The SportsThink Weekly Review #84
March 16, 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!
Hi everyone, happy Friday, and happy March Madness to all who celebrate. There are still a few day 1 games to go as I write this, but Furman’s win over Virginia will be hard to top in terms of drama. It also gives me an excuse to share one of my favorite bits of sports trivia: Go, the legendary Phoenix Suns Gorilla mascot, is said to have attended Furman. (Say it out loud a couple times. And yes, his name is Go the Gorilla.) (Ok, I really can’t help myself, so here’s his origin story, from fandom.com: The Suns Gorilla is one of the more famous mascots in the NBA. For the first eleven seasons of their existence in the NBA, the Suns had no official mascot. An early attempt was made involving a sunflower costume, but it never caught on. In the winter of 1980, a singing telegram (sent by James Oberhaus, a loyal fan) named Henry Rojas from Eastern Onion Telegram service was sent to the arena in a gorilla costume. Security saw him and suggested to him to stay for a while to entertain the fans during the breaks. He kept coming to games until officially invited to be the Suns' mascot.) Can you imagine the 1990s-Charles Barkley Suns alongside a sunflower???
To make up for another missed week (life!), I’ve got several good reads to share this time around. No real theme or cohesion, and not a ton of commentary from me (again, life!), so let’s get to it.
Bleeding Green and Yellow: On Football in Brazil (Clarissa Fragoso Pinheiro, LA Review of Books)
This is just lovely. Erudite. On the place of soccer in Brazilian culture and the author’s life. I’m not sure how book review magazines (journals? newspapers?) came to be the home for this kind of piece—historical, personal, political, etc. all at once—but I’m usually game for it. Worth the read for soccer and non-soccer folks alike.
Sex, Steroids, and Arnold: The Story of The Gym That Shaped America (David Davis, Deadspin, 2018)
After I mentioned in the last newsletter that I was writing from the Arnold Festival in Columbus, David reached out with a link to this piece, which I had initially read and loved back when it was first published. Having become a fan of David’s work over the years, it was a pleasant surprise to realize that he had written this. But only a mild surprise; if you’ve read his other work that I’ve shared, you’ll find the same rigor, depth, and quality that make him one of the best in the game. This is really good!
If I have one quibble, it’s that I’d give Muscle Beach credit for launching the American (and with minimal reaching, global) fitness boom, but of course Gold’s was in many ways the spiritual successor to Muscle Beach. (As a sidenote: I’ve won a fellowship to work on my long dormant Muscle Beach history book this summer, so the handful of you that have been looking forward to that can raise a protein shake and join me in celebration.)
Arnold Schwarzenneger’s Last Act (Mark Leibovich, The Atlantic)
Always one to carefully manage his media appearances, Arnold himself is sadly absent from the piece above. Thus, credit to Leibovich for getting the access to put this piece together. A solid biographical sketch (especially if you haven’t read Total Recall) and a nice glimpse into the current world/worldview of the Austrian Oak. Say what you will about Arnold, but he has never stopped reimagining and recreating himself.
The Fosbury Flop Changes Athlete’s Bodies (David Epstein, from his newsletter)
RIP Dick Fosbury, one of the all-time, literal game changers, the man responsible for how high-jumpers have jumped for the last 6 decades. To those of who grew up post-Fosbury-flop, it’s insane to think that anyone ever high-jumped differently. Go watch a video of the old, side-skipping style…it looks flat out ridiculous. “There’s the bar and wheeeeeeeeee I jump it!” Of course, that style was objectively impressive too, but you get me. Not so much an obit, but a nice and short analysis on the impact of Fosbury and what we can learn (in sports and beyond) from his story.
The Saga of the World’s Greatest Dogsledder—and the Fight Over the Future of the Iditarod (Josh Rosengren, GQ)
I’m guessing that most of you, like me, may only know one thing about dogsledding: that the Iditarod is the Super Bowl/World Cup of the sport. Dogsledding occupies a corner of my imagination that seems to grow larger each year: things I am confident are surely fascinating and worth knowing more about, but I never quite get to exploring. At best, this excites me, because there’s knowledge to look forward to. More often however, this is the source of an existential crisis, one centered on the knowledge that I’ll never get around to everything. I’m still far from knowledgeable on dogsledding, but I’m better off for having read this piece. Good read.
Meat Loaf Was My Softball Coach (Jen Carlson, Deadspin, 2011)
I mentioned my idea of “comfort reads” last time around. This is another one of those. I heard Meat Loaf on the radio this week, which—for me—is a truly neutral experience, with no offense intended to the late rock idol. But it reminded me of this piece, and for that I was grateful. Short and sweet, there’s just something about this that compels me to share it from time to time; there’s a lot of humanity in these 9 short paragraphs.
As always, thanks for reading. Please share your favorite reads with me and share the newsletter with someone who might enjoy it.
See you next week,