The Enormous Screen

My friend Sam, born in Iowa City, raised in South Carolina and now a somewhat reluctant Bostonian, bought a five-foot-wide flat-screen TV not long ago. Apparently the delivery guy was not willing to bring the TV all the way into Sam’s spacious apartment, so the mini-monolith sat at the top of the building’s central staircase in its giant cardboard box for a few weeks. Finally Sam convinced someone to help him haul the TV the rest of the way into his home and set the thing up on his wall. We had a plan to watch the…

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Welcome to the Jungle

Last Friday, a 20-year-old American snowboarder named Sage Kotsenburg won the very first gold medal of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. And although he’s a Utah native, Kotsenburg’s press conference lingo featured more than a trace of Southern California circa 1982. When asked how he invented the soaring improvisations that pushed him from obscurity to the medal podium, Kotsenburg replied, “I kept going and kept it weird.” Despite the baggy snowsuit, he mostly sounded like a surfer dude. Americans have several good reasons to celebrate Kotsenburg’s victory. The snowboarder’s utter lack of triumphalism is refreshing, for one…

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Women and Children First

My friend Jesse flew to South Africa a few days ago with nothing but a backpack full of underwear and tickets to five different World Cup matches. Having quit his job and sublet his Brooklyn apartment, he plans to spend the entire month of June and much of July traveling around South Africa, watching soccer and spending time with a few similarly unencumbered friends. The night before his flight, as we sat in his barren, vacated apartment drinking bottles of beer from his otherwise empty fridge, Jesse told me, “People feel envious, because they know I’m a…

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Number Don’t Lie: Soccer Commentator Ratings

Ever since the United States Men’s Soccer Team narrowly missed beating mighty Brazil in the Confederations Cup final in South Africa a few weeks ago, there’s been a lot of talk about how much US soccer has advanced. One way American soccer writers attempt to address this question is by numerically rating US players after every match, trying to give a sense of who played well and how well they played during a particular game. These scores are always annotated by a pithy sentence fragment or two justifying the numerical “grade.” (For examples, see the NY Times…

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The Conflicted Fan

Spectator contributor Brian Schwartz discusses the Champions League on the Rumpus. This past week, I should have been haunting Brooklyn’s British ex-pat soccer bars, nestling myself into a corner with an afternoon pint or two, watching as the Champions League semi-finals began. I should have devoted myself to top-flight, high-stakes international soccer, but I didn’t. I didn’t go to Floyd on Atlantic Avenue, nor did I take the L train to the sweet Williamsburg bar kind of near the Eighth Street stop, the bar normally full of, I think, Liverpool fans. The loud crescendos of British men…

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13 Ways of Looking at Dan Dierdorf

1. Among the many professional sports broadcasters whose voices filled the melancholy autumn Sundays of my childhood, Dan Dierdorf was the one whose words and demeanor consoled me the most. Dierdorf’s sympathetic, walrus-like face (low brow, bushy mustache, fangy smile) seemed to promise that ease and contentment were possible despite the long school week ahead. 2. Dierdorf was born in 1949 in Canton, Ohio, home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In 1996, Dierdorf himself was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 3. I heard Dierdorf praising the sit-com “Two and a Half Men”…

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The Last Waltz

The best ballroom dancer in the NFL recently called a press conference to discuss his future with the Miami Dolphins. Jason Taylor, the 33-year-old All-Pro defensive end and 2006 NFL Defensive Man of the Year—and a recent finalist on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars”—choreographed his latest public appearance with care. He told reporters that he wants to “win in 08.” He went on to say that he’d be happy to stay with Miami, but at the same time he would understand if the Dolphins chose to trade him away: “I’ve tried to give the Dolphins the opportunity,…

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Reading Red Smith

My father-in-law sends me books. A few times a year I’ll find a cardboard box from Amazon resting on the stoop when I get home from work, and when this happens I know without looking who the package is from. This year, over the holiday, he sent me The Red Smith Reader. The late Red Smith began his career as a sportswriter in 1928, before television was invented. He kept hammering out newspaper columns until more than half a century later, when sports had become obsessively televised commodities. On first glance, The Red Smith Reader suggests a…

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The Fandom of Fathers and Sons

I grew up a Yankees fan, but the first Major League Baseball game I ever attended was a Baltimore Orioles game. This was in the early 1980s, at Memorial Stadium, back when the O’s still wore white and black caps with orange bills, and the team logo was a jolly cartoon bird’s head instead of an elegant ornithological diagram. I have no memory of who the Orioles were playing (obviously not the Yankees, or I would’ve remembered). I’m not even sure which of my relatives took me to the game—Uncle Marvin? my cousin Lynn’s husband Steve?—but I…

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My Brunch With Landon

The River Café sits more or less under the eastern terminus of the Brooklyn Bridge, so people who dine there can look out across the East River at the Manhattan skyline while they enjoy expensive, well-made food. When my wife and I went there for brunch recently, armed with an about-to-expire gift certificate, we were at first impressed by the luxurious tag-team service. One waiter quickly brought our coffee; another waiter brought out hollowed egg shells filled with banana flan. As he set down the flan, the second waiter adjusted my coffee cup, spilling a drop. “Very…

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