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The Sure Thing


Pat Jordan doesn’t like Derek Jeter, but:

I have to admit that if I was a major league pitcher today, and Jeter was at the peak of his game, Derek Jeter would be the one shortstop I’d want to play behind me. Why? Simple. Jeter’s always caught the ball. J.J. Hardy, the Orioles’ Gold Glove shortstop told me the cardinal rule of playing shortstop is, “You can’t throw the ball if you don’t catch it.”

[Photo Via: Bleeding Yankee Blue]

Stick ‘Em

Over at SB Nation’s Longform, check out Flinder Boyd’s piece on Chris Copeland:

An hour and a half before the Knicks-Pistons game in London’s O2 arena this past January, Chris Copeland was already shooting around, sweat dripping off his practice jersey, and the squeak of his sneakers echoing off the nearly empty seats. I was in town for the week to analyze the game for the BBC and looked forward to catching up with my old teammate.

Aside from the rare, brief phone conversation, the last time I spoke to Chris Copeland was more than five years ago. He was stuffing whatever clothes he had into a duffle bag in a rundown hotel outside of Santiago de Compostela. We were briefly teammates in Spain before management decided he wasn’t good enough to play for even the lowest of second division teams and suddenly terminated his contract. I still remember his sense of failure and how the fear of the unknown reduced him to an anxious child.

Even at 6’8 it was sometimes easy to forget Copeland played professional basketball. He’s friendly and unassuming, and his round, vibrant face and long lanky arms covered in a layer of baby fat often made him seem younger than he was. When I knew him, there was nothing in his game, at least visibly, to suggest he could ever, even in the most outlandish of clichéd fairy-tale stories, end up playing for the New York Knicks. Yet here he was, a 29-year-old NBA rookie coming off a 22-point master-class performance four nights earlier against New Orleans and in the starting line-up against the Pistons in London. “I can’t explain it,” he said. “It’s just what I always dreamed about it.” Sure, I thought. Every boy who has ever picked up a ball dreams of playing in the NBA, but to make it at his age, with a limited basketball pedigree, after spending the last few years in the roundball backwaters of northern Europe, is not only unheard of, but virtually impossible.


The Last Shot

Powerful story by Michael Graff over at SB Nation.

[Photo Via: GU]

Table for Two

Over at SB Nation check out Ashley Harrell’s story on love and ping pong in New York. It’s a good one.

[Photo Credit:  Mallie Cullen]

Soul on Ice

Over at SB Nation’s Longform site, here’s Bill Littlefield on Digit Murphy:

Digit Murphy might have been a terrific coach for the Brown University men’s ice hockey team. It’s a shame she didn’t get a shot at the job three winters ago.

Murphy’s qualifications included – and include – the kind of energy that makes everybody in the room sit up straight and listen when she begins talking, which she rarely fails to do. That’s a useful quality when you are trying to recruit a player who’s been offered a free ride at North Dakota, Wisconsin or Minnesota, or, if he prefers the east, Boston University or Boston College, both former national champions, to a school that technically doesn’t give athletic scholarships.

So, energy. Slight and bright-eyed Murphy doesn’t do sitting still. She looks as if her short, dark hair should be wind-blown, even when there’s no wind. She is the sort of person who’ll text you to see if you’re in your office. Text back “Yes,” and in a few minutes she’ll be there, a slender, youthful storm of sound and enthusiasm in space that feels too small to contain her as she hands out her business cards at random, then earnestly tries to convince your graduate-student intern that she’s wasting her time in radio and should come to work for the Boston Blades. Actually, Murphy’s not the sort of person who does that. She is the person who did that where I work, at WBUR, Boston’s NPR news station at Boston University, on a weekday in October when she came to town to talk to a class and found herself facing 15 minutes without an audience. She must have figured somebody needed to hear about the line of sports clothes and equipment she planned on designing for women, or the blog post she is writing to encourage women who want to be coaches, or the partnerships she is trying to build with various celebrities in support of various progressive adventures.

Let’s Get Physical

Over at SB Nation, David Davis sweats with Richard Simmons.

[Photo Via: Laughing Squid]

Enemy Mine

Over at SBN’s Longform, check out this fine piece story by William Browning:

Before the boy passed 10 his parents left the Mississippi Delta for the pine woods farther south, where his mother found a teaching job in the county. They were a young family, renting near the school, when his father left.

The boy felt lost in that new place. To better hide the hurt he whittled away his footprints through the years, turning his back on basketball, the drum line, a job bagging groceries and a place on the school honor roll. When he handed in his football jersey during his junior year there was nothing else to quit. He did it in spring, a few months after the ’96 season. A slow-footed receiver four notches down the depth chart, he thought he would not be missed. He was surprised when the coach sent a note to his English teacher asking to see him. Everyone called him, “Coach.” He was humorless and had a dry voice. He growled through one-sided conversations on the football field but off it he could be inarticulate.

The boy remembers walking the hallway toward his office, telling himself not to give in. He sat face-to-face with Coach, Bear Bryant’s picture hanging nearby on the office wall. Are you sure you want to spend your senior year in the bleachers? Coach said. Full of teenage arrogance, the boy said he wouldn’t be attending any games. He said he had watched from the sideline for two seasons and had his fill.

Coach, always slow to speak, leaned back in his chair and warned him. He warned him that not that season, but in a decade or so, he would come to regret his decision and that once made, it could not be undone.

The boy laughed. A grown man, said the boy, has no business thinking of games he did or did not play in high school. Coach said all right and the boy left. He never called him “Coach” again. Not because he walked away from football, but because that summer the coach married his mother.

And the boy hated him for that.

[Photo Credit: Colorado Springs Gazette ]

And Miles to Go…


Head on over the SB Nation’s Longform page and read Leander Schaerlaecken’s terrific story, “Out of Bounds”, which details the experience of professional soccer player David Testo, who came out of the closet last year and now finds himself unemployed by the game:

In Vancouver a funny thing happened in the locker room. As David got comfortable with himself his teammates became comfortable with him. The less he hid – without ever being openly gay – the more the bubble grew and the easier life got. They stopped asking and he stopped having to pretend.

Midway through 2007, he was traded to the Montreal Impact – still a USL club at the time – in a lop-sided deal for an old favorite of the Whitecaps’ coach. Suddenly finding himself living in a city with the largest gay neighborhood on the continent, he partied like never before and played well when he wasn’t injured. After a few years, his sexuality was an open secret. Everybody on the club knew. Nobody seemed to mind. For the first time, he became close to his teammates. He could talk to them about his boyfriend and find a sympathetic ear. The locker room, to his surprise, became an easier place to be. Rather than pop, the bubbles joined to form a bigger one.

Opponents knew, too, and at first called him every gay slur imaginable. David was furious, but eventually started deflecting their comments, comfortable as he finally was with himself. He’d realized he could fight homophobia on the field by showing himself to be just as much of a man and soccer player as anyone else. He would help his antagonists off the ground after he tackled them. “I saw certain players change their whole perspective,” he says.

This one is a keeper.

[Photo Credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images]

Long Gone

Head on over to SB Nation and check out the debut of Longform, their site devoted to long form writing.

First up is R. D. Rosen’s story on Al Rosen. Nicely done.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver