Sports reads: Is winning everything? Is it anything?

Reads

The topic of winning is a natural one in sports. Sports are, after all, one of life’s few activities that have clear and objective winners and losers. That’s one of the appeals of sports. It’s therefore very interesting when things happen to subvert the reward of winning, even within sports. This week, we’re featuring four articles that approach the topic of winning from a different point of view.

Fuck Winning

by Albert Burneko for Deadspin

Burneko got his start on Deadspin writing about food and quickly became hotly anticipated must-read-out-loud material in my household. Recently he’s made the move to non-food commentary and his stuff is just as good. This week, he responded to James Harrison, and NFL veteran, who publicly and triumphantly returned a participation trophy that one of his children had been given. 

The big grown-up world is coming up behind my children—behind James Harrison’s kids and yours, too, if you have them. To sort them: those who will prosper, or falter; those whom the barbarism we have enshrined into our way of life will reward, and those it will devour; those who will strive with their whole selves to make their way in that grown-up world and then unknowingly choose to attend the same prayer meeting as Dylann Roof and be snatched out of it in violence and fear and confusion, whether they got trophies for participating in sports or not.

For now, for now, for as long as I can have it, the reason to do things—to play sports, to do work, to get out of bed in the morning—is because the privilege is a fucking miracle, because it might allow my children to be children now, now, today, before the least consideration of long-term goals and competition and getting ahead may intrude upon the impulse a little kid gets to put a balloon inside his shirt and make another little kid laugh.

Soccer’s Poor Little Rich Clubs

by Joshua Robinson for the Wall Street Journal

Although European countries tend to be more socialist than ours, European club soccer is way more capitalist. The movement of teams from one level-league to the next higher or lower carries with it incredible financial consequences. For smaller teams, just making it into the top league, even if they then lose all their games, is a giant victory.

Europe’s major leagues all operate on a system of promotion and relegation. The bottom two or three clubs every season are demoted to the division below and replaced by the best teams beneath them. In the richest leagues, it’s like a revolving door to the billionaires’ club… 

And as television revenue reaches new heights, the microclubs all make the same bet. A couple of seasons at their country’s top table can translate to years of financial stability. It isn’t about winning titles. It is about surviving—even briefly.

Roger Goodell vs. Tom Brady: The Ultimate Revenge-of-Mediocrity Story

by Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone

In court, no one wins, not even the winner. That’s the message of this acerbic article about the continuing Deflategate “scandal” in the NFL.

If Goodell wins this court battle, sports pundits will line up to talk about what a “brilliant” PR strategist Goodell is, how he’s “masterfully” scored a public relations “knockout” of the once-iconic Brady.

Except this Iago-esque campaign of diabolical leaks, secret indictments and double punishments has been conducted against his most marketable player for…why exactly? What other business would spend such an awesome amount of time, money, and most of all cunning undermining its key employees?

It’s like concocting a brilliant plan to break into a supermax prison. Hey, you made it, congratulations, that’s a hell of a tunnel you built there. Now what was the point again?

Medieval Times: The Armored Combat League Makes Sport Out of Swords and Shields

by Jason Concepcion for Grantland

Concepcion spends a fair amount of time marveling at the wild sport that people have forged from a history of armored combat, but its his ironic take on the appeal of this history that caught my eye. 

Once upon a time, the subset of Americans who are drawn to the ren-faire-style wizards, wenches, and knights trappings of medieval Europe were looked upon by their countrymen with collective fascination, if at all. Such behavior existed under the general umbrella of Nerd Shit. But now, after the one-two punch of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Game of Thrones becoming a global phenomenon, a not-insignificant portion of Americans have a cursory knowledge of heraldry and feudalism.

For all its courtly affectations, Europe’s medieval period was essentially a religiously fractious, war-torn dystopia… Which is to say, its appeal has never seemed more obvious.

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