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February 18, 2011


So let me throw this idea out there for the NCAA Men's March Madness Basketball Tournament. It has recently been expanded to 68 teams from 65, and there was talk last summer of expanding it even more for various reasons most of which centered around $$$ and how much the NCAA could wring out of its corporate while having the people playing the games work under relatively serf-like conditions when compared to said $$$.

In any event, my idea (which I've expressed elsewhere, including offline so maybe I'm at risk of outing myself) is the go back to the old 64 team format, but, every four years, expand the tournament to 256 teams for a "Supertournament". This could be done by expanding the tournament to a single extra weekend. Further, it could be done without lengthening the season by canceling the conference tournaments for that year.

I would then seed the top 64 teams purely by computer rankings and those teams would host the first two rounds of games. The remaining 192 teams (also picked by computer rankings) would be dispersed randomly among the brackets. Thus, after the first weekend, you would be back to 64 teams, and then you could continue the brackets as is or re-seed everyone and go from there.

This idea would elminate all the whining about who was "last in" and "last out" (hard to whine if you can't make the top 256 teams). It would allow the NCAA to have more teams make the tournament and the associated extra revenue but still preserve the nice 64 team set up we have now for most years. Further, I'm not sure it would result in any extra games played on average so long as the conference tournaments are canceled (with the associated revenue made up via more teams in the tournament and the top 64 teams hosting the first two rounds); to the extent the NCAA claims it cares about student atheletes.

What's not to like?

Or if that doesn't float your boat, how about this:

Resolved, the current NCAA rules governing the "amateur" status of big time college football and basketball players (or any other relevant "student-athlete"), are fundamentally unjust, unclear, and exploitative; thus they should be repealed and colleges should be permitted to pay players as much as the players can command.

In other words, if Cam Newton's father can get an SEC school to pay his son six figures to go play there, more power to him and Cam.

The comment I always make about sports is that I somehow missed the sports gene. I played all kinds of ball when I was a kid, but beginning around adolescence and continuing to today, I just lost all interest in organized sports.

If there's a football game on wherever I am at Thansgiving, I'll watch it. My wife and I watch the SuperBowl with one particular set of friends every couple of years because we like to hang out with them.

Other than that, sports to me is like news from some other planet. I just don't get it.

Can somebody explain to me what the appeal is? This is not a sarcastic question. I can plainly see that watching and participating in sports and games is a huge part of many folks' lives, but for some reason it just does not ring my bell. I feel like I'm missing a vital sensory organ of some kind.

None of this is intended to be dismissive of LJ's post, I'm just weighing in with my experience, open-thread style.

russell, on the other hand, when I became physically unable to participate regularly in organized sports (around 45) I found it hard to find an exercise regimen that I could psyche myself up to be regular about.

The combination of constantly honing and developing skills (that I was never "good" at", along with the opportunity to develop the kind of teamwork you learn playing with others provides a blend of physical and emotional satisfaction that I haven't ever duplicated in any other part of my life.

The blind pass to the cutting teammate for the key layup to win the game, knowing where he would be without looking, him catching the pass and making the shot. The fade route in the corner to a wide receiver that hasn't made the cut to the corner yet, the corner back breaking on the pass that the quarter back hasn't thrown, the timing, execution and teamwork.... and we haven't gotten to the subtleties of baseball.

Then to watch people who do all those things like they were choreographed, on the fly. It is beautiful and then jarring all in the same seconds.

I was going to put this in the post, but I thought better of it. I tend to think of ObWi's attitude (if it can be said that the blog has an attitude) towards sports as the part of Manufacturing Consent that has Chomsky talking about 'mindless jingoism' of sports on the Jumbotron of the Astrodome while the 49ers (I think) are doing their warmups.

I'll give a try at explaining tomorrow, unless someone does it better before I wake up. There's actually a big scandal here in the sumo world that plugs into that, but let me sleep on it.

Russell -- I haven't read the post yet so maybe I should keep quiet, but I will give my own quick answer to your question before I get back to work.

I rarely watch sports any more, but I used to quite a lot, and I'll still watch some b-ball or tennis now and then, or a bit of the Olympics.

Part of the reason is that I love to see something done really really well. For some perverse reason, I especially love to see a superb athlete perform -- it's not something I was ever good at myself, and somehow that plays into it for me. I think seeing a great athlete (Michael Phelps, the Williams sisters, Federer or Nadal come to mind) gives me a pleasure that some people get from great music or art or theater.

I would have loved the chance to play on a baseball team when I was a kid, but there were no sports for girls when/where I was growing up. I learned to play basketball in college and played with friends for years, and once in a women's league. It took me a while to realize that good athletes have a relationship to physical achievements something like my relationship to math: math was always easier for me than it was for everyone else in my little world; athletes took physical stuff for granted in the way that I took math for granted.

But really great athletes don't get that way just on native talent: they work their a$$es off. So that's another thing that contributes to my enjoyment of watching sports now and then: the realization of how hard people work to be good, and an appreciation for the amazing things that can be accomplished with disciplined use of one's talents.

This wasn't so quick, but ... done now.

when I became physically unable to participate regularly in organized sports (around 45) I found it hard to find an exercise regimen that I could psyche myself up to be regular about.

I'm the same way. I can stay on a basketball court all day, but a treadmill? Yech.

Adding, that I, too, always preferred making the pass to scoring the basket. Not that I have the dribbling skills or size to be a point guard, but I can dish the rock.

Divac-esque. Or Sabonis if you prefer.

I enjoy watching baseball, and during the warm months in Ohio I bike to work, but by and large I couldn't care less about "sports" generally. I'll watch the Super Bowl and maybe some basketball games when they're on, and can appreciate the athleticism, but just can't get behind all the stats and roster-memorizing. (Why the hell would I care who plays point guard for the Golden State Warriors?) And I sure as hell don't care about the seat-fillers that comprise NCAA athletics.

thus they should be repealed and colleges should be permitted to pay players as much as the players can command.

OK, but then let's cancel all the NCAA Div I scholarships and make these folks pay their own ways if they actually want an education. Pretty sure the value of a full ride at a Div I school is already pretty substantial payment, especially since -- given graduation rates -- they really have no other business there.

Otherwise, the NFL and the NBA can make like Major League Baseball and start farm systems where the athletes can either work their way up or find other productive work in their lives, instead of expecting our universities to train their athletes for them. Let me know how that works out.

OK, but then let's cancel all the NCAA Div I scholarships and make these folks pay their own ways if they actually want an education. Pretty sure the value of a full ride at a Div I school is already pretty substantial payment, especially since -- given graduation rates -- they really have no other business there.

Not sure that would be necessary. In my thinking athletes would get paid what the market would bear, if colleges want to pay them in cash, fine. If they want to pay them in kind via scholarships to attend school (or nice dorm rooms w/free food, or whatever), fine. Both? Fine. But this idea that, e.g., the one and done crowd in college basketball these days is there to get an education or is an amateur is just nonsense, IMHO. The amount of value that is transferred from these 18-22 year olds to their schools and coaches via the NCAA cartel is unjustifiable.

Otherwise, the NFL and the NBA can make like Major League Baseball and start farm systems where the athletes can either work their way up or find other productive work in their lives, instead of expecting our universities to train their athletes for them.

That would be fine with me too. No reason why the NFL (and to a lesser extent the NBA) should get a free minor league system. Lots of value being transferred to the professional sports leagues as well.

Russell's question may be the seed of a future post, but I'll try to tackle Phil's question about stats and roster-memorizing. I think there are two parts to that. I think that the fascination with sports stats is related to something within Anglo-American culture, both because sports in other countries are generally not really amenable to statistics, and there is this argumentive tendency to try and quantify reasons. There is also the fascination with being able to make predictions or explaining things in hindsight by revealing aspects that were not taken into account.

I also think that knowing sports stats functions both as giving context to memories as well as a macho 'I know this and you don't'. I don't think anyone would claim that this isn't true, but a quick link which is interesting to search further is this about the controversy of two football presenters making sexist remarks about a lineswoman.

However, what seems like trivial points can be woven into a rather compelling narrative. Here is an interview with Bill James where he tosses off stats but puts them in to illustrate his points. Knowing that Mike Stenhouse never had more than 180 at bats in a season and Doug Frobel's stats, (major and minor league!), sounds a lot like knowing who the point guard for Golden State was (Stephen Curry at the moment, but Jeremy Lin, a Chinese American of Taiwanese descent was signed to play that role, which is an interesting story) but in the service of a narrative, can be very powerful.

Another example is the career of Robert Parish, most notably his college career at Centenary College, which meshes nicely with your discussion of the de facto NCAA 'farm systems' for football and basketball.

This is not to claim that you are wrong in not ignoring it, just to try and perhaps pique your interest a little.

Politics is my sport.

Though I have no doubt you have seen this, your comment reminded me of this

Yeah, I loved the West Wing, both Sorkin and post-Sorkin, though post-Sorkin had some problems. I have most of the DVDs, but no time to rewatch. :-) But saw most of the earlier seasons repeatedly. Still love it; best political tv show ever.

There's a ton one could say about it, including Sorkin's relationship to the internet, and Sorkin in general, his other writing, but some other day.

Natually, as a tv show, there were many unrealistic aspects, but it's still a show that many would find educational, as well as entertaining despite, yes, the many criticisms possible from many angles.

Thanks muchly for the clip, LJ.

Also, I could point to the Ainsley Hayes character as, yes, fictional, but how Republicans can, at least on the lower levels, be sane and good people, and change. Yes, it's fictional, yes, then, but I'm just saying.

Also, the show, despite fictional, is a good example of how politicians, and policy makers, and people in the White House and rest of government are no different than the rest of us: human, full of emotional flaws, make errors, have busy days, do what they can, can never do enough, screw up, do their best, and so on.

We can only expect people to be that human and flawed, and it's best to show some humanity to them as fellow humans, although, yes, their powers are such that they can commit horrors resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, cause wars, change laws that destroy lives, affect the freedoms of millions, and so on.

Life is never simple.

And neither is politics or policy making.

And reductionist thinking to categories and labels rarely helps.

This is another famous clip, also lifted from a famous internet email by Kent Ashcroft.

One of the best West Wing sites, by the way, though tv shows have tons of good sites, including Wikipedia, and, of course, that great timesuck, Tv Tropes, which is also good on writing in general, by the way, and anyone interested in fiction writing of any sort could benefit from perusing it, as well as it being very entertaining.

Also, the WW can engender great debates about whether the Presidency should or should not be treated in the rather imperial way demonstrated in that Leviticus clip, and by Sorkin in general; as I said, the show can generate a long list of interesting debates.

Lots more good clips on YouTube.

I'm going to be in the hospital much of the day, so don't expect to see me around much.

Russell, I think I can explain a lot of the appeal of sports, despite being totally not a sports person: the grace of the human body, the unpredictability, the desire of people to identify with groups and teams (we see this in politics), the desire to root for winners, sympathize with underdogs, the admiration one can hold for great achievements, the hold numbers and stats have for many and the pleasure they get from that, the identification with celebrity, the desire for gossip, the idealism shown, the human flaws, the identification of ourselves with our heroes, the identification of sports heroes with those who play those sports, the human desire for light entertainment, the imprinting we receive as children, the collecting impulse, the pleasure we get from stretching our own bodies physically, the health aspects, all that and more.

Though sports bores the heck out of me as a spectator, and I was always far too clumsy to do much more than be a pretty good swimmer, as a kid, when I had good lungs I could swim for an extraordinarily long time underwater, when I was young and flexible I could do minor gymnastics, I could actually hit a baseball pretty well, but sucked at catching due to my amblyopia, I was crap because I was a tiny kid, but I actually on a kid's football team for a while, because I tried everything, and in retrospect those memories of me all suited up with helmet and pads are very hilarious.

Also I did some minor karate and judo as a kid, which helped because I had a mildly tough Brooklyn neighborhood, but it didn't help me from having the crap beaten out of me as a child at times, and in one year of Junior High, when in an SP program to condense 7th, 8th, and 9th grades into two, the first year they sent us to an annex on the top floor of a very dangerous school where every stairwell on every floor was franchised to shakedown items who would basically demand all the money in your pockets for safe passage, and I learned methods such as how to distract, how to be invisible, how to tell a funny joke and amuse long enough to get past, and other non-violent methods also teaching me that one can get past endless degrees of violent threats while being non-violent, in a practical way, not just theoretically.

Some of the most valuable lessons I ever learned in school, because most of the formal crap bored the hell out of me. (I also sucked at basket ball, despite being a fair runner, because of height and clumsiness and eyesight, but also I skipped another grade in elementary school, and am just small, at 5'4" now, and am still taller than my father was, mother, and sister.

Which is why I played "Tiny Tim" in our 3rd or 4th grade production of "A Christmas Carol."

"God bless us all! God bless us, EVERYONE!" were among my memorable lines, as was wearing a leg "brace" made out of cardboard and aluminum foil. :-)

And now some of those people are on Facebook with me, and we still have the same relationship where apparently they liked me, but don't read, talk about the old neighorhood, except for one classmate who grew up to be a writer and poet, and we have the most contact. :-)

As sports goes, I had a slight liking for baseball as a kid, went to some games at Shea and Yankee stadium, and that's about it for me as a spectator.

Also, of course, there's the family thing, and pride in your children, which can also, of course, make people insane. :-)

But everyone here can talk sports better than me, so have fun. I stick to politics as participant sport, spectator entertainment, and the way we must deal with each other, and work out the most serious problems, while not killing each other, but through realistic and never satisfactory, always frustrating, usually infuriating, compromises.

Unless we walk away, burned out, disgusted, or convinced it's useless.

Which is perfectly understandable, and perfectly wrong.

But it's not everyone's job, either.

Except that it is.

Y'all are making sports sound fun.

I think I get a lot of my personal teamwork / strive for excellence / unpredictability and grace of people acting in real time jones met from playing music.

Probably the group identity thing, too, although nothing I listen to or participate in has a group identity at the scale of football, or baseball, or hoops.

Nonetheless, it's interesting that folks cite all of that as part of the appeal, it's something I can relate to.

Part of it could also be just not enough time in the day to develop another area of interest.

The statistics aspect just straight up doesn't grab me. Different strokes I guess.

Thanks for your replies!

Have you ever listened to two guys play a duel blues lead so well that their guitars sounded like a single instrument, an inseperable sound, that was so haunting that you just couldn't ever get from one guy playing?

That's the feeling when two guys on a fast break know exactly when the other guy is going to cut or pass or stop or shoot and the other team just watches as they three pass up the floor without putting the ball on the hardwood to an easy layup without looking at each other. It is team work combined to create beauty from precision that is almost unduplicatable outside that team at that moment. And only happens so rarely you just don't want to not be there when it does. And to the unknowledgeable eye, or ear, it was just two points, or a guitar riff, enjoyable maybe, but so much is missed.

and Slarti talked a bit about competitive swimming
And as I recall, he likes to kick people in the head. :-)

And otherwise strike them with blows and be struck, but not otherwise be injured, including in the elbows. Beyond that, I leave it to him to discuss, but he does like him his competitive swimming, I recall, as a spectator, and I don't know whether as a participant.

Russell, going back to your original comment:

The comment I always make about sports is that I somehow missed the sports gene.
I've generally felt that way, myself.

I spent a lot of years, in fact, being rather distinctly hostile to the idea, in my more rebellious and contrarian youth, when I was much more anti-social.

Eventually I smoothed that down to live and let live, but for years it was still a mystery to me.

It's only in relatively recent years (don't ask me how long), that I've come to understand more of the appeal for others, as I described above.

But all that is merely observation on my part. In all honesty, sports generally just bore the crap out of me. I'm delighted that others enjoy them, I now understand the appeal, and I can see how I could make myself like any of them, but life is short, I prefer to spend my energy elsewhere, and that's all there is to it.

When I was younger and dumber, I once saw it as a Big Waste Of Time. Later I realized I was Being An Assh*le, and that we all get to pick our ways to unwind, our hobbies, our joys, our shared loves, and that nothing is a waste of time that makes us happy.

I've certainly for most of my life had lots of interest in things I couldn't remotely claim were more "useful" ways to spend time, be they escapist literature, computer games, whatever.

In recent times, I'm too far gone in the opposite direction; I need to find ways to make more time for just relaxing and engaging in light entertainment, because frankly, since I started packing to move to Oakland from Raleigh, let alone since I moved, I literally got to spend appoximately a handful a of 15 minute bursts of watching that much of a few bits of a few favorite old movies, and some songs on the big screen tv downstairs, and the closest I otherwise come to relaxation are spending cat time, sitting on the porch briefly, playing a bit of YouTube video, listening to a bit of music, and that's it.

Things have just been Too Busy and Too Hectic, and there are just too many obligations in my life for now, also connected to the health issues, and other matters I'm not comfortable discussing.

But I adore movies -- and have found less and less time to watch any in the past couple of years, and now none at all, save that I had one friend over once, since I got here, and watched one movie. This is somewhat frustrating, but hardly the worst problem I've ever had in my life.

Ditto I went from once, or sometimes, upon a time having the tv on a lot as background -- when I've had a tv, or wasn't couch-surfing, or, um, living in more complicated circumstances, to less and less, to eventually just watching some stuff via streaming onnlin4e -- this also has tons to do with changing circumstances in an unstable life, having on and off access to various things, variable budgets, but always low income, and so forth.

I'm digressing too much, but without going further into the irrelevant topic of how much I love movies and good tv, and how I've evolved over the years, my bottom line is that I look forward to the time I can work more relaxation time into my life again, it's necessary for psychic and emotional health, and with luck in another month or two, I'll have more opportunity to do that some more, but presently circumstances simply really don't allow for it, save by surrendering obligations I really can't, because most of them are simply essential to my survival, or commitments I've made, or that I otherwise derive enjoyment from, or all of the above, which in various ways, blogging and writing online are various forms, more or less, of all of the above. :-)

None of which has anything directly to do with sports, but is on the more general question of what forms of light entertainment we enjoy -- and perhaps serious intellectual entertainment is all we enjoy, and so on, but meanwhile, in the end, bless all of you who love watching sports, the only "sport" I otherewise really took an interest in for a while was chess, and that really passed when I realized I was never going to be more than deeply mediocre -- though I do have a funny story about my encounter with... some other time.

So, in the end, I'm back where I started: I think it's neat that people get what they do out of sports, whether participating or watching, it's a huge part of every culture, one way or another, I'm more inclined to start thinking about the sociological, psychological, economic, and political aspects, because: that's my sport.


So I know where you're coming from, too, I think.

Lastly, at this point, I don't know what the hell physical sport my body would possibly be up to these days, save maybe juggling while sitting down, which I do kind of do metaphorically, anyway. :-)

And I think I've now exhausted just about everything I have to say about sports, which is why you never see me comment on the subject, except now.

But I'll digress into saying that I think having universities put so much budget and emphasis into their sports teams is, more than not, a Bad Thing, and I think cities doing deals to subsidize stadiums with tax breaks and even worse forms of what I regard as a form of con game, is a Very Bad Thing, and to some degree I do think that organized sports are a bit more bread-and-circus in our society than might be optimal, but that last is too generalized a thought to discuss, while the other two are a diversion back onto politics, so now I say: knock 'em out of the park, keep your eye on the ball, as well as the prize, find your balance, and enjoy.

"I think I get a lot of my personal teamwork / strive for excellence / unpredictability and grace of people acting in real time jones met from playing music."

And that has vastly more appeal for me, though purely as a spectator, as I've always regretted that I can't sing or hold a tune, can't play any instruments, and can barely even whistle.

I do love music as a listener, and envy those who can do any or all of the above, and know that if I really tried, I could learn to do better at any of the above, and who knows, maybe sometime I will, but meanwhile, I listen, and even that, frankly, I don't do enough of because I really can't think well while music is playing, unfortunately; I just find it too distracting, so even as a listener, I don't get to do remotely as much as I'd like.

(Also, again, my circumstances and income in many years have played a role in this, as has, in recent years, my limited mobility. But there's endless music to listen to online, and that I don't do more is again merely a problem that I find it hard to listen to new music without really focusing on it, if I'm thinking at all, and even familiar favorite music I have to set aside to do any focused concentration on writing or absorbing information, and in generally I'm somewhat autistic in processing verbal (not oral) written communication, and kind of suck at the drawing more then stick figures, or creating any kind of music, though I like to fancy that I'm an extremely sharp observer, and in particular: can we count people watching as a sport? Sitting in public, watching people go by, making deductions about them from bits an pieces, imagining their stories, and even better, striking up conversations, and asking people their stories?

I don't know that any of that is a sport -- it's more of an approach to life -- but that's otherwise as close as I come, I guess, to the topic.

Unless we count that there are movies about sports that I really like, as movies.

And since we touched on Aaron Sorkin, I loved Sports Night, no matter that I really couldn't care less about sports. :-)

Oh, and of course there's some excellent writing that ostensibly is about sports, but which I very much like, because any good writing is good writing.

And yet more: if computer games count as sports, then I've liked a lot of those over the years, including back to the days when I was a commercial video game whiz, and further back to... pinball!

And does miniature golf count? And I kinda mildly liked bowling, in a very minor way. All mostly as a kid, and now it occurs to me that on the smattering of occasions when, mostly as a kid or adolescent, I was on a rifle or pistol or shotgun range, I was always a damn good shot, which also played into the video game thing, and the computer game thing, which is odd, given my amblyopia, but I can't explain that, just describe it.

And I had a bb gun as a kid, and come to think of it, enjoyed archery.

So I guess I've never been as entirely sports-indifferent as I think of myself as. Interesting how our self-conceptions don't always fully hold up when we start really thinking about them, isn't it? :-)

Now someone define "sports" for me. :-)

Does debating count? :-)

Competitive googling? :-)

I'm late to this - trust me to do that - but I think people are spinning this discussion into interesting areas.

While I too, in junior high school and high school, got caught up in all the major North American sports, I grew up as a child in Australia, in Perth, where Australian rules football reigns supreme in the colder months (from April to September), and where the best players there move on to the valhalla of the sport in Melbourne.

What I have always loved about Aussie rules, and still do, is the pace of the action, the openness of the play, and the high scoring (teams can routinely score 100 points or more, thanks to goals being worth six points each).

But what I loved most about it as a kid in the late 1960s and early '70s was that it was still semi-professional; even in Victoria, the superstars of the era had day jobs, were fairly approachable as people, yet still commanded a level of hero-worship to move a Casey Stengel anecdote or a Yogi Berra couplet. Yet they were who they were in a way Australians have traditionally liked their heroes - dinky-die, neat, blokes down the road you could have a stubby with.

The teams represented the various municipal districts and smaller communities in and around the major cities where Aussie rules is (still mainly) played - Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, and Hobart - and are still more or less run as civic institutions that the locals in them are proud of.

While there's much more money in the game than what there used to be, there's always been a down-to-earth quality that I still find a relief, still indelibly Aussie, and a refuge from the overamped egos and oceans of cash in North American sports.

I'm on the run and have no chance to embed YouTube links to what I still feel is a fascinating sport. Email me at sekaijinATpureDOTocnDOTnedotjp and I'll send you some links, past and present.

Australian Rules Football.

That's easy enough. You'll have to pick your own favorites. :-)

I do have friends who are fans.

There may be more fanatical sports fans around, but few are more eclectic than I. If it moves and they keep score, I'll watch it.

When I was growing up, watching sports was one of the few enjoyments I shared with my father. He introduced me to football, basketball, track, and baseball, although he didn't compete in any of these himself. Over the decades I have seen (in person), among many others:

Football (gridiron): from the Rose Bowl game, in front of nearly 100,000 spectators, to a high school game played in the Rose Bowl – yes, the same RB – with roughly 1,500 fans. (Both times “my” team won!) Michigan in Bo Schembechler's heyday, with over 100,000 regularly. The Rams and the Chargers (once each, exhibition only) when they were both in Los Angeles.

Track: the first 7-foot high jump ever; the first 4-minute mile in North America; and a couple of the now-oldest world records, set by East German women in Canberra in 1983.

Basketball: UCLA before they started winning (with Rafer Johnson at forward); Duke – both men & women – in Cameron Indoor Stadium; Michigan in Crisler Arena (“the house that Cazzie Russell built”)

Baseball: in BOTH Wrigley Fields, the “friendly confines” in Chicago and the even friendlier (smaller) park in Los Angeles, home to the minor-league Angels and later the major-league Angels, briefly. The LA Coliseum and Dodger Stadium and some bandbox in Philadelphia. I've sung both the US & Canadian National Anthems before games in the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Bob Gibson and Don Drysdale and Stan Musial and Frank Robinson and Evan Longoria and David Price, inter alia.

. . . and then on to:

Cricket: I've seen Gary Sobers hit a test century at Lord's, David Gower hit one at The Oval, and Greg Chappell at the SCG, plus David Boon in a one-day match at Manuka Oval, Canberra.

Football (soccer): at Stamford Bridge and Craven Cottage, back when Denis Law starred for Man U.

Rugby Union, Rugby League, Australian Rules Football, Beach Volleyball, Pro Tennis, Ice Hockey: games here and there. The odd bits of cross-country, and a couple of bullfights (not really a sport).

And on television, easily one or two orders of magnitude more of all these – thousands upon thousands of hours – not to mention golf and winter sports and lacrosse and bowls and curling (= bowls on ice) and horse and car racing and all manner of Olympic competitions.

The only sport in which I ever competed was tennis, in which I was – barely – a HS letterman. Many years later I goofed around playing volleyball badly with some equally incompetent academic friends.

I could provide reasons why sports are fascinating and meaningful, some of which reasons others have already articulated, but at the end of the day I have to admit that I like sports because I like them, and all the rest is rationale. They are enjoyments, and no more intrinsically worthy than many things that other people like and do that interest me less or not at all: politics, knitting, shopping, fishing, collecting guns, fashion, spiritual self-improvement, etc. etc. We are here on earth for a limited time, and if we don't spend some of that time enjoying ourselves, we're wasting it.

Go Blue!

I just wanted to pass on the (perhaps derisive) slang term for Aussie Rules, which is 'aerial ping-pong', though a quick look at Wikitionary says that this referred to older tactics and that the game. (I also recommend the list of Aussie Rules nicknames, fun even if you have no idea how the game is played)

Also, if you haven't seen it, Rooney's bicycle kick goal against crosstown derby rivals Man City is
here, though the Premier League is taking them down as soon as they go up and the 'related videos' can be a bit dodgy.

dr ngo, as I simmer with envy, I really don't understand how you got any research done...

And, just in time, is this article about 'mental athletes'

I can't say I'm surprised at the generally low level of sports discussion here. Partly, I think most of us come here for other things. And then there is our general lack of athletic ability. (No offense intended to any athletes in the group.)

I enjoy watching pro football, but last played organized football myself in 6th grade. (Our class' 6-man team had plays and everything. Which is why we trounced everybody else. And I was high scorer on my team because I had so little ability -- nobody bothered to cover me, so I was frequently open downfield for TD passes.) But football, to be appreciated, has to be watched on TV -- you simply can't see what is going on if you are in the stadium.

That contrasts with basketball, where you can't see what is going on unless you are actually there. Me, I don't want to deal with being in a crowd so I avoid it.

Finally, baseball is a radio game. You can listen while doing something else. And something happens often enough that it fits neatly. (I used to do engineering problem sets while listening. work a problem; something happens. Work another problem; something happens again.) But it's hard to be a dedicated baseball enthusiast when you are a Cubs fan....

And as I recall, he likes to kick people in the head. :-)

I'd amend that slightly to that I like being able to kick people in the head. It's just that the only way to prove to myself that I can do that, on occasion, is to actually kick someone in the head.

Note: this is nearly always accomplished while both parties are on their feet, or (in my case) foot.

And otherwise strike them with blows and be struck, but not otherwise be injured, including in the elbows. Beyond that, I leave it to him to discuss, but he does like him his competitive swimming, I recall, as a spectator, and I don't know whether as a participant.

The sparring part is something I didn't expect to like, but am really enjoying. We do full-contact sparring, which is not the same thing as what they do in MMA fights. We tend not to try to hurt each other. Control is important.

Oh, also: grappling. Another thing that I never thought I would like, but was wrong about.

As far as swimming goes, I enjoy watching it, and also enjoy tracking the progress of the various people I know who do it, including some college-age kids that are children of friends, or nieces and nephews.

Possibly I'll swing by to say more about these things later, if anyone is interested.

Liberal Japonicus,

Thanks for the shout out! I grew up playing baseball, but fell in love with association football (i.e., soccer) when I lived in Kaiserslautern, Germany during the 1974 World Cup.

Kaiserslautern is a city with its own great fußball tradition (it was a venue for the 2006 WC, including the match between the US and Italy) and I grew to love the game then. I've seen matches in Brazil, the USA, Germany, Spain and Italy.

I lived in Germany during the 1974 WC, the USA during the 1994 WC and expect to be living in Brazil during the 2014 WC, making me the only person I know of who would have lived in three different countries on three different continents for three different World Cups.

To be a bit negative, I'm not fond of these sorts, and also having lived in university towns, including when this law was passed, and having observed the trigger for it, even though I thought the law was stupid overkill (hey, look, I'm a libertarian!), I'm just in general not fond of drunken rowdy thugs, no matter what the sport is, or how happy or angry they are.

Although the folks who like to come over to use the pool in back of my tiny apartment building, at 3 a.m., after a game in Boulder, to have sex, a few times each summer did put on a nice show, I must say.

The time one group basically tried to start a fight with two of my neighbors (and me! me! Because I'm just so darn physically threatening) because we had the nerve to live there while they wanted to have a shouting party at, again, 3 a.m. in our pool, was mostly just amusing, since they were so drunk, they were lucky they didn't either drown, or walk into the fence on the way out.

The fact that my very large neighbor was carrying a baseball bat probably helped a tad. I also gently murmured something about "police" as I retreated, while they shouted at us something to the effect that we had a lot of nerve for living there when they wanted to use the pool, and why did we have a pool if not for them to use it or something.

But, then, extreme drunkenness rarely adds much to the fun of the non-drunk folk in the area.

Not that I have anything against people enjoying themselves heartily so long as they clean up their own vomit.

Oh, come to think of it, though this isn't about sports, but this is an open thread, and I've announced this on Facebook, I might as well mention that I now have a commitment, absent nuclear war, death of one of us, onset of more dementia than I already have, earthquake, solar flare, black holes, plague, or other undesirable events, to be able to stay in my current dwelling through February 28th of 2012.

I was tired enough when I wrote this on Facebook that I managed to say it was through February 31st, and then explained that I really meant one of these calendars, pick one, but probably I meant this one.

Forgot to mention swimming (when my son was competing in youth meets) and diving, seen in person; and on TV: jai alai, because I was in the Philippines and that, along with basketball, appear to be all the sports shown.

LJ: Through fandom I did a lot less research than I might have, and thus attained less professional status, but I did have a good time. And continue to do so: both Duke basketball teams (women's and men's) won today. We - my wife (who has been coopted into our folie a deux) and I - watched the former in person, the latter from home. Go Duke!


Finally, baseball is a radio game.


As kid, I spent many a summer afternoon listening to the Mutual Broadcasting Game of the Day. Later, I remember driving on summer nights, intermittently catching the Cardinals on KMOX, and hearing the vendors yelling "Cold beer here," in the backgound. That will make you thirsty.

I like sports in general much less than I used to, though I remain a baseball fan. (And yes, I love the numbers). I think one thing that has reduced my interest is the "ESPN-ization" of sports. By that I mean the 24/7 hyper-ventilating approach where every game is hugely significant, every good player a superstar, every play spectacular and awesome, everything that happens is crucially important.

Not so. Not even in the context of the sport itself.

I started doing tae kwon do about three years ago, mostly because I'd promised my elder daughter that we'd take classes together. We got her in the after-school program; they pick them up after school, have them do their homework and get in a full hour of class prior to pickup. She was in that for a good while before I joined; basically she badgered me and I made excuses (she's in afternoon classes; I'd be in night classes, so where's the taking classes together in that) as long as I could, but finally gave in and started.

The thing that got me about entering into TKD again was the physical fitness aspect. I'd done it a few times earlier in life for weeks or months; once in college for a few weeks, a few weeks at a school in my hometown, a couple of months taking it from a fairly well-known guy (although I was unaware of it at the time) named Roy Kurban in Texas in 1984 or so, and a few months under Y.K. Kim in Orlando, after which I achieved yellow belt in 1986. There was always emphasis on fitness, but never quite to the degree that I was experiencing. And it wasn't just that I was in my twenties, last time I'd taken martial arts. This was working out with intention: to run us all nearly to exhaustion. Not just running (that's just the warmup), but lunges in large numbers, pushups (of constantly varying position), abdominal strengthening (situps, crunches, bicycles, front and side planks, leg raises, etc) and, well, kicking. Kicking looks fairly straightforward: you raise your knee and you kick. You kick straight out, or out and up, or stomp out, or pivot and swing the leg, or pivot and kick sideways, or pivot and kick back.

All of these. Over and over again. Do it fast, do it slow, do it against an opponent (not landing), do it against an opponent (very light contact) or against a heavy bag. At some point, raising the weight of your leg (which I'm guessing is 25-30 lbs) over repeatedly, from the hip, becomes hard work. Exhaustingly hard work.

And then there's the stretching. Everything gets stretched, and there's just as much variety in the kinds and positions of stretching as there is in the rest of the training (lots of which can be lumped under body weight exercises). After each hour of class, which is generally full of activity with very brief rests, everything is drenched with sweat. Swimming was hard, but this martial arts thing worked every single muscle, nearly.

I don't have any conceits about my "art" being superior to other "arts". I do this mostly for fitness, but also to achieve a degree of physical competency. I've learned some regard for working on the really difficult moves; you work on those not so much because you're likely to use them in sparring, or (less likely) in an actual fight, but because mastering them makes the simpler techniques more automatic. I watch one of my instructors (who is 24, but has been doing this since he was 7) practice just absurd moves, and don't any longer wonder when he's ever going to use them. I just know that because he can actually throw a 540 round, he can use a 360 round in sparring, and land it against decently skilled opponents. And he can do a 360 twist kick with apparent ease. The 360 twist has you twisting a full revolution one way, and at the end you throw the kick in the opposite direction of the twist.

All of this takes practice. Jhoon Rhee (10th dan) says that every form should be repeated at least 300 times before advancement. That more or less applies to any movement, I think. Muscle memory must be trained.

I test for black belt about a week before my 50th birthday. To me, that's kind of a cool thing, but I don't expect it to impress or motivate other people. It's enough that it motivates me.

Most of the things we have to do to pass belt testing have to be demonstrated prior to testing, but belt testing is, at least for lower belts, more strenuous than an actual class. Our head instructor deliberately pushes the students to the limit, and then has us do forms. At black belt level, we'll be expected to do full-contact sparring (which I've been doing for years, now) and potentially some grappling. Generally black belts have to have demonstrated their minimum forms requirement (all of them), self-defense techniques (all), breaking techniques (ball of foot roundhouse kick, spin hook kick, flying side kick), kicking combinations (can't recall these just now) and that we can fulfill the fitness requirements (100 pushups, 120 situps, done in sets of 10 or 20 with very brief rest between sets). Testing is, at black belt level, more of an exhibition than it is at lower belts. We get to pick a breaks that are different from our requirements breaks: one hand and one foot technique. At this point, I think my foot technique will be shuffle axe kick (which is kind of like a step and then axe kick, but the step is accomplished by switching feet while staying in place, so that your kick comes off the rear leg but that leg started out as your front leg) and my hand technique will be an inverted ridge hand. The inverted ridge hand is breaking with the inside edge of the hand, thumb tucked. My inverted ridge-hand break would be done palm up, at about throat level (doesn't take much imagination to determine what that's for). Done properly, it looks like a quick gesture rather than a power move.

The best thing about belt testing this year will be that my younger daughter and I make black belt during the same testing session. My elder daughter will be getting her first "star", which are the stepping stones to the next level once you hit black belt. Because she'll be only a few weeks shy of being 15, they may also raise her from junior black belt at that point.

The elder (Emily) has been an inspiration. She's just a ball of determination, and she makes me ashamed, from time to time, of my tendency to slack. When we first moved here, she was a preschooler, and her cerebral palsy affected her walking so that she fell down a lot. Never would I have imagined that she could now kick me above the waist (doubly difficult considering she's over a foot shorter than me) and can probably do more pushups than me.

This is some of what I've been doing with my time instead of blogging. It's taught me some humility, in many regards. I'm looking forward to the part of my progression through this discipline that involves teaching.

The best thing about belt testing this year will be that my younger daughter and I make black belt during the same testing session.

That is so cool. My oldest daughter and I did aikido for a while together, but after her 3 kyu, I think, she lost interest. Some serious envy here.

With TKD, do you need to learn the Korean names of various forms, techniques, etc?

Stretching is one of the big lacunae in Japanese martial arts. Sumo wrestlers are famed for flexibility, but it is achieved in a way that, from what I've read, is really not so good. 'Fortunately', sumo wrestlers have a shorter lifespan than most, and it's not like they are going to be like idiotic westerners who think they can keep doing crazy stuff into their 50s and 60s ;^)

Still, many thanks for taking the time to write all that when you could have been out crackin' skulls.

With TKD, do you need to learn the Korean names of various forms, techniques, etc?

That depends on the school, and the level of interest. Our school doesn't stress Korean commands & responses so much (because really, "bow" is pretty clear and crisp in English) but the instructors are all conversant with formal names for certain moves. I am learning them because most of the really authoritative texts are written by Korean grandmasters, and they tend to describe the moves in each form tersely, using Korean terms for each kick/strike/block.

Knowing things by their right names doesn't mean you're executing properly, though. Perfection is something you never really achieve; the best you can really hope for is asymptotic approach.

I always enjoy going to swimming pool for some relax spare time, to recharge my energy.

I think one thing that has reduced my interest is the "ESPN-ization" of sports.

THIS! Well, I probably have become more interested in sports over the last 20 years or so, but in spite of the ESPN-ization. Why do they need so many people talking during games? And I really can't stand the concert/circus that overwhelms the Super Bowl, which I mention only as the best example of an annoying general phenomenon.

I like watching sports because of the unpredictability and the amazing physical feats and effort. Whether it's a team or individual sport, you have two sides, among the best in the world at what they do (in the pros and world-class amateur sports), trying their hardest to beat one another.

It just makes for great, exciting drama.

There's really nothing you can put on TV that will make me jump up and down, yelling and screaming (even if I'm not drunk!), other than an exciting game I have strong partisan interest in. (You should have seen me in my living roon when the Eagles made their 4-touchdowns-in-less-than-8-minutes comeback against the Giants this past season. I'd be embarassed if I gave a crap about looking like an idiot, in that way, at least.)

Attending a big game when your team is playing, in a stadium or arena full of like-minded fans, is another level of crazy. There's nothing like it, except maybe for a really good metal or punk show with the right kind of crowd. I like that kind of tribalism (in relatively small doses, where no one starts a war).

"I like that kind of tribalism (in relatively small doses, where no one starts a war)."

High school football games and Zappa concerts dominated my youth for just this reason.

Slarti, if you ever come to the Bay Area, let me introduce you to my friend Elizabth Lynn, aka Lizzie Lynn. She'll kick your butt. :-) (She's also a great person, and helped me in various ways out here; she's also, of course, a great writer.)

Myself, I just practice stuffing my foot in my mouth, and then kicking myself in the head over it.

Zappa! Hey, I'm, like, a Californian, now, dude!

Naturally, I've been studying, but, like, check the video, fer sure, rilly!

She'll kick your butt.

Curiously, her Wikipedia entry completely omits any mention of aikido.

Not that hard to do, kicking my butt, particularly if she's been doing aikido as long as it says. One of my instructors is 40 years old, fairly obviously lesbian, about 60 lbs (or more) lighter than me, and can totally wipe the floor with me. She's tough as nails, quick, experienced, extremely fit, skilled, and I'm running out of adjectives. Oh, also: she answers to Sabumnim. She has five stripes on her belt.

Also, I like and admire her a great deal.

She has kicked my ass, more than once. And while I was gasping for breath and waiting for the stars to fade, she was kicking someone else's butt, and then someone else's.

Quick digression: sparring with women was kind of a new experience for me. Most of the women I sparred with early in my (still limited) fighting experience were extremely skittish about having a 200-lb-plus guy come at them. I was (this is true of most sparring partners, still) never landing hard, but still they would shy away. Most of them couldn't or wouldn't do what it took to keep me away, so of course I took what opportunities arose.

These generalizations absolutely don't hold with M. She's always attacking, even when she's backing away. When you think she's escaping to the side or straight away, that's when she headkicks you, or gives you an extremely brisk jab. And then when you think paybacks are there for the taking, she's proving you wrong.

Lately there has been a young-ish lady, white-belt level (but with extensive athletic background) that I spar and grapple with, and...wow. If anyone had ever told me even a decade ago that I'd be wrestling with a woman and that it would completely not embarrass me, or otherwise make me feel awkward, I would have laughed. It was an adjustment, but I'm glad to have made it. Oh, and she's just shy of my height, very strong, and I'd guess she runs 145-150 lbs.

It won't be all that long, possibly, before she's kicking my ass.

I Just Want To Say that I've just gone through over 2000 previously unread emails in the ObWi account, dating from between when I started reading and answering, and, um, the last time the account had been accessed.

It actually only took ten minutes.

I should finish most of the rest next time I go at it; it's almost all either blegs from the same people, or spam, which makes dealing with en masse a jiff, but if I said I'd just gone through 2000 emails, it might sound impressive.

And even a sporting accomplishment.

That Is All.

Curiously, her Wikipedia entry completely omits any mention of aikido.

Not curious, Slart:

This article about an American science fiction writer is a stub. You can help Wikipedia by expanding it.
And I don't do Wikipedia. Like I need another timesuck?

Also, in the case of a person I know, it becomes a personal matter, and I'd have to ask what she would and wouldn't want, and Lizzie is a fairly private person, and given the number of people I know with entries, just adding material about personal friends would take forever; I might as well start writing biographies on many.

Although I could make an awful lot of corrections to Wikipedia in general; I constantly find errors. Much though it's largely correct, when one knows a topic well, and it's not a topic of mass interest, like, oh, comics and tv. :-)

And I could add an awful lot of stuff. Particularly about science fiction and science fiction fandom. Like, several hundred thousand words, at minimum.

But that's the point: once you start, you then either have to let it go, or defend it, you have to... I suppose I could theoretically add it to all the other incremental stuff I do, but I'm not insane enough to add on another task I really don't need to do.

And Wikipedia internal politics are deeply tedious, so otherwise one can end up doing a lot of typing for not point, or, again, one has to stick around and argue about it, and all in all, I'd rather stick knitting needles through my eyeballs.

Tempting as it is, when there's someone That Large wrong on the internet.

But I'll pencil it in for next week.

Okay, maybe 2014.

Cool Gary, I was only in Oregon for about 2.5 years, and was doing my grad work, so was only able to go to one or two seminars in the area, though I'm sure there is probably only one degree of separation. Birankai looks like something that has been formed since I was studying aikido (now over 15 years ago, where does the time go?) It is interesting to me that US aikido has this 'seminar' culture, whereas in Japan, seminars are a bit bizarre, because you belong to your group and your own teacher and you don't go around visiting other groups or teachers, unless there is a clearly defined relationship between your teacher and the other teacher.

Slarti, another question about your dojo. I'm a bit surprised that there is grappling with TKD. Is this an add-on, or an organic development? Is there something like a judo osaekomi where you win the match if you are able to hold someone down with control for 30 seconds, or is the grappling only a means to employ a choke or an armbar?

I don't know if you are familiar with Doug Rogers, but this Youtube video (in three parts) about him is quite interesting viewing, especially for the groundwork at the end of the video.

Most of the schools affiliated with mine have their (what I think of as, anyway) area of specialty. Some do very difficult & elaborate breaking; some do forms exhibitions, and ours does combat. I think Mike has an interest, and also some personal incentive to distinguish our school from the rest, so we do lots more sparring, and we do Thai boxing, and we do grappling, which is simply what to do when the combat moves to the ground. The Thai boxing I haven't done so much just because there's only so much time, and I just enjoy it less than the grappling, and because it's after all just another variant on striking combat.

We do some locks, too; those tend to fall into an area loosely contained by aikido, jiu-jitsu, hapkido and many others.

Mike (6th dan) tends to see a division between forms and actual combat, and with actual combat, his advice is to use whatever works. If that involves blending multiple styles in some unorthodox way, fine.

There's opportunity for me to do weapons training, too, and I've done some of that with the bo, but little to none on other weapons. You have to pick and choose, just as (for example) Gary is picking and choosing between correcting all of Wikipedia and having a personal life.

I just can't fault him for that; I can see it's a leghold trap, and all the rest of his points too. Like any vendor of information, there are politics to it. I think I've corrected precisely one article, on a point of information that was incorrect relative to THE authoritative source of information (the state high school athletic agency, who happens to be the master record-keeper). So far, there's been no controversy :/

"I like sports in general much less than I used to, though I remain a baseball fan. (And yes, I love the numbers). I think one thing that has reduced my interest is the "ESPN-ization" of sports. By that I mean the 24/7 hyper-ventilating approach where every game is hugely significant, every good player a superstar, every play spectacular and awesome, everything that happens is crucially important."

Every word Bernard wrote could have came out of my mouth.

In fact, what he called the ESPN-ization of sports was one of the forces that drove me out of sportswriting after starting on my first newspaper right out of college in 1984 and filing my last story for my third fish-wrapper in 2000. I had simply lost my passion writing about the games people play and the millionaires who play them and maintaining the craziest hours imaginable to do so.

Ironically, once removed from watching the sausage being made, I recaptured my interest in baseball, my first love long before discovering the wonders of the opposite sex.

And Bernard is so right about baseball being a radio game.

All fans seem to hold their local announcing team in special regard. But listening to baseball will never be the same for me now that both Richie Asburn and Harry Kalas are manning the big broadcasting booth in the sky. I grew up listening to the pair who made you feel as if you were easedropping on a couple of delightfully crazy uncles, a relationship that lasted four decades. To borrow from the cult TV show "Lost," Harry and Whitey were my constants.

As I've gotten older, my attention span, weirdly enough, doesn't allow me to watch an entire nine-inning game until the playoffs.

NFL football -- that's another story. Can't get enough.

bedtimeforbonzo, Wonkie is having trouble posting, and wants me to let you know that she thinks there will be a thread tomorrow on animals, which LJ might post while he's in an airport, traveling, that if she doesn't post a response to you tomorrow that it won't be her fault, and that she cares very much about you and your dogs.

I do, too, but I'm a tad short on time, so please forgive me for not elaborating.

Incidentally, I'm told by at least one regular that "if you hang out long enough at OW, you'll find out about TiO," which is Taking It Outside, the blog devoted to talking ABOUT ObWi, and I'm mentioning therefore that anyone interested can read this thread and read this thread, enjoy trying to register there, use their tags, and now I have to go be ragged on on several other blogs, Facebook, twitter, several mailing lists, and a bunch of other things I can't talk about, but it sure would be nice to have a dog or cat of my own, but I can't afford the cost.

And don't have a place of my own.

But somehow I find time to do this stuff.

Remember, that's Taking It Outside, the blog where everyone loves to talk about ObWi, and I'm thinking of starting a blog to talk about what people talk about there. Then I'll start another blog to talk about that one.

Now I have to go discuss this on Facebook, tweet about it, and receive some mailing list comments about all this.

Oh, and I've dealt with over 900 emails today, so far, to my own Inbox, a hundred or so to the ObWi inbox, and apparently this is what I do for sports: marathon internet. :-)


Thanks, Gary.

I will probably be tuning in from time to time today, seeing how I will be holed up at home for a second straight day, having caught the latest flu/cold my 12-year-old brought home, which usually I seem immune from.

I think wonkie's shelter work is commendable and I have been inspired by her comments in the various Wisconsin threads; seems to me she has sharpened and strengthed her populist voice. (I can also say she speaks for me.)

After seeing the ever-growing list of names on the sidebar section under Authors and Alumni, it got me to thinking the other day that it would be cool to have, for lack of a better name, a Commenter Hall of Fame. For which, I would nominate wonkie and Thullen. (And has anybody seen my old friend John?)

I'm just a long-term cat-sitter, but here is Shackleton, 14-year-old male bundle of wuv, and this may or may not work, and this may or may not work, and by the way, it also occurs to me that Wonkie's problems could be caused by automatic updates to her browser, or her security software, it's just impossible to say why someone is having computer problems without coming over and investigating personally. :-)

Meanwhile, you may or may not be able to see this album of cat pictures of mine or this one, or try here, or here, or this video of my voice and cats and so on.

I had relevant links to dogs and shelters in this post, by the way, and wonkie and others did in comments.

One: Parsing how dogs and people communicate.

Animal Rescue site.

See more in comments on that post.

Oh, drat, lost track of which post. Well, no harm. :-)

Nice game for FC Kaiserslautern at Frankfurt, Randy. So close to win, but finally was a null draw. I hope you was on the stadium. Honestly was a good game.

I also like to go to watch a football game every time my favorite football team play on her pitch.

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