Okay, random question of the day: Who were the most Internationally famous athletes of the 20th Century? I’ve got Ruth, Ali, Pele and Jordan.
It doesn’t matter if people around the world knew or cared about baseball or boxing or basketball. Just that these guys were recognized as being famous.
Who else? Tiger, Lance? I don’t know anything about cricket and little about soccer–Maradona, perhaps?
Pre-WWII is harder to figure: Jesse Owens, Jack Johnson, Joe Louis? DiMaggio because of Marilyn–and even Hemingway? There’s no right answer, I’m just throwing it out there.
Whadda ya hear, whadda ya say?
“There is a certain embarrassment about being a storyteller in these times when stories are considered not quite as satisfying as statements, and statements not quite as satisfying as statistics, but in the long run, a people is known, not by its statements or its statistics, but by the stories it tells.”–Flannery O’Connor
Our man Ken Arneson has a thoughtful and intriguing post over at his site. It’s involved and absolutely rewarding.
[Image Via: Toile in the Family]
I’ll never forget the number. Sports Phone. Man, I used to sneak calls as much as I could in the early-mid-Eighties. I had to sneak them because the calls were expensive and if too many showed up on the phone bill my ass was new mown grass. But still, in those days I’d do whatever I could to get an up-to-date score so the risk was worth it.
For a good time, head on over to Grantland and check out this history of Sports Phone by the talented Joe Delessio.
[Photo Via: No Mas]
You guys know all about the great Lo Hud Yankee blog. Pete Abraham started it and Chad Jennings keeps it purring along. For all the latest spring training whatnot, look no further than your one-stop shop for Yankeeness.
Okay, so this is from the movie, but how you gonna complain about Cyd Charisse? Still, check out Terry Teachout’s review of The Library Of America’s 2-volume tribute to the golden age of the American musical:
What is America’s greatest contribution to the arts? Time was when many, perhaps most, people would have pointed to the Broadway musical as the likeliest candidate for admission to the pantheon. Theatergoers around the world have long rejoiced in the delights of the genre, including some whom one might well have thought too snobbish to admit its excellence. (Evelyn Waugh, who had next to no use for anything made in America, saw the London production of Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate a half-dozen times, pronouncing it, according to one biographer, “ingenious and admirable.”) But big-budget musical comedy has been in increasingly steep decline since the 1970s, and 10 long years have gone by since The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, the last homegrown musical to be wholeheartedly embraced by audiences and critics alike, made it to Broadway.
…That’s what makes the publication of American Musicals so timely. These two volumes contain the unabridged scripts of 16 “classic” shows written between 1927 and 1969, the period now usually regarded as the “golden age” of the Broadway musical. The table of contents is itself a capsule history of the genre at its peak: Show Boat (1927), As Thousands Cheer (1933), Pal Joey (1940), Oklahoma! (1943), On the Town (1944), Finian’s Rainbow (1947), Kiss Me, Kate (1948), South Pacific (1949), Guys and Dolls (1950), The Pajama Game (1954), My Fair Lady (1956), Gypsy (1959), A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962), Fiddler on the Roof (1964), Cabaret (1966), and 1776 (1969). Unlike their successors, these shows have retained their popularity. Twelve have returned to Broadway in the past decade, and two are playing there as I write. If there is a core musical-comedy repertory, this is it.
I have been increasingly conscious, for the last 10 years or so, of deaths among my contemporaries. My generation is on the way out, and each death I have felt as an abruption, a tearing away of part of myself. There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever. When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate — the genetic and neural fate — of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.
I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.
Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.
What would you do if you knew you had 2 years left, or less? Would you live your life differently from how you’re living it now? I know I probably would–clear away the clutter, the neurosis, and savor life as much as possible. The trick, of course, is to try and live life as if you knew it was going to end soon.
In the early nineties, I went to the Museum of Broadcasting with a friend to watch Dennis Potter’s final TV interview with Melyn Bragg. Potter was dying and during the interview, he drank liquid morphine to numb the pain. There was no telling if he’d be able to remain lucid but he did and he was beautiful. This is what I remember most:
We all, we’re the one animal that knows that we’re going to die, and yet we carry on paying our mortgages, doing our jobs, moving about, behaving as though there’s eternity in a sense. And we forget or tend to forget that life can only be defined in the present tense; it is is, and it is now only. I mean, as much as we would like to call back yesterday and indeed yearn to, and ache to sometimes, we can’t. It’s in us, but we can’t actually; it’s not there in front of us. However predictable tomorrow is, and unfortunately for most people, most of the time, it’s too predictable, they’re locked into whatever situation they’re locked into … Even so, no matter how predictable it is, there’s the element of the unpredictable, of the you don’t know. The only thing you know for sure is the present tense, and that nowness becomes so vivid that, almost in a perverse sort of way, I’m almost serene. You know, I can celebrate life.
Below my window in Ross, when I’m working in Ross, for example, there at this season, the blossom is out in full now, there in the west early. It’s a plum tree, it looks like apple blossom but it’s white, and looking at it, instead of saying “Oh that’s nice blossom” … last week looking at it through the window when I’m writing, I see it is the whitest, frothiest, blossomest blossom that there ever could be, and I can see it. Things are both more trivial than they ever were, and more important than they ever were, and the difference between the trivial and the important doesn’t seem to matter. But the nowness of everything is absolutely wondrous, and if people could see that, you know. There’s no way of telling you; you have to experience it, but the glory of it, if you like, the comfort of it, the reassurance … not that I’m interested in reassuring people – bugger that. The fact is, if you see the present tense, boy do you see it! And boy can you celebrate it.
John Boorman is a fabulously hit-or-miss director but when he’s on, he’s wonderful. I have hopes for his new movie, especially because it’s a continuation of the story he began in Hope & Glory, a beautiful, unpretentious film.
If you’ve never seen it, do yourself a favor.
PEOPLE HATE HIM. Boy, wow, do they hate him. At first they loved him, and then they were confused by him, and then they were irritated by him, and now they straight-up loathe.
More often than not, the mention of Alex Rodriguez in polite company triggers one of a spectrum of deeply conditioned responses. Pained ugh. Guttural groan. Exaggerated eye roll. Hundreds of baseball players have been caught using steroids, including some of the game’s best-known and most beloved names, but somehow Alex Rodriguez has become the steroid era’s Lord Voldemort. Ryan Braun? Won an MVP, got busted for steroids, twice, called the tester an anti-Semite, lied his testes off, made chumps of his best friends, including Aaron Rodgers, and still doesn’t inspire a scintilla of the ill will that follows Rodriguez around like a nuclear cloud.
Schadenfreude is part of the reason. Rodriguez was born with an embarrassment of physical riches — power, vision, energy, size, speed — and seemed designed specifically for immortality, as if assembled in some celestial workshop by baseball angels and the artists at Marvel Comics. He then had the annoyingly immense good fortune to come of age at the exact moment baseball contracts were primed to explode. Months after he was old enough to rent a car he signed a contract worth $252 million. Seven years later: another deal worth $275 million. Add to that windfall another $500 million worth of handsome, and people were just waiting. Fans will root for a megarich athlete who’s also ridiculously handsome (body by Rodin, skin like melted butterscotch, eyes of weaponized hazelness), but the minute he stumbles, just ask Tom Brady, they’ll stand in line to kick him in his spongy balls.
Rodriguez’s defenders (and employees) are quick to say: Sheesh, the guy didn’t murder anybody. But he did. A-Rod murdered Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod brutally kidnapped and replaced the virginal, bilingual, biracial boy wonder, the chubby-cheeked phenom with nothing but upside. A-Rod killed the radio star, and his fall from grace disrupted the whole symbology and mythopoesis of what it means to be a superhero athlete in modern America.
[Image Via: Mark Murphy]
The Yankees retire so many numbers and give out so many plaques that reading about the latest immortal to be honored always feels like something straight out of The Onion. But there you have it, the hits keep coming.
For more Stupid Human Tricks, here’s Alex.
And we’d be remiss if we didn’t salute our ol’ pal Jason Giambi who announced his retirement today. Giambo is five months older than me to the day and I suppose I always liked him because he was in my grade.
He was a good fella. I’m sure we’ll see him as a coach soon enough.
[Photo Credit: Stephen Anzaldi]
Found via Longform: check out these excerpts from Cameron Crowe’s story, “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”:
Jeff Spicoli, a Ridgemont legend since third grade, lounged against the doorframe. His long dirty-blond hair was parted exactly in the middle. He spoke thickly, like molasses pouring from ajar. Most every school morning, Spicoli awoke before dawn, smoked three bowls of marijuana from a small steel bong, put on his wet suit and surfed before school. He was never at school on Fridays, and on Mondays only when he could handle it. He leaned a little into the room, red eyes glistening. His long hair was still wet, dampening the back of his white peasant shirt.
“May I come in?”
“Oh, please,” replied Mr. Hand. “I get so lonely when that third attendance bell rings and I don’t see all my kids here.”
The surfer laughed-he was the only one-and handed over his red add card. “Sorry I’m late. This new schedule is totally confusing.”
Mr. Hand read the card aloud with utter fascination in his voice. “Mr. Spicoli?”
“Yes, sir. That’s the name they gave me.”
Mr. Hand slowly tore the red add card into little pieces, effectively destroying the very existence of Jeffrey Spicoli, 15, in the Redondo school system. Mr. Hand sprinkled the little pieces over his wastebasket.
It took a moment for the words to work their way out of Spicoli’s mouth.
“You dick “
Mr. Hand cocked his head. He appeared poised on the edge of incredible violence. There was a sudden silence while the class wondered exactly what he might do to the surfer. Deck him? Throw him out of Ridgemont? Shoot him at sunrise?
But Mr. Hand simply turned away from Spicoli as if the kid had just ceased to exist. Small potatoes. Mr. Hand simply continued with his first-day lecture.
In a nice cross-section of serendipity, determination and a little help from good folks along the way, Pittsburgh Pirates All-Star outfielder Andrew McCutchen (that is, Senior Editor of Derek Jeter’s media platform for professional athletes called The Player’s Tribune) lays out his thoughts and experience in an intriguing and well-thought assessment of how baseball has increasingly frozen out children (and potential talent) from lower income families. It’s a great read…
Hey you guys. I’ve been light on posting here at the Banter recently but I haven’t been idle. Recently, I’ve reprinted a pile of good stories at The Stacks.
[Photo Credit: USA Scanning]