with a seemingly endless college career (thank you, Covid eligibility), Bennett is an easy punching bag. But I can’t wrap my head around how a guy can kick so much ass and lead his team to so much success and still end up generating so much press focused on how “he’s not really that good” and “he won’t make it in the NFL.” This second critique is an exhausting trope that folks trot out annually. It grates me for two reasons. First, what is wrong with being good in the role that you currently are in? He’s NOT an NFL quarterback, he’s a college quarterback and his team…beat everyone, for two years straight. Second, for all of their efforts, most NFL teams still haven’t nailed the art and science of drafting quarterbacks, and the pundits are even worse. Lamar Jackson was supposed to be awful, the Ravens idiots for drafting him. Josh Allen was supposed to be an underprepared loser, there was no way Wyoming’s QB could cut it at the next level. Etc. Etc. Etc. I love football, but I claim no expertise on the technical side of the game. I have no idea how Bennett will fare in the League. Based on the data in my lifetime, neither does anyone else. I will take small bets that he will have a better career than Jamarcus Russell, who was—of course—destined for greatness and cost the Raiders something like 7 million per touchdown.
The history of women in sport is a history of bad assumptions about the female body and its supposed limits. Well into the twentieth century, the consensus was that women who pushed themselves too hard would be rendered infertile, or simply keel over and die. There was not a women’s Olympic marathon until 1984. (My friend Jaime Schultz has a wonderful article about this.) We went to the moon before we sanctioned women running 26 miles.
I remember a presentation from my colleague Jason Shurley, who dug into the literature on menstruation and athletic performance. Collecting study after study over the years, Shurley noted that some scientists (and pseudoscientists) argued that women shouldn’t exercise or compete during their periods, or before their periods, or after their periods. In short, based on the “research” a woman exerting herself too strenuously on any given day of the month relative to her cycle was at risk for some sort of grievous outcome. The result was a darkly cynical commentary on how poorly we have studied the female body.
This is the thread picked up by Hruby in this excellent piece, which is really well done and I’m working on sneaking into my classes this semester. A look at what we know about the effects of contraception on female sports performance, how limited that knowledge is, and why it is so limited. Hruby continues to be one of the best long form sports journalists in the business.
I was dragging my feet on writing this newsletter, then I read this and got to work. If McKee can run 9,500 miles in a year, you can surely do that thing you’ve been putting off! A nice, short piece on a quietly impressive achievement.
As always, thanks for reading. Please share the newsletter, it means the world to me when you do. And I’m always on the lookout for great content, so please keep sending along the things that you find interesting. You can always just hit reply to the newsletter in your inbox, or find me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
See you next week,