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The SportsThink Weekly Review LI
Hello and welcome to the fifty-first edition of the Weekly Review! AKA: the comeback, the Olympic edition, etc. After a month abroad and diving right into summer school and other work, it’s been a bit hard to get back on track with writing. But since this is the opening day of the Olympics (you can watch the tape-delayed ceremony tonight), it seemed like high time to get back on track. (I’ll admit that seeing Cat Osterman dominate in the first Team USA softball game added some motivation. If she can come out of retirement and go full beast at 38, I can surely put together a newsletter at the same age.)
Doing things a little differently this week, solely looking at the Olympics. Do we need a comment here? Not sure. Of course the games (and the IOC in particular) have a wretched side. They are exploitative, wasteful, extravagant events that often leave host cities and nations under a pile of debt. Opulent facilities get used a couple times and are left to rot. Amateurism is a scam/sham/shame. Lacking even the limited accountability of actual political leaders, the IOC are the closest thing we have to real-life movie villains. The entire Olympic governance structure is modern day feudalism. All of this is true, but apparently I’m not principled enough to tune out, because I’ll be watching. At the end of the day, the games remain one of the best domains of human excellence and I’m firmly here for the athletic side of things. And the IOC knows this. They have many of us by the short and curlies, and they’ll occasionally relent enough on certain issues to keep us from totally bailing on the entire Olympic project. As they say, don’t hate the player…
Enough with the moral ambiguity…let’s read some Olympic things.
The Olympics Are Bad/Complicated/Etc.
Power Games: Thomas Bach’s Iron Grip on the Olympics, by Andrew Keh, via the NYT. Bach is the latest in the long-line of neo-artistocrats to lead the Olympic machine. Unlike some of his predecessors, he’s not a Nazi sympathizer, so he’s got that going for him. Nice profile on a man with outsize influence.
The Games Go On—With a New Purpose, by Greg Bishop, via SI. Not sure where to file this one: some fair critique, but the hope for unity reads like borderline IOC propaganda. Decent piece overall.
The Olympics Show Why College Sports Should Give Up On Amateurism, by Patrick Hruby, via the Atlantic. From 2012, an oldie but goodie, and one I often use in classes. Lots of good history and analysis from the consistently great Hruby. (Bonus relevance given the recent changes in college sports.)
The Olympics are a Blast
Nice overview of the oldest and youngest athletes competing this year. While she’s far from the oldest, let’s take a moment to celebrate Brazil’s Formiga, who is playing soccer in her 7th (!!!) Olympics at 43.
Fun look at the representation of US college athletes (and alums) at the games. I’ll be cheering on the 16 Longhorns, but Stanford—ever the showoffs— have 32! How about some modesty, Cardinal?
Simone Biles Is Already the GOAT, but Her True Greatness Is Still to Come, by Stephanie Apstein, via SI. What were y’all up to when you were 24 years old??? It’s hard to wrap my ahead around just how dominant Biles has been throughout her career. Nice profile.
Breaking my no-listicle policy to share this list of goofy sports from Olympic sports from days gone by. My favorite? The plunge for distance. You literally dive in the pool and just…go. Once upon a time, I even got to mention it on Canadian public radio.
The Olympic Coronation of Tony Hawk, the Most Famous Skateboarder in History, by Katie Baker, via the Ringer. Good profile of Hawk (who’ll be commentating at the games) and insightful take on why we’re seeing skateboarding, surfing, etc. at the games. Reminder that the IOC are many things, but they aren’t dummies. Need an athlete to root on in the skateboarding competition? Look no further than 17 year old Houstonian Jordan Santana, she absolutely rips.
AS ALWAYS: thank you for reading and letting me into your inbox. Hit reply to send thoughts, hot takes, cold takes, all takes, and article recommendations. Please take a minute to share with folks who might enjoy the newsletter. Back next week with our regularly scheduled programming.