Awkward Changeover

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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…

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A Baseball Poem

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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  …

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“We Won’t Get Used To It”

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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.…

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Toxic Narratives

Brittany Greeson/The New York Times

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…

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Beyoncé and the Bern

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You probably don’t need another review of Kendrick Lamar’s blazing, fiery, incendiary, stage-burning medley of ‘The Blacker the Berry’, ‘Alright’, and a live freestyle at the Grammy Awards. But in case you missed the original event, just give a wee look-see before you go on. LL Cool J said it would be controversial, and King Kendrick does not disappoint. Addressing boldly the mass incarceration of black men, the extra-juridical destruction of black bodies, and the economic evisceration of black communities, Kendrick calibrated his set to ignite a media firestorm. So where’s the controversy? Lamar has received criticism…

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The Pathology of Privilege

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In a recent interview, Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver tried to come to grips with his disappointing team, which, at the time of the interview, had lost nine consecutive games and fired two of its assistant coaches (while retaining head coach Jeff Hornacek). Yet, for Sarver, the problem had less to with basketball X’s and O’s or lack of talent and more to do with what he perceives as a generational weakness: I’m not sure it’s just the NBA. My whole view of the millennial culture is that they have a tough time dealing with setbacks, and…

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Monday Morning Melancholy

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Last month, former New York Giants great Frank Gifford passed away at the age of 84. Amid the obituaries and remembrances of Gifford’s football career, his broadcasting career, and his stint as tabloid fodder were fond recollections of one of the last remaining figures from the golden era of Manhattan nightlife, when athletes and celebrities frequented famed hotspots like Toots Shor’s and the 21 Club. Gifford’s passing also prompted reminiscences of the literary work that he inspired, Frederick Exley’s 1968 “fictional memoir,” A Fan’s Notes, which, although a modest seller the time, became a cult classic, spawning…

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Passing the Buck

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The press release announcing the new uniforms for the Milwaukee Bucks explains the significance of the shade of blue that wraps around the inside collar of the jersey: “The inside of the collar features a blue stripe, representative of the blue collar work ethic of not only the Bucks, but also of the city and state that the team proudly represents.” And indeed, perhaps no state has become more synonymous with the working class (and its struggles) than Wisconsin, which passed one of the nation’s first workers compensation laws in 1932 and was the first state to allow public employees to form…

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Wild Horses

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We were standing outside the magnificent striped Duomo in Siena, Italy, when my father decided to buy a souvenir from one of the many carts alongside the church. They all had the same scarves hanging on racks. My niece Sophia wanted the blue scarf with a shell on it, the scarf that represented the Nicchio neighborhood. She made this choice for aesthetic reasons (She is nine. She likes seashells), but I also knew she was on to something. It was the day before the Palio, the bareback horserace that pits the colorfully named neighborhood associations or contrade…

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The Orwellian Anti-Pageantry of a Game without Fans

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Yesterday was an historic day for baseball, as a major league game was closed to the public for the first time ever, when the Baltimore Orioles hosted the White Sox to an eerily empty stadium. Watching the game that afternoon, the temptation to make this a metaphor for race relations in America was inescapable. It’s a commonplace to point out that America mythologizes itself through its national pastime, endlessly churning out pastoral fantasies of simpler and more innocent times through various baseball novels, songs, and films. But, as the radical novelist John Dos Passos wrote in 1936,…

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