Sun Spots

Emerald Nuts. Capitol One. Tostitos. Outback Steakhouse. Chick-fil-A. If you are wondering what these corporations have in common, it’s likely that you’re not a college football fan. Each has bought itself a college bowl game. Or more accurately by sponsoring one of these season ending pseudo-championships, they purchased naming rights. So the Florida Citrus Bowl became Capitol One Bowl. The Peach Bowl became the Chick-fil-A Bowl. And so on. Paying to rename a game for a product is not a new phenomenon. The Cotton Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl were not named after commodities as a show…

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A Student Athlete by Any Other Name

I volunteered at my college radio station. I was a DJ. Although I was an amateur, I was never called an amateur-DJ. I was a student, but I was never called a student-DJ. I was, simply, a DJ. Unhyphenated. Uncomplicated. Jocks should have it so easy. In college they are suddenly forced to be “amateur athletes,” or better “student athletes.” At the highest levels, it’s no surprise these young men and women need a reminder of their status. Everything around them—the budgets, the media, the fans, the stadiums and the revenue streams—makes college athletics, and the people…

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Sport Leverages Future

Forget steroids or stealthy cameramen stealing signs, the latest threat to sports may be a cryptic economic ailment: the global liquidity crisis. Last week the British bank Northern Rock lost nearly 2 billion pounds of deposits after jittery customers overwhelmed the bank’s website and queued up at local branches to remove their savings. Shares of the Newcastle-based bank took a beating. The problem? Northern Rock is primarily a mortgage lender. The volatile American housing market has as of late burned many banks and investors. Suddenly there is little, if any, interest in buying mortgage debt, including Northern…

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The Offerman Precedent

Assault can be a jailable offense. So if you find yourself running headlong towards a tormentor spewing slurs and cocking your fists, you better hope that you’re a professional baseball player. That’s because when you wear stirrup socks, a simple assault isn’t criminal, it’s “old school.” Sport has a strange relationship with the law. Historically leagues have policed themselves, doling out suspensions and fines instead of calling on the judicial system. Players brawl at will—within certain limits. Meanwhile, the same teams have expanded surveillance and security to insure fan safety often by arresting fans themselves. (Admittedly, most…

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HBP: The new HR?

Now that all the hubbub over Barry Bonds’ historic home run has receded, it’s time to concentrate on some real record breaking: most plunked. Craig Biggio of the Houston Astros is poised to become the player who’s been hit by the most pitches in history. (Depending on temperament, others might prefer to follow Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox’s bid to become the most ejected.) Biggio is in a race against time. Set to retire at the end of the season, the scrappy second baseman needs only three more unlucky trips to the plate to pass Hall of…

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Squats, Curls, & Other Parenting Tricks

When I woke up, my arms felt as if they were shot through with hard plastic. I had been carrying a toddler, my 22-pound niece Marie, up and down the beach the day before. It couldn’t have been more than 40 minutes, I thought. As I kneaded my aching biceps, I came to a sudden realization: Children, in addition to all the other joys they bring, are a burbling biological weight set. I mean, I always knew babies were cute but it never occurred to me that they were also dynamic dumbbells that grew heavier as you…

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 The Spectator Thaw

Now that spring training is underway in earnest, it should be noted that it’s not just players that are coming out of hibernation. Fans as much as players benefit from these casual, sun-drenched games. Early reporting dates blur into work-outs and on to friendly games. Far away and relatively incosenquential, the whole process seems tailor made to safely wean us spectators off the spastic fury of football or the perpetual excitement of basketball. It stretches our sense of time even as sporadic developments in camp—a pulled groin, arbitration avoided or bad blood in the clubhouse—reprogram our expectations…

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Tackles, Chicken Wings, and the Quest for a New Cash Cow

Next summer, first pitches at U.S. Cellular Field will come firing home at 7:11 on weeknights. As in 7/11—the convenience store. The Chicago White Sox have sold their start time to the chain for half-a-million dollars. The impact of MBAs on the MLB or any other sport is nothing new, of course. Sports enjoy a profitable relationship with the tie & steak set, who, in turn, are attracted to games because they are big business. How big? The Census Bureau calls it the “commercial sports sector” and valued it at $17.7 billion in 1998. A better yardstick,…

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Spectating at YouTube

By now, Zinedine Zidane’s shocking headbutt in the World Cup final has faded from memory, replaced by other sporting scandals. But at YouTube, the whole episode—Zidane’s sudden loss of control, the media frenzy, and the inevitable mash-ups —remains frozen in place. We moved on, but hundreds of headbutt clips settled into YouTube’s formidable databases alongside famous touchdowns, baseball blunders, and marching band moments. All await the curious spectator. Since its May 2005 launch, YouTube has become the site for online videos. It serves up an estimated 100 million videos every day, or roughly 60 percent of the…

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Ogling Sports Googlers

Are you tired of simply obsessing about sports? Ready to obsess about people obsessing about sports? Let a new Google product act as your accomplice. Named Google Trends, it provides a peek at what teams, players, leagues, and sports others are searching for. The program tracks words and phrases Googled in the past two years. If you enter the phrase google trends, a graph shows a sudden spike of interest last spring when the new Google toy was unveiled. Enter two terms, the site offers a graph comparing their search frequency.These graphs can illustrate the obvious, more…

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