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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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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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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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…

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“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…

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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…

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“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.…

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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…

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