Category: Sports

Sarah Palin’s Tour de Force

I’ve been following the Sarah Palin bus tour “story” with the same cynicism and disdain as Jon Stewart. But the thought occurred to me that perhaps I had seen this sort of thing before somewhere. And after rummaging through the vault of irrelevant data that is my brain, I uncovered what can only be described as a revelation.

Loyal readers, I submit that Sarah Palin is the modern day Lex Luger.

Like all good New Yorkers, I thoroughly enjoyed yesterday’s game. It was actually the first time in years I can remember watching the game with friends with the intent of actually enjoying the game – as opposed to “parties” where socialization or watching for the commercials1 takes precedent.
I’ll leave the actual football discussion to those more qualified, but I did notice three trends with how people relate to the game. The first trend is historical revisionism and occurs when the media completely rewrites the narrative depending on the outcome. Had Plaxico Buress not made the deciding catch, we would be talking about Wes Welker’s inspired performance, how Brady’s ankle was a non-story, and how Randy Moss made the difference in the game and achieved redemption. Many football games are decided on one play at the end of the game, and yet that microcosm of football will retroactively influence all which preceded it. This is of course most convenient for media writers who are expected to churn out “analysis” on a moment’s notice and likely have two versions of the game written up, and will be ready with either narrative regardless of the outcome.2
Given that sports media rarely have opportunity (or capacity) for insight, talking heads will often resort to glib clichés. One such example is the post-game assertion that the winning team “wanted it more.” This is nonsense for two reasons. First, in high-profile games such as the Superbowl, it is safe to assume that both teams desire victory. It’s the Superbowl after all! One caller to WFAN similarly opined before the Giants/Dallas playoff game that the winner would be “who wants it more.” The host correctly responded that it’s the playoffs! Everyone wants to win in the playoffs! Secondly, the assumption is that mere desire wins games, not the ability to execute plays.3 Did Plaxico Burress want to win more than Wes Welker? Tom Brady more than Eli Manning? Jason Tuck more than Teddy Bruschi? Tom Coughlin more than Bill Billicheck? Equating after-the-fact results with desire is disrespectful to the effort of both teams.
Finally, I noticed a gender-based clichés in how men and women approach the game. Naturally the men were more into the game, but were clearly focused on the seriousness of each play and how it would effect the outcome. By the end of the game we were joking that according to our conversations were at least seven “biggest plays of the game right here.” On the flip side, the hostess had a less-competitive approach to the game, saying more than a few times, “regardless of who wins, this is a really good game.” She gets credit for trying, the guys were having none of it, “no, it’s about who wins.”
Got any more of your own?

1. With few exceptions (the FedEx pigeon, the balloons, Carville/Frist, and the Terminator assaulting the irrationally irritating Fox Football Robot), this year’s commercials were particularly depressing This is not surprising considering that Superbowl commercials have collectively declined in quality for several years. This trend started several years ago when the ads became more tongue-in-cheek postmodern self-referential satires of the institution of “Superbowl commercials.” Think of the “we just wasted $1,000,000 on this ad” commercials or GoDaddy’s commercial which referenced the previous year’s commercial. Since advertisers went for snark and clever over funny there has been no going back to the glory days of talking frogs and Bud Bowl.
2. For an amusing example of such a hedge, see the Amazon page for 19-0: The Historic Championship Season of New England’s Unbeatable Patriots which includes the following Amazon marketing line, “Buy this book with New York Giants: 2008 Super Bowl Champions by Sports Publishing today!”
3. Another in a long list of football clichés.

The Sportsmanship Paradox

I’ve been getting quite a few comments about my recent citation in Tuesday Morning Quarterback (TMQ). For those unfamiliar with TMQ, it is a weekly analysis of the previous week’s football games written by Gregg Easterbrook whom you may recall was involved in an overblown kerfuffle some time ago over some comments he made on his blog. Thankfully, saw past the stupidity and now hosts on its website one of the most thoughtful, articulate, and entertaining football analysts in the media.

Blogging the PGA Championship

I’ve never liked golf. Sure there’s loads of skill involved in hitting 1in ball 400 ft and into a tiny cup, but I daresay it’s even more boring then NASCAR which livens things up with a crash or two.
My uncle took me to the driving range once when I was in high school and that was a disaster, but at least then you had the fun of trying to hit the moving target of the ball collector truck. Maybe the PGA can somehow incorporate the truck-guy for bonus points, and even then I’m not sure I can bring myself to care.
But every so often, the PGA invades the tiny hamlet of Springfield New Jersey with one of their major tournaments. Twelve years ago we had the US Open and now we’ve got the PGA Champoinship. Back then there was loads of traffic, a goodyear blimp, and blatant profiteering. We’ve still got all that stuff, but now I have access to a digital camera.
Warning – large pictures ahead

Taking Stock Of Bonds

Thesis is coming along, slower than I’d like, but progress is progress. Meantime, I’m getting into Shabbat mode which means I can ignore things for at least one day It’s a shame I’m too behind to weigh in on the Rubashkin’s scandal, but I’m sure other people are taking care of it. If you’re interested, you can listen to an interview with new OU President Stephen Savitsky and Rabbi Weinreb.
‘Roid Rage
Next up is the whole Barry Bonds taking steroids (“unknowingly” of course). Yeah, everyone seems to be talking about it as well, and not surprisingly, everyone is missing the real point.
Why is it so important if Bonds – or anyone else – took steroids? The simple answer is steriods violate “the integrity of the game.” The logic is that when players take these illegal steroids, they give themselves an unfair advantage over the other players. This of course shatters the romantic illusion of legitimate athletic competition. In addition to the player’s tainting their own acheivements, the entire institution of sport is now called into question.
This spirit of competitiveness cannot simply be dismissed. Sports can unify communities, but only through the drama of succeeding against all odds. We like replaying the myths of the weak beating the strong because it reminds us that we can suceed against adversities if we try hard enough.1
The problem is that this message can be found almost anywhere in society. For some trite examples from Bruce Almighty, “a single mom who works two full-time jobs, and still finds the time to pick up her kid at soccer practice, that’s a miracle. A teenager that says “no” to drugs and “yes” to an education, that’s a miracle.”
However, unlike the mother or teenager whose struggles produce something, sports cannot claim any instrinsic value. What does it really give back to society? Does it give kids something to shoot for? Unquestionably. Does it help pull people off of the streets? Yes. But so can other things as well. Sports offers the millions of contracts and the attitude that if you’re rich you can get away anything including murder.
Once the myth of competition is tarnished, there really isn’t anything left.
It’s also why people are so up in arms about Barry Bonds, arguably the “best” player of his generation. Suddenly, he has nothing left. All his accomplishments are fraudulant. He might have donated some of his millions, but who really cares about that? He’s known for his stats, not for being a hummanitarian. Like most athletes, his only lasting legacy was on the field.
Without his numbers, Bond’s legacy might as well be buried undreneath it.

1. Or have divine assistance.


“It is as sport to a fool to do wickedness, and so is wisdom to a man of discernment.”(Proverbs 10:23)
Inspired by Kurt Warner’s recent accusations that he was benched because of his religion, ESPN’s Robert Lipsyte writes about Sports, God & Religion.
Nothing really new here. Some players like to invoke the name of the Lord before they go out to who knows what. On the other hand, some owners are suspicious of players who (halilah) believe in a power greater than football. Reading this article, I’m reminded how similar this community of worshipers mimics almost every religious community.
I’m sure there are plenty of professional athletes devoted to their respective faiths. Others merely pay lip-service because it sounds good to other people and they demonstrate some degree of humility. How many people do we know of sit on either side of this mehitza?
I also find interesting is the jihad aspect of football. Whoever has more faith, has God on their side, and therefore deserves to win. Dennis Miller had a great line (not quoted by Lipsyte for some reason): “the winning team always has God on their side, but no one ever says ‘Jesus made me fumble.'” It’s easy to thank God when things are going well, but how often do we see the hand of God in the bad as well?
From what I’ve seen, the Lord is invoked in football more than other sports. This could be because of shortened season, heightened intensity, or following George Carlin – baseball is just wimpy. With fewer and more intense games, football players will understandably be more emotional than after one of the many insignificant baseball games.
Of course, all athletes get emotional at the end of the season. Players thank God for a good season or for the opportunities they had. It’s a time of reflection and retrospection where players reevaluate themselves and prepare for the future season (or retirement). For intents and purposes, this is the end of their year and the off-season is a time for renewal and optimism. We shouldn’t be surprised then that athletes have their own “Rosh Hashana” rituals.
It’s easy to mock athletes for irrational, inconsistent, or insincere faiths. Just realize that underneath the pads and multi-million dollar contracts, they’re just people like everyone else. And the flaws we see in them, might very well be the flaws we refuse to see in ourselves.