The SportsThink Weekly Review #85
March 24, 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, happy Friday. It’s a big (like BIG) week at SportsThink HQ: God and the Cosmos willing, we will have welcomed our baby girl by the time you read this. So let’s start with this, the finest intersection of sports and fatherhood that I know of:
As a one-man outfit, I have approved my own HR request and will be taking a few weeks off from the newsletter. The final push to get all work-life things in order hasn’t left much time for current reading, but here are a couple things to tide you over. Of course, there’s always the archive.
The Power of Sports and Memory (me!, SportsThink Blog, 2020)
I wrote this on the occasion of the first time I watched my son play “organized” sports. Definitely more personal than most things I publish, but I found myself re-reading it this week, what with the growing family and all. A bit (a lot) sentimental, but I still like it and hope it resonates on some level with others.
The Ultimate Athlete (George Leonard, 1975)
So this is a book and it will keep you busier than several months worth of newsletters. Hard to boil down, so I’ll try to contextualize it a bit…Leonard was an early adherent of the Human Potential Movement (and I *think* came up with the name). Human Potential was very 1960s California, emerging at the intersection of the counterculture, humanistic psychology, etc. The basic premise was that the great lot of us are using only a fraction of our (human) potential. Not just in the “oh we only use 10% of our brains” sense, but emotionally, spiritually, etc. In short, if we could do more with ourselves, we would be better off and the world would be a better place.
All in all, I’m on board with that. (I am after all, a Californian. I have earned a paycheck by making smoothies.) I’ve never dug deep into the movement and only knew it for its perspectives on intellectual/emotional potential, even finding myself thinking at times that clearly the physical must be considered alongside these things.
Thus it was a bit embarrassing to find that Leonard explicitly took on the physical dimension in 1975, the result being this book. I’ve only browsed through the whole thing and read a couple of the chapters in their entirety, but I can’t remember the last time I was this floored by any writing about sports. Seriously recommend this. It’s hard to say exactly what it’s about: sports, fitness, the body, and the meaning of all of these things. Not just in the “what do sports or our bodies tell us about the world” sense, but in the “maybe how we use our bodies is the closest we will get to the truths of the universe” sense. There’s an Eastern influence, but other things going on too. Part training advice, part vision for a future of physical education, part psychology…it’s a lot of things. No offense to my fellow academics who work in sport philosophy, but this is might be the best thing I’ve read on the subject (and again, I’m not even done with it yet.)
The link above will take you to a copy at the fabulous Internet Archive. If you make a free account, you can access the full text. Or check your local library or buy a copy for cheap on Amazon, ThriftBooks, etc. If I ever fulfill my fantasy of launching SporsThink Press, I will reprint this as the first title. And potentially shut the operation down after that, having entered realms ethereal.
I’ll leave you with this, the second paragraph on the first page, from the chapter entitled “Adventures of the Body and Spirit”:
The athlete that dwells in each of us is more than an abstract ideal. It is a living presence that can change the way we feel and live. Searching for our inner athlete may lead us into sports and regular exercise and thus to the health promised by physical-fitness organizations—and that be justification enough. But what I have in mind goes beyond fitness: it involves entering the realms of music and poetry, of the turning of the planets, of the understanding of death.
As always, thank you so much for reading. Please send along your favorite reads, as well as esoteric family traditions for dealing with newborn babies, mezcal, general good vibrations, pot pie recipes, etc.
See you soonish,