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The SportsThink Weekly Review #95
September 5, 2023: Commercials, picking a fight with pickleball, good doggies
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 everyone, hope the week is off to a good start. A Tuesday edition on account of the Labor Day holiday this week.
Let’s get to it…
Advertising, with a side of football
Ignoring the small “week 0” slate from the end of last month, this past weekend marked the return of college football. While there were few marquee matchups, there were plenty of upsets and surprises, including Duke manhandling Clemson, Texas State (!!!) giving Baylor the business, and the wonderful obliteration of LSU by Florida State. The Seminoles have historically been unlovable, but this is an anti-Brian Kellly (though not anti-LSU) newsletter and this result brought me great joy. For his part, Kelly almost seemed to have matured during his post-game press conference, taking some responsibility for the loss, before reverting to form and throwing his team under the bus.
Of course, we also got our first look at Colorado under the regime of Coach Neon Deion Prime Time Sanders. I know he prefers Coach Prime, but I’m still trying to make Coach Neon a thing. The Buffaloes looked GOOD against TCU, although it’s too soon to tell if TCU is coming back down to earth this year. Sanders remains brash and seems to take tremendous pleasure in desecrating the shibboleths of being an ‘ol ball coach. It can be a bit much, but I enjoy the show. As long as he’s not abusive to the players, I’m happy to let him rankle the establishment.
Beyond the results, many fans found themselves annoyed by an exhausting amount of commercials. This year was supposed to be a corrective, with new rules in place to speed up what had become the glacial pace of the sport…this sorta happened on the field, with a moving clock and less plays as a result. But the actual game lengths and broadcast times remain unchanged, as the rules have no impact on TV advertising. In other words, we thought we were going to get the same amount of football in less time, but we now have less football in about the same amount of time. Somewhere an economist is saying something about externalities.
Here’s just one analysis
It’s not that this is a new issue, but it feels like we’re going from bad to worse. And yet, ratings remain strong strong strong. I bet they’ll stay strong, another indication of just how obsessed we are with the sport. If you want a bit more on this, here’s a video. If you can look past the “monotone youtube guy” voice, it’s pretty good.
A pleasure to share quality work from a former student. Bill seeks to answer a question often asked by devotees of niche sports: why is this thing on national TV, but not my thing? To be fair, he approaches it fairly, looking for lessons from the absurd rise of televised pickleball that might inform the promoters of the less “sexy” combat sports, those like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which focus on a more technical approach to fighting. I agree with Bill’s conclusions and not just because he could beat me up. My take here is that pickleball and grappling suffer from slightly different problems as spectator sports. It is very easy to get what’s going in pickleball, it’s just super boring to watch, even at the elite level. On the other hand, it takes a lot of technical knowledge to understand jiu-jitsu and similar combat sports that don’t emphasize the big knockout. And yet, for now, pickleball is all over our TVs and Bill’s darlings are not. Lots to think about here for all sports on the fringe, especially in regards to the relationship between participation and spectatorship. I’ll also plug Bill’s newsletter, which combines really good analysis of fight sports with technical and training advice for practitioners.
Sports-adjacent. A scientific explanation of why Michael Jordan’s tongue was always out when he was dunking on fools, at least that was my takeaway. An accessible and interesting bit of neuroscience.
This week’s installment of “adults are the worst part of youth sports.” As with last week’s cheating story, you can just shake your head at the headline and move on, but this is obviously wretched.
A palette cleanser!!!
Please return to this as needed throughout the week. Watch the whole thing for the good shy boy at the end of the line. More teams should do this. (click the image for the link, I had to find a workaround since Substack and
Twitter X are no longer friends.)
As always, thanks for reading! Please share the newsletter far and wide, and send me cool articles and links as you encounter them.
See you next week,