Category Archives: Sports

Amateur Hour

The Times is hosting a fun debate on college athletes’ amateur status. Check it out.


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Basketball Interlude

Cringe-inducing words from TrueHoop’s Henry Abbott:

Every time I hear about the government needing “shovel ready” projects to invest in as economic stimulus, I can’t help but think: Governments pay for stadiums anyway. Surely somebody is going to get some stadium stimulus dollars. Tim Romani from Icon Venue Group addressed that. He said he thought there would be stimulus money for “horizontal” costs associated with new arenas (parking, rail, infrastructure) but not “vertical” (the arena itself).

The thought of showering incompetent franchise owners (I’m looking at you, Abe Pollin) with stimulus money is enough to make any fan retch.

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Racism in Sport

Brian Phillips compares soccer hooliganism to American fans’ troubled relationship with black NBA players. A taste:

Unlike American racism, which can be seen as an internal social problem transformed by changing attitudes within one overarching culture, the history of European nationalism was decided by relatively recent battles between armies whose sources of legitimacy were external to one another. Thus, to forestall the unanswerable shame that attaches itself to overt expressions of prejudice in American sports (Rush Limbaugh on Donovan McNabb, even Shaq when Yao first came into the league), prejudice in soccer can fall back on the dim memory of concrete populist ideologies. That’s not to say that the shirtless gentleman holding the corner of the “Filthy Gypsy” banner is a learned proponent of any identifiable right-wing philosophy, but there’s at least a vaporous sense that attitudes like his loathing for Ibrahimović were not long ago articulated by governments and embraced by respectable people. Which is enough to give them a perverse air of community justification, even when all the institutional forces in the sport are consciously trying (again, much more emphatically than the NBA) to eradicate racism and sectarianism from the game.

Read the whole thing. The standard response to this sort of unpleasantness is something along the lines of “nationalist hooligans, Nazi skinheads, signs that read “Filthy Gypsy” – these are the last gasps of Europe’s ancient history.” But I’ve always sensed that something beyond aging racists is at work here, and it’s striking that many of Europe’s youngest, most dynamic politicians – Jorg Haider, Geert Wilders, the late Pim Fortyun – all hail from the reactionary fringe.

Is Europe’s liberal gentility a carefully-constructed facade that cracks as soon as foreign footballers take the pitch? Or are sports hooligans a relic of the past, refugees from Europe’s impending “End of History?” A few weeks ago, Will Wilkinson suggested that liberal habits are mutually-reinforcing, pointing to Europe’s ability to sustain a liberal democratic order despite rapidly expending its reserves of cultural capital. I worry that liberal habits are too shallow to keep the peace, and that football riots and race-baiting banners tell us more about the fundamentals of Europe’s political culture than placid economic conferences in Brussels.

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A good companion to Bill Kauffman’s excellent piece on Hoosiers is this article on Larry Bird, who comes off sounding like the original crunchy con:

With no team to play for and no school to go to, Larry decided to take a job with the French Lick streets department. He would ask his good buddy and crewmate Beezer Carnes to pick him up at the crack of dawn so they could get there early. When Beezer would inevitably be late, Larry walked to work instead of waiting for him. “That’s just the kind of work ethic he has,” Carnes says. “Larry would get on a tractor and mow the grass. We’d collect garbage, dig ditches, clean out the trucks, paint curbs. He loved it. If he hadn’t done what he did as a basketball player, I’d say he’d be the French Lick street commissioner right now.”

In future years, as Larry Bird’s celebrity burgeoned, his experience on the garbage truck would draw considerable interest, as well as a smattering of elitist derision. Larry, however, never saw it as beneath him. “I loved that job,” he said in 1988. “It was outdoors, you were around your friends. Picking up brush, cleaning up. I felt like I was really accomplishing something. How many times are you riding around your town and you say to yourself, Why don’t they fix that? Why don’t they clean the streets up? And here I had the chance to do that. I had the chance to make my community look better.”

Two cheers for cosmopolitanism, though, because Hoosiers wouldn’t have gotten funded had it not been for some rootless Brit (from Kauffman’s article):

For two years, seeking financing for the film, Pizzo and Anspaugh were turned down by every Midwesterner and basketball fan they approached. Their savior was a foreign rogue who “had never seen a basketball game, never heard of Indiana.” He was “an educated Cockney whose dad used to show up drunk and embarass him when he was playing soccer.” The relationship between Shooter and his son “made him cry. He said how much do you need? We got $6 million.”

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Alexander the Great

In an ideal world, hockey fans would probably root for the graceful, soft-spoken Canadian center over the brutish, toothless Russian. But I cheer for the Caps, so the next time that effete Canuck tries to start something, I hope Ovie absolutely levels him. I’m also sure this says something profound about patriotism; I’m just not sure what.


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The D-League dunk contest is evidently where it’s at:

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Shane Battier, Baller

Anyone who loves basketball, has read Moneyball, or has any interest whatsoever in great sports writing should read this article on Shane Battier, one of the most underrated players in the game:

The Rockets’ offense had broken down, and there was no usual place for Alston, still back near the half-court line, to go with the ball. The Lakers’ defense had also broken down; no player was where he was meant to be. The only person exactly where he should have been — wide open, standing at the most efficient spot on the floor from which to shoot — was Shane Battier. When Daryl Morey spoke of basketball intelligence, a phrase slipped out: “the I.Q. of where to be.” Fitting in on a basketball court, in the way Battier fits in, requires the I.Q. of where to be. Bang: Alston hit Battier with a long pass. Bang: Battier shot the 3, guiltlessly. Nothing but net.

Rockets 100, Lakers 99.

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