Long before a disastrous 2-1 loss this week to Trinidad & Tobago in the final match of World Cup qualifying, an uncertain future for U.S. Soccer had been the subject of intense speculation within the American soccer community and its small, but devoted media contingent.
For the first time since 1986, the American men’s team will not be going to the World Cup. All it had to do against the last-place team in the CONCACAF hexagonal round was get a draw.
Instead, the U.S. fell behind 2-0 in the first half, then slipped around in the rain in the tiny stadium in Couva, uninspired, as Panama earned a spot in Russia, and Honduras nailed down a playoff berth against Australia. Continue reading
On Friday the heavily anticipated “Battle of the Sexes” film was released, starring Emma Jones and Steven Carell, and is getting generally positive reviews (here, here and here). But most of the treatment of the film is tied to the current American political atmosphere, which is becoming a default media position for just about any subject.
For those of us who remember the Billie Jean King vs. Bobby Riggs match in 1973, the cultural dynamics of that evening in Houston (and more importantly, in the weeks leading up to it) cannot be properly treated in a film.
Selena Roberts’ “A Necessary Spectacle,” published in in 2005, is a solid account that puts the political and cultural contexts in a largely proper perspective. Continue reading
One of the pleasures of growing up listening to baseball on the radio—rather than watching on television—was constantly thumbing the tuner on my transistor late at night to pick up clear signal stations beaming games from the West Coast.
I was supposed to be asleep, of course, as it was lights out at 10 o’clock for me, even in high school, and even in the summers. But the night owl in me improvised an occasional doubleheader that I suspected my mother may have known about, but never mentioned to me once.
After listening to Milo Hamilton and Ernie Johnson Sr. call an Atlanta Braves game, it was off to the late-night races, depending on who was playing in California: most often, it was the St. Louis Cardinals on KMOX, the Chicago Cubs on WGN and the Cleveland Indians on WWWE. Continue reading
The prelude to a new NFL season and its college counterpart has been a familiar one, laced with constant media treatment of American football’s cultural crossroads: Concussions, sexual violence and black activism. Will this be the year public consciousness about them changes?
Some football books published ahead of the season also drive home these topics, again not a surprising development. Some of these books have become increasingly strident as the football-loving fandom seemingly ignores them.
But are they?
More damning studies of brain disease in retired NFL players, criminal acts by players against women and social protests by African-American stars have become routine (and quite often overdone) storylines. Continue reading
In examining high school football in the wake of concerns about concussions and brain trauma in the NFL, sportswriter Kostya Kennedy noted in his 2016 book “Lasting Impact” that while the level of violence on the prep gridiron isn’t the same as it is in the pros—”not by a long shot”—the object of the game is the same:
“Hit and be hit.”
More than a million boys hit, and are hit, in any given season in the United States, still the highest participation rate for any high school sport.
Other sports have concussion rates that rival football—girls soccer is noteworthy among them, given its popularity and perception of being relatively safe to play—and have injury concerns of their own. Continue reading
Steve Bartman had something public to say this week, for the first time since being unfairly maligned as the villain in a foul-ball incident at Wrigley Field during the 2003 National League Championship Series.
His deflection of a ball that landed near the first row of left field line seating might properly have been ruled interference (and the third out for the Florida Marlins in the top of the eighth inning of Game 6). Instead, it foreshadowed how the Chicago Cubs lost their grasp of what would have been their first World Series appearance since 1945.
Bartman’s life quickly became a living hell, as he received threats, dodged stalking reporters and worked assiduously to stay out of the spotlight, and restore what was left of his privacy. Continue reading
When Tim Raines, Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez and Jeff Bagwell are inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame today, it will mark the start of a new era of voting by writers that could signal some profound, if gradual, changes to the process.
The infusion of advanced statistics has created many new conversations about who’s worthy of inclusion, and who’s not. The issue of performance-enhancing drugs has ratcheted up emotions enormously, especially among an aging group of baby-boom voters not always enamored with sabermetrics.
Jay Jaffe, author of the newly released “The Cooperstown Casebook,” has made an innovative case for a numbers-based selection criteria and also welcomes the steroids-tainted likes of Bobby Bonds and Roger Clemens.
“Baseball and boxing are tailor-made for narrative,” Bécquer Seguín writes in a recent post, “Soccer for Intellectuals,” on the Public Books blog. “Soccer, on the other hand, isn’t wedded to the fate of individuals.”
Hegel’s master-slave dialectic and Eduardo Galeano’s classic “Soccer in Sun and Shadow” (previous Sports Biblio post here) are quickly invoked in the same gargantuan paragraph in one of many interesting, if meandering points in an essay clearly aimed at the academic mind.
Seguín, soon to become a professor of Iberian studies at Johns Hopkins University, does delve into the literary treatment of soccer, after openly wondering why the sport doesn’t have a figure of the magnitude of Roger Angell or A.J. Liebling. I argue later on that it does. Continue reading
It was 50 years ago today, in an office in downtown Cleveland, that prominent American black athletes met in what turned out to be the first event in a full-fledged movement of political protest.
At the behest of Browns’ running back great Jim Brown, Bill Russell, Lew Alcindor (later to become Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and others gathered at what became known as The Cleveland Summit.
The general purpose was to support Muhammad Ali’s refusal to join the U.S. Army as the Vietnam War was ripping America apart. However, as Jonathan Eig, author of a forthcoming biography of Ali, wrote this week at The Undefeated, there are many layers to this story. Continue reading
When Frank Deford signed off this week after 37 years of Sweetness and Light, his regular sports commentary on NPR, I thought it strange that there was very little public or media reaction.
Then I remembered it’s been more than a year since his weekly contributions were cut back to a monthly basis, partly because of the public radio outlet’s push for diverse voices, and not long after a churlish outcry over his segment on media coverage of women’s sports.
The asinine “shoot the messenger” posturing from new media hipsters (including rife usage of “mansplaining,” the ridiculous concoction of an easily triggered millennial media) brought to mind a letter I wrote to Deford years ago, before today’s snarky web kidz were born, when he was the editor of the late, great The National. Continue reading