Used Magic

The first surfboard I ever bought on Craigslist was listed as an 8-foot “Magic Carpet.” I wanted to try out surfing again, midway in the journey of my life, so I met up with a Japanese graphic designer somewhere right off Bedford Avenue in hip Williamsburg, Brooklyn. He lived in a tiny two-room walk-up. In the main room, there was a futon, a sparsely appointed wooden desk, and nothing else. It was all very minimalist. The other room was for surfboards, a dozen or more, lined in rows. He’d set aside the 8-footer over by the lone…

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Kissing Bandits

Way back in the glory days of 2009, French tennis player Richard Gasquet was competing at a tournament in Miami. He didn’t win the title. During his stay, he sought a good time in a city famous for supplying good times, and went to a Miami nightclub to hear a fellow Frenchman ply his trade on the turntables. Amid the pulsating sounds of electronic music, Gasquet met “Pamela.” Her story is unknown, but their affair was legendary. For only a month after Gasquet’s brief tryst with Pamela, he tested positive for cocaine use. Gasquet was devastated. Sure…

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Brave the of Home

A common theme ran through the reportage about Tiger Woods’ Memorial Day DUI – when, according to the police report, Woods was found in Jupiter, Florida, asleep at the steering wheel of his still-idling-but-parked car with two flat tires. The story, everyone felt, was “sad.” For Jason Sobel at ESPN, “the main takeaway here is sadness. Just pure sadness.” “There’s no other way to spin it,” wrote Jaime Daiz at Golf Digest, “The Tiger Woods Story, sad for a while now, has grown sadder.” Cori Rust, a former lingerie model linked to Tiger during his days of…

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The Soul of Tim Tebow

In 1951 Bill Veeck, the madman-genius owner of the St. Louis Browns, hired the 3’7” Eddie Gaedel to bat. To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Falstaff Brewery, the major sponsor of the St. Louis Browns, Veeck paid Gaedel the going to rate for a “midget” (as Veeck refers to him) and a pro-rated MLB contract. In his grandiose, highly exaggerated, and wildly entertaining autobiography, Veeck–as in Wreck, Veeck recounts showing Gaedel how to properly crouch so that his strike zone was, as Veeck measured it, an inch and a half. But in their top secret practice…

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Stadium Split

In most ways, my last Atlanta Braves home game was like all the others I’d attended there.  On a hot and humid Sunday afternoon in July 2016, my dad and I drove to Turner Field, which is located about ten minutes from my childhood house. We parked at his office downtown and walked our ritualistic mile to the ballpark, past the state capital, the interstate overpass and the seat of the 1996 Olympic torch. We bought tickets at the window, picked up burgers and beers, scored the game from our seats, cheered, chatted, and went home. But,…

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Setting Aside the Script

Whenever I’m feeling a bit lost in the woods, a scene from Conan the Barbarian pops into my head. In it, Conan is receiving the brief philosophical portion of his Barbarian training program. He’s sitting around the dinner table with some other would-be warriors. One of them (a philosopher-king?) asks a simple question: “What is best in life?” Some half-wit with a Fu Manchu pipes up, saying something about riding a horse with the wind in his hair. “Wrong!” yells the wise man. He turns to his star pupil. Conan will know the right answer (even if…

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Last Call

Brent Musburger was an excellent play-by-play announcer. He had a knack for making games seem somehow bigger than they were–even big games–with his familiar opening “You are looking live at [insert stadium or coliseum name here].” He could also joke during a broadcast without making the game lose any dramatic flair. In short, he seemed to know how to imbue broadcasts with his own personality without having that personality overwhelm the game (about which more later). So when Musburger announced his last game in late January, after 50 years of sports broadcasting as a play-by-play announcer and…

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How George Karl Broke My Heart

Book Discussed: Furious George by George Karl with Curt Sampson. Harper, 228 pages. January 10, 2017. Here are some recent headlines concerning former NBA head coach George Karl and his autobiography, Furious George: “Former players trash George Karl over new tell-all book” Sports Illustrated “George Karl sounds more deranged every day” New York Post “George Karl will not rest until EVERYONE hates him” SB Nation “Compared to vending machine by George Karl, Derrick Williams sitting out latest fray” South Florida Sun Sentinel In the era of Trump(ism), this kind of publicity probably augurs well. Yes, Furious George is an…

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Passing Fancy

Book discussed: The Perfect Pass: American Genius and the Reinvention of Football by S.C. Gwynne. Scribner, 2016. 308 pages.   Few sports innovations possess the magnitude of the forward pass in football. It saved lives. Between 1901 and 1905, sixty-one players died (by some accounts, even more) either on the field or because of injuries sustained on the field—usually the result of being crushed on the bottom of a pig pile. But just because a player survived being crushed to death, doesn’t mean he escaped unscathed: intra-pile eye gougings and bone breakings were commonplace. Rather than take the…

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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…

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