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
At the risk of sounding like a “get off my lawn” Baby Boom geezer, does eliminating the four-pitch intentional walk seem like anything more than a cosmetic change to the baseball rule book that won’t really solve the pace of game concerns?
As Scott Simon said on NPR this weekend, such a move might eliminate about 15 seconds. In my youth softball league 40-plus years ago we did this, and it was more about the lack of skill of kids than anything else.
I understand the owners want to attract younger fans who don’t sit still for anything longer than, say, 15 seconds, but these are the same owners who approved the replay rule that has been a real drag on pace of play. Continue reading
The timing of Michael Novak’s death from cancer on Friday, at the age of 83, comes at an especially intriguing time in American politics and society.
The Catholic theologian and author of dozens of books, mostly about the convergence of religion, philosophy and public policy, is the author of the sports book that has influenced me more than any other.
“The Joy of Sports,” first published in 1976 and revised in 1992, is Novak’s metaphysical romp about sports and the deep meanings it holds for players and fans alike. It inspired me in part to begin this blog, and I think its message is even more relevant today. Continue reading
Chris Berman, one of the few original employees remaining at ESPN, is stepping away from his role in three signature NFL programs as part of a new contract.
“I like to think of myself as an ESPN lifer,” Berman, now 61, told Sports Business Journal media reporter John Ourand, who broke the story. “There really wasn’t any thought of doing anything else. … We’ve had a great working relationship extending 38 years.”
When I wrote an upbeat, even hopeful piece about women’s sports media coverage during the 2015 Women’s World Cup soccer tournament, I braced myself for the reaction that was sure to follow.
Since I began covering women’s sports in the early 1990s, the media environment has changed dramatically, and for the better. While coverage of women’s tennis and Olympic figure skating and gymnastics predominates in American sports media, we are in the early stage of contemplating women’s sports as spectator sports, subject to market forces, consumer desires and television ratings. Continue reading
I got a little crabby recently when reading about The Sporting News, the first general interest sports publication in America, and which has been online-only since 2012. For more than a century, the “Bible of Baseball” was a weekly that went far beyond the baseball game story to include a thorough, wondrous collection of box scores.
In particular, I groused that a current writer, in a summary article for its website, said that the print publication “provided content baseball fans needed every week.”
AJC Braves game story, 2006, when Andruw Jones could hit.
I hate the word “content.” When I hear or read this ghastly word, as least when it’s used to describe sacred words as a commodity, I spit nails. Darts fly out of my eyes. My teeth gnash. I emit a primal scream that sends the cat scuttling into another room.
Never, ever, say the word “content” to me, except as an adjective. The journalism that so many of us have done over the years has been reduced to this, in current parlance, the horrific “c-word.” Continue reading
The following is a post adapted from a previous blog that I am reposting on Sports Biblio. I’m doing so to mark the 30th anniversary of the start of the British soccer publication When Saturday Comes, which was one of the first magazines I consulted as I began covering the sport here in the United States.
That’s because it was about the only soccer magazine I could find on my newsstand at that point—and this was as the U.S. was gearing up for the 1994 World Cup. Believe it or not, more than 20 years later, I can still find a copy of WSC at my local Barnes & Noble. Bookstores may be dying off, and the soccer media landscape has changed dramatically, especially in America.
But I still find WSC relevant and real amid a steady diet of slick and glib soccer magazine fare. As one of its longtime contributors notes, it’s still “shooting from football’s fringes,” and that’s becoming an increasingly difficult thing to do.
A friend of Paul Hemphill’s once noted that his books about country music, truck driving and stock-car racing in the South made up his “Bubba Trilogy.”
It was a description Hemphill took to heart, as he left sportswriting, first at newspapers, then later for magazines and in books, but always returned.
“Maybe I can’t help myself, I don’t know,” Hemphill wrote in the prologue to his 2003 sports story collection, “Lost in the Lights” Sports, Dreams and Life.”
“Once a sportswriter, always a sportswriter.” Continue reading
Historians with an interest in sports in the Deep South have long gravitated to such regional obsessions as college football and stock-car racing. College basketball hasn’t always made the cut.
In the Carolinas, however, richly told tales of the Atlantic Coast Conference and the courts of “Tobacco Road” abound.
So do stories about the role of sports in helping transform the segregated world of Jim Crow into the prosperous Sun Belt.
Scott Ellsworth has spent much of his career writing about Southern and African-American history. However, he wasn’t intending to write the book he began in the mid-1990s, and that has been named the winner of the 2016 PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing. Continue reading