Rooting for the Cubs in the Anthropocene

It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops. Today, October 2, a Sunday of…

Continue reading

Passed Out in Paradise

America takes drugs in psychic defense. –Iggy Pop, “Neon Forest”   Doug Schneider lives in Green Bay and only rarely attends Packers games. Instead, as “watchdog reporter” for the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Schneider monitors the games from some undisclosed location where he listens to the police scanner and posts what he hears on Twitter, using the hashtag #scannersquawk. Watching the Packers game and following Schneider’s tweets at the same time offers a fascinating glimpse at to what goes on inside Lambeau Field — not just on the field but in stands. As might be predicted, the police…

Continue reading

End Times

For many years now we’ve been enduring the Postseason. Capital “P” Postseason (™). That’s the official brand name for Major League Baseball’s sequence of elimination games culminating in the World Series. The Postseason has its own logo, which is constantly displayed on broadcasts and promos, and these days when commentators or players talk about October or November (or someday December) baseball, they don’t call it the Playoffs or the Gauntlet or the Shitstorm, they call it the Postseason. The brand is strong. Players, managers, and umps sport the Postseason logo; the MLB app on my phone has…

Continue reading

Enabling Narratives, or How Sports Writing Authorizes Rape Culture

So, Olympic hopeful turned rapist Brock Turner is a free man. Setting aside for the moment the fact that he’s being harassed by gun-toting protesters, I’d like to take this opportunity to interrogate the narrative habits that result in a convicted rapist (yes, I’ll call him that) getting a minor county jail sentence instead of the two- to fourteen-year prison sentence his charges carried. Following, too, the hoopla over Ryan Lochte’s ‘immature over-exaggeration’ in Rio—because, you know, boys will be boys—I wonder how far we might be willing to connect our broader attitudes toward male athletes with a willingness…

Continue reading

“O Sport, You Are Peace!”*

As I watched the Opening Ceremonies of the Rio Games and saw how the Refugee Olympic Athletes (ROA)1 were promoted, I was reminded of a racist joke that I heard as a kid: Q: Why isn’t Mexico any good at the Olympics? A: Cuz anyone who can run, jump, or swim is already over here. Recalling this unfortunate, ignorant joke (and its awful syntax) made me think about the actual physical demands of migration and the strenuous effort, not to mention the considerable psychological resolve, that it takes to flee the place you call home—because your life is…

Continue reading

Deliberately Vague

About halfway through the Euro 2016 soccer semifinal, with Germany absolutely (but somewhat toothlessly) dominating France, veteran German midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger did the unthinkable. He handled the ball in the penalty area and, in a way, handed the game to the French. Or did he? Schweinsteiger’s handball went unnoticed at first by most fans and even many of the players around him. It happened fast: French fullback Patrice Evra leaped diagonally toward the ball that had been crossed from the right corner. Schweinsteiger, slightly behind Evra, lunged himself toward his opponent, hands first. Evra redirected the ball…

Continue reading

Awkward Changeover

Novak Djokovic won the French Open on Sunday. In doing so, he not only completed the career Grand Slam, he also currently holds all four major trophies, which is some kind of Grand Slam even if it isn’t the calendar year Grand Slam (which hasn’t happened in men’s tennis since Rod Laver won all four majors in 1962 and 1969). And yet, this momentous victory for Djokovic feels somehow hollow because of two conspicuous absences at this year’s French Open. Injuries to both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal forced them to withdraw (Federer before it began, Nadal in…

Continue reading

A Baseball Poem

there’s that one poem where GOD gets really mad/ at the angels because they’re knocking everybody/ in the head with their big ole wings and that other one/ the one that the sort-of sexy poet read in SOHO in the 90’s/ which I think was about the astros and his mother/ but was definitely about striking out BAD/ what I mean is: everybody needs a baseball poem/ with dust and peanuts and fly-balls and in this one/ I’m making YOU bob horner before he went to japan/ and I’m making YOU love me the big screen’s going  …

Continue reading

“We Won’t Get Used To It”

This was going to be easy to write: an essay about watching Barcelona FC in Barcelona. About a tepid soccer fan (me), who doesn’t really know or understand the game that well, watching one of the world’s most famous soccer clubs with its native fan base. Maybe I wouldn’t end up understanding the game any better, but perhaps I’d learn something about sports fandom, or about Barcelona the city, or about myself. The thing would practically write itself—I would just need to supply some idiosyncratic perhaps even humorous anecdotes from my experience. This isn’t what ended up happening.…

Continue reading

Toxic Narratives

In 1991, a fifteen-year old me travelled with my cousin and my uncle, a freshman basketball coach, to the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) basketball semifinals and finals downstate, which is what those of us in the Upper Peninsula call the part of the state shaped like a mitten, the land masses joined by the Mackinac Bridge. This was kind of a big deal. Rarely has so much high school basketball talent existed in one state at one time. Chris Webber was one of the most highly recruited and highly touted high school basketball players of…

Continue reading