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The SportsThink Weekly Review #91
August 4, 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 lifelong 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 folks and happy Friday (evening!), hope you’re well. For those keeping score: it is still Very Hot in Texas.
What a week! Just a few highlights:
Perennial powers Germany, Brazil, Canada, and China are all OUT at the Women’s World Cup. The US barely eked into the knockout stage. (Last week, I said that we’d win it all, and I’m sticking by that statement, but not because of anything the team did to convince me that we’re that good.)
Jamaica, Morocco, Nigeria, and South Africa are unexpectedly through to the knockout stages of the tournament. If competitive parity is a sign of progress, we are watching big time women’s soccer come into its own, in real time. Those of you who like the deeper narratives in these tournaments will note that three of these of teams are playing as underdogs against former colonizers (Morocco vs. France, Nigeria vs. England, South Africa vs. Netherlands).
Oregon and Washington and Bryn Mawr and Tallahassee Technical College are now in the Big 10; Utah and the Arizona schools and a Norwegian minimum security prison are now in the Big 12. Or something like this. I honestly have no idea what exactly is going on in NCAA conference realignment and things will likely have changed by the time you read this. Money—it would seem—is involved.
I not only ate sushi in Waxahachie, Texas, but it was good. Also, it was served to me by a robot. This vaguely cat-faced 3-foot wheeled column thing autonomously found our table, waited till we took our food, and rolled off to wherever. Not exactly a life-changing interaction with technology, but it was unexpected and novel enough.
There was also a no-hitter and a presidential indictment, etc. etc., but any week with big soccer upsets and a robot waiter is a pretty good week in my book.
There was also some reading. No drop-everything-and-read-now type things this week, but some decent content nonetheless. I particularly enjoyed the one on Dancin’ Harry, which you’ll find at the bottom.
There were several of these think pieces this week, all basically trying to answer the same question: why have the US women looked totally meh on the field? Most of the pieces agree that we’re in an “all of the above” type situation: injuries, a buffoon managing the lineup, and so forth, but I think Bushnell’s is the most thorough of the bunch. He also does the best job articulating the role of player development in the current mess. But, I’ll triple down: we’re still winning it all.
A good sports media and business read, as Disney starts to consider what would have once been unthinkable: offloading ESPN. Also a decent rundown on the broader state of sports media at the post-cable inflection point. It’s not really mentioned in here, but the whole NCAA conference realignment thing is basically feeding off similar market forces, as the schools and conferences are trying to maximize what might turn out to be one final round of behemoth TV contracts before we’re all paying fractional crypto to watch games on a MySpace reboot in 2037.
From 2016, but new to me. Even as someone who spent a lot of my childhood diving deep on basketball history and arcana, this was a story I’d never heard or come across. On Edward Marvin Cooper AKA Dancin’ Harry, who seems to be about tied with Chicago’s Benny the Bull for the first mascot in the NBA. Benny is very much still around; my son pulled a mini Benny out of a Kinder Egg last month. Dancin’ Harry grooved to disco, performed hexes, may or may not have slung weed, and is very much not around; he has yet to appear inside of any novelty candy. A good—if somewhat sad—story and a reminder that pro-sports were weird and wild in the not too distant past.
As always, thanks for reading. Please share the newsletter with everyone you know and send me good reads when you encounter them.
See you next week,