“In an increasingly digital world, literary critics need to become less like play-by-play announcer Joe Buck and more like color commentator Tim McCarver.” Our own Michael Bourne on book reviews in the digital age.
“What cured Crisp’s cancer, it seems, was an experimental drug, an early form of chemotherapy, which he was given by the Greek doctors. He was told to apply it to his body, but instead he drank it. ‘It was so disgusting that he mixed it with a bottle of retsina and drank that instead.’”
- The life of the most extraordinary man to play Test cricket by Andy Bull
“Friday Night Lights owed part of that popularity to its local flavor, which included a careful examination of Odessa’s racism. ([Buzz] Bissinger had to cancel his reading at the town’s B. Dalton after locals called and threatened ‘bodily harm.’) More than anything, though, the book told a story that seemed powerfully symbolic. Odessa mattered, as Bissinger put it in his preface, ‘not because it was a Texas town, but an American one.’
Today, that story - troubled town, precarious season, political resonance - has congealed into a narrative that sports books must follow. The latest is Keith O’Brien’s Outside Shot: Big Dreams, Hard Times, and One County’s Quest for Basketball Greatness. It’s a solid book, but also one that falters under the legacy of Friday Night Lights.”
“In a 1963 New York Times article, Hank Sauer, an all-star outfielder in the ’50s, declared, ‘Any guy who ever says anything bad about Stan Musial has to have something wrong with him.’ Rather than boosting Musial’s post-career popularity, this sort of attitude, no matter how well intentioned, effectively turned Musial into a cardboard cutout, a bygone era’s one-dimensional paragon of constancy, stability, community fealty, and humility, devoid of the temperamental shadings that humanize public figures. A 2007 profile in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch earnestly dubbed him ‘baseball’s Galahad.’”
To most Americans, there is something inexplicably foreign about cricket. On the surface, it is pretty similar to baseball, at least compared to just about any other sport: bats and balls and runs and innings—like baseball, cricket is heaven for statisticians. But perhaps the similarities throw us off: we watch a few minutes, expecting it to be perfectly analogous and comprehensible, and are irreparably jarred by the differences. (The funniest example of our perceptions of cricket might be a sketch that, despite coming from the Dutch comedy show ‘Jiskefet’, is entitled ‘What playing cricket looks like to Americans’ on YouTube, and involves a giant chessboard, a freestanding set of swinging doors, and commentary full of gibberish.) Halfway through the nineteenth century, baseball and cricket were on equal footing here—if anything, cricket was the more popular of the two—but during and after the Civil War, baseball’s ‘national pastime’ narrative was constructed and spread. Baseball was supposedly more egalitarian—it could be played in any open space, rather than cricket’s proscribed pitches—and its promoters sold the game on a national level as a uniquely American sport. Cricket stayed local, largely in the big cities of the Northeast, and faded from the American consciousness.
the “aw-shucks” Rodriguez blundered at his first press conference by answering “Gosh, I hope not!” to the question of whether he needed to be a “Michigan Man” in order to coach the Wolverines. In Ann Arbor, that’s tantamount to saying you’ve never heard of The Beatles. Months later, he would be reprimanded for using the word “ain’t” in an interview.
—Nick Moran reviews John U. Bacon’s Three and Out: Rich Rodriguez and the Michigan Wolverines in the Crucible of College Football
“…Astute football fans will agree that the most distinct aspects of football and baseball, America’s two most popular sports, are the outsized roles played by narrative and tradition. You see, both games practically beg for commentators to ascribe storylines and context in order to fill the gaps between bursts of live action. (Try watching a muted baseball game if you don’t believe me.) The games depend on their stories. Unlike the continuous game play in soccer or basketball matches, which force announcers to call second-by-second run-downs of the ball’s movement, baseball and football plays are punctuated by long lulls. See the baseball player who halts his at-bat long enough to scratch his crotch and spit some seeds. See the average football game, which manages to stretch a lean 11 minutes of live game play out for a broadcast lasting 174 minutes.”
- Burnin’ Down the (Big) House by Nick Moran
I will now posit a corollary to Godwin’s Law: as a sportswriter’s career progresses, the probability that he will needlessly invoke Nazis approaches 1.
Sebastian Stockman on the careers and questionable analogies of classic sportswriters Jim Murray, Frank Deford, and John Feinstein.