Football began in earnest last week. Not that kind. The oblong American kind. The “hoorah!” kind.
For now, I couldn’t be happier. BYU‘s undefeated and ranked 25th in the country. Seahawks look dominant enough to repeat as Superbowl champions. And even the most jaded fans are full of hope, smiles, and optimism right now. That always makes the world a more enjoyable place to live.
Of course, that’ll change as the season wears on. For most of us, frowns are just around the corner. But there’s a simple trick I’ve learned over the years to avoid letting an uncompetitive or unlucky sportsball team ruin your night, day, week, month, autumn, or even year. It is this: Embrace fair weather fan status. Be proud of it. Bandwagons are fun.
For the next month, soccer fans watching the World Cup will see more fake injuries than any amount of magic spray could possibly cure. And by fake I mean diving, flopping, conniving—temporarily feigning injury in an effort to draw an advantageous ruling on the field.
Although seen in international soccer with regularity, diving during the World Cup happens in greater frequency because the stakes are higher. (This is the world championship, after all, held once every four years.) And when the stakes are higher, cowardice teams will employ anything they can for an edge.
“In the British game, it is often seen as an import from foreign players,” says psychologist Paul Morris, who studies diving at the University of Portsmouth. “Many people argue that it has been common in Italian football for decades.” Continue reading…
In honor of the World Cup, which starts next week in Brazil, here’s how I fell in love with the game.
The year: 198X. I was at a friend’s house in a remote part of northern Oklahoma. We were watching Victory, a so-so Sylvester Stallone movie about a POW soccer team playing Nazi Germany during World War II. My buddy and I were no older than five or six at the time.
Not wanting to endure the feeble character and pre-game drama, we fast forwarded the VHS “through all the boring stuff” to get right to the climatic game. While the build up to said game will likely keep most adults engaged — more for its interesting plot than acting skills — the last 20 minutes of the movie is most triumphant.
The World Cup starts anew this week in Brazil. If the past is any indication, there’s an 83% chance Brazil, Argentina, Italy, Germany, and/or the Netherlands will make the final. What do these countries have that others don’t?
“Of the factors that contribute, none is, necessarily, a prerequisite,” writes Gabriele Marcotti for ESPN. “But the more of the seven ingredients below you have in your shopping cart, the more likely you are to win a World Cup.” Continue reading…
In other words, you don’t do if for the money.
“The Brazilian World Cup is best understood as a party,” writes Simon Kuper for ESPN. “You don’t host a party to get rich. You do it to have fun, and Brazilians will have fun. Yet there’s something obscene about hosting an extravagant party in a country where millions of people need houses, electricity, doctors. That’s what bothered the protestors.”
Politics aside, there are measurable increases in happiness among a host nation’s citizens, according to Soccernomics. Not unlike the effect a good house party has on a host.
But you can still skimp on a party and have a good time. The problem is, I think the Olympics and FIFA always want a lavish party, even if the designated host can’t afford it.
For example, his recent profile on Michael Jordan turning 50 goes to a place few sportswriters go: Deep thoughts.
Aging means losing things, and not just eyesight and flexibility. It means watching the accomplishments of your youth be diminished, maybe in your own eyes through perspective, maybe in the eyes of others through cultural amnesia. Most people live anonymous lives, and when they grow old and die, any record of their existence is blown away. They’re forgotten, some more slowly than others, but eventually it happens to virtually everyone. Yet for the few people in each generation who reach the very pinnacle of fame and achievement, a mirage flickers: immortality. They come to believe in it. Even after Jordan is gone, he knows people will remember him. Here lies the greatest basketball player of all time. That’s his epitaph. When he walked off the court for the last time, he must have believed that nothing could ever diminish what he’d done. That knowledge would be his shield against aging.
Beautiful. More here.
A lot of rabid olympic spectators in America are understandably upset. NBC has spoiled the tape-delayed results on more than one occasion, either with an evening newscast or even a promotional commercial in between events which announce interviews with eventual gold medalists that still haven’t won on tape delay.
Worse still for cord-cutters like me, authentication of a cable subscription is required to watch events live online, even though NBC is a free broadcast channel. Even still, the live stream app reportedly crashes a lot.
At the same time, the number of people watching NBC’s olympic prime-time and tape-delayed coverage is off the charts. Record ratings even. NBC’s tape delayed approach is even boosting they’re revenue, so they’re approach is obviously working, even if it upsets a lot of people.
So why is everyone so pissed off, and by everyone I really mean just a loud vocal minority? Continue reading…
I owned my fair share of Air Jordans growing up. But as a jack of all trades, I always had a soft spot for Bo Jackson, his amazing talent, and his cross training shoes. In fact, I probably owned more Bo Jacksons than Air Jordans. I certainly drew more cross trainers than basketball shoes.
Unfortunately, Bo Jackson was only superhuman for four years until he suffered a hip injury. But for those four years, he was arguably bigger than even Jordan, as this wonderful profile of him suggests. Bo, it turns out, really did know.
Interesting story by USA Today on how ESPN allegedly enticed the ACC to poach Pitt and Syracuse from the Big East, after the latter conference refused a TV deal from ESPN.
I suppose it’s only logical that profiteers would move to high school basketball, having already compromised professional and collegiate hoops.
That said, the below is a must-read summary for any athletic parent, youth coach, or sports fan:
A jarring look at youth basketball: Part 1 | Part 2
Note: The above story is a review of the eye-opening Play Their Hearts Out by George Dorhrmann.
Notable feature stories I’ve written recently:
Similar to Madden NFL, the cable sports network now highlights the playmaker with a under-ring (as seen 1:05 into video). Me likey.
From NPR’s book review of Scorecasting:
When they examined attendance data for the Cubs, one of the unluckiest teams in professional sports who have not won a World Series in 102 years, the authors found it to be remarkably stable — around 90 percent — no matter if the team was at the top of the league or on a losing streak. Fair-weather fans, it seems, actually incentivize a team to win; team owners and coaches will work harder to win games so they can sell more tickets.
Not only are fair-weather fans better for the organization, though. Being one is better for oneself, as fair-weather fans are more at liberty to chose entertainment options that “work for them,” as opposed to staying involved with a mediocre (aka boring) team.
In other words: Go, Cougars! (So long as they’re winning.)
Self-Correcting Golf Balls That Always Fly Straight (Fox)
The money quote: ”In the 75-year history of the wire service era, CBSSports.com research showed that it is nearly impossible to win a national championship at the highest level in major college football without cheating. Among the schools that have won titles since 1936, when human polls became the accepted form of determining the sport’s champion, only BYU has never had a major violation in football.”
With the 10th pick in the NBA draft, a lot of people became Sacramento Kings fans last night. I’m one of them.
Above is the kings.com homepage, updated a couple hours after Jimmer was selected. Nice welcome.
“See Jimmer live all season!”
But if it’s anything like the book, Moneyball should be a good movie.
American men’s tennis has seen better days, although Roddick has kept things interesting, reaching the Wimbledon finals four times and playing in that epic match against Federer in 2009.
But I suspect this is far to complicated to ever catch on. And how on earth are amateur, aspiring, or otherwise young players ever suppose to recreate that crazy field!?
Not gonna happen.
PS – Good luck trying to find four goalies. It’s hard enough to find two in soccer.
You don’t have to be a golf fan to appreciate how it went down in Georgia yesterday. My wife and I were affixed to the TV—and we never watch golf.