Tennis in San Quentin: "...it was a group of convicted felons who were perhaps the best-behaved and most ethical group of competitors I have ever witnessed."
As Good As It Gets: "Another Berthelot paper, published in 2008, predicts that the end of almost all athletic improvement will occur around 2027. By that year, if current trends hold — and for Berthelot, there’s little doubt that they will — the “human species’ physiological frontiers will be reached,” he writes. To the extent that world records are still vulnerable by then, they will be improved by no more than 0.05 percent — so marginal that the fans, Berthelot reasons, will likely fail to care."
"I know a lot of rules and regulations.": A high school league championship in track and field was decided on a points deduction when Coach Mike Knowles spotted Robin Laird breaking the rules. Her infraction: wearing a friendship bracelet. Her pole vault would have helped her team win the meet, but she was disqualified. Knowles's team took home the trophy.
Muhammed and Annie: Ali-Frazier II on the cover, Annie Dillard inside. I don't read the print edition of SI much anymore; do they still publish this sort of thing? And later in the year, they also ran Jonathan Yardley's review of the year's notable books; he had this to say about her Pilgrim at Tinker Creek: If you like nature writing that is cuddly and cute, you will not like Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. If, on the other hand, you admire writing that views nature with both awe and honesty, this is for you. Dillard is no mean stylist, and she brings all of her substantial gifts to bear on what she sees in and around the creek near her Virginia mountain home.
Iowa High School Football Legend Killed in Weight Room by Former Player: Ed Thomas--football coach at Aplington-Parkersburg, 2005 NFL High School Coach of the Year, mentor to four current NFL linemen--was shot and killed today while supervising players during summer weightlifting. ESPN profiled A-P and Thomas last year after a tornado destroyed the school, Thomas's house, and most of the town.
And what of events in Kinchasa?: In 1971, Alistair Cooke enjoyed the outcome of Ali-Frazier I:
It is not enough for a lifelong Methodist* to wait for justice on Judgment Day. He preserves a deep yearning to see sinners get their comeuppance here on earth. And last night all the rumbling warnings of his boyhood came meanly, beautifully true.
Not the first time he wrote about The Greatest, either.
* who apparently skipped Proverbs 24:17-18: Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth: Lest the LORD see it, and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him.
Any Baseball is Beautiful: Same goes for wooden tennis racquets. Be sure to click through the slideshow.
A Small, Good Thing: How many 23-yo, female high school band and vocal directors also coach the boy's basketball team at their school? At least one.
"Ballet aficionados are just sports fans in formal wear.: They, too, are obsessed with a physical act, honed by a manic devotion and years of repetition, transformed by the force of one moment, one crowd, and one serendipitous confluence of circumstances into something beautiful. If you’re any good as a writer, you’ll be able to grasp and then channel just a bit of that; if you’re really good, you can do it night after night. But now and then you get it all: the dramatic home run, the perfect quote, the most perceptive take on what everyone saw, and then, if you’re even luckier, you see the story clear in your head and get time enough to hammer it into your keyboard." S.L. Price on sportswriting.
The Advanced Tennis Reasearch Project: Saw this mentioned in an old article about Federer*: "People often speak of a "heavy ball." It is not a technical term. Recently, however, John Yandell, a tennis teacher in San Francisco, came up with a way to quantify heaviness. Yandell runs the Advanced Tennis Research Project, an outfit that uses high-speed film to analyze the strokes of the world's top players. ATRP has been able to measure the spin on a ball in terms of revolutions per minute. . . . Velocity plus spin equals weight. The heaviest ball Yandell and his team have ever recorded was a forehand that Federer hit at Indian Wells in 2004: 4,400 rpm, 80 miles an hour. Thwock." *that shamelessly takes its title from John McPhee's classic.
Accession Notes: In Praise of Athletic Beauty: A review of Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht's In Praise of Athletic Beauty: "Gumbrecht has the ordinary sports fan in mind as an audience. Perhaps the 'educated' sports fan might be more accurate; someone with a passing familiarity with history, and the interest in seeing sports in historical context. One thing is clear: Gumbrecht is not providing an academic defense of the many 'readings' of sports of which he is so critical. Sports, in Gumbrecht's view do not need such a defense; they have the intransitive quality of being 'for themselves'." A good sign: no mention of Huizinga's Homo Ludens.
Staph aureus takes the field: "One report stated a simple high five could spread the infection from one person to another if both had turf burns that came in contact."
Sparklines on the sportspage: Juiceanalytics takes a look at how sparkline-type graphs can be used on the sportspage.
When hyperbole goes down a wrong path: See panel #4. more inside . . .
Include them out?: The first question in Jon Wertheim's Tennis Mailbag this week deals with Andre Agassi's (brief) appearance in Dubai for their payola-driven event. In his reply, he notes that he was apprised by a reader that Dubai's tourism website states "Nationals of 'Israel' may not enter the U.A.E." What if an Israeli tour player qualifies for this event? (more inside)
Nobody cares enough to teach you the craft.: The strangeness of women's boxing: "I've been to more than a dozen women's fights since that first one, and nearly all were just like it, 45-second bloodfests. It's hard to figure what appeals to the girls who fight: You get thrown in the ring with some cretin who is trying to rip your head off, you have no idea how to defend yourself, and all the while a thousand sweaty men are shouting at you, trying to be clever about your rear end." (via aldaily)
The Philosophy of Basketball (and its Relation to Capitalism, Democracy and Socialism): A Marxist explains how basketball is a lens for bringing sociopolitical realities and ideals into focus: "Unfortunately, few of the people who love teamwork in basketball, which hides their desire for more cooperation in life, which in turn calls for the spread of democracy throughout society, are likely to admit that what they really want - and need - is socialism." A coffeehouse riff he actually wrote down, maybe.
In field hockey, do they call them "war mommies?": "War daddy" is the rare bit of football jargon that somehow manages to be both ubiquitous and obscure. A die-hard fan who can parse the differences between a mike linebacker and a will linebacker probably hasn't heard of a war daddy. Well, count me among the uninformed. I'd somehow never heard this term before reading the article, even though I've watched scores and scores of football games. I'm sure that I'm going to hear it constantly now, and that it'll get irritating. Still, an interesting article.