What we're watching: Tonight's edition of the Gelf Varsity Letters reading series features Deadspin pals Robert Lipsyte and Rob Weintraub (along with the Moneyball troll du jour, Alan Hirsch). We'll be excerpting Lipsyte's memoir, An Accidental Sportswriter next week, but right now I'd like to draw your attention to Lipsyte's great old riff on Grantland Rice and his votaries, which for some reason feels newly relevant. It's from his 1977 book SportsWorld.
Painting a lily is not only presumptuous, but ultimately destructive. The flower dies. By layering sports with pseudo-myth and fakelore, by assigning brutish or supernatural identifies to athletes, the Rice-ites dehumanized the contests and made objects of the athletes.
The writer who criticizes a ballplayer for muffing a grounder, no matter how nasty he gets about it, is still dealing with the ballplayer within his context. He is judging the athlete as a working professional. But the writer who likens a ballplayer to Hercules or Grendel's mother is displaying the ultimate contempt — the ballplayer no longer exists as a person or a performer, but as an object, a piece of matter to be used, in this case, for the furtherance of the sportswriter's career by pandering to the emotional titillation of the reader/fan. Rice populated the press boxes with lesser talents who insisted, like the old master, that they were just sunny fellows who loved kids' games and the jolly apes who played them.
The other day, Bryan Curtis suggested in the Daily Beast that Lipsyte, a former New York Times columnist, is "the most important sportswriter of the 20th century," and it's hard to take issue with that. He was one of mainstream sportswriting's last true subversives, a reporter who understood Ali before anyone else in the press did, who once got stoned with Jack Scott while on assignment, who lent a little of that outlaw spirit to the old, constipated Times. I'll take that over Grantland Rice and his toy gods any day. (Tommy Craggs)
Tim Thomas doesn't really want to talk about it, you guys: "I'm not a play-by-play announcer. There was a turnover, they were able to keep it in at the blue line and the guy with the puck was able to get in a spot where I was starting to cut down the angle because he was in a dangerous enough spot that I had to take that shot. That's when he was able to make that pass to the guy cutting to the net. That's as good as my play-by-play is." [Boston Globe]
Hoops Bieber finally signs: "After two years of waiting, flamboyant Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio has agreed to join the Minnesota Timberwolves for the 2011-12 season, league sources told Yahoo! Sports on Wednesday night." [Yahoo!]
Kevin Love is skeptical: "Ricky Rubio huh? I'll believe it when I see it..." [@KevinLove]
Philly decides it's time to honor non-fictional boxers: The mayor of Philadelphia honored Bernard Hopkins for being older than George Foreman when he beat up a guy in Montreal last month. He did so at the Rocky statue outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This happened on the day former Philadelphia mayor/Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell said Smokin' Joe Frazier's probably (finally) getting a ring-sized statue. [Metro Philadelphia]
How college athletes are like Ph.D. candidates: "Doctoral students and athletes have more in common than you may think. An athlete's value to a school is a specialized skill in a specified area. My value to the Newhouse school is my specialized skill in a specific area. We both work long hours honing our craft. Our work is judged publicaly [sic] (while there probably won't be 100,000 people attending the poster session I'm presenting at at AEJMC's national conference in July, in my academic world, that's public). If we don't live up to certain rules and standards, we'll be forced to leave our schools. Because of my perceived specialized skill in a specific area, I'm being paid to further my education and prepare me for my career — on top of the having my tuition paid for. Despite his specialized skill in a specific area, Brandon Triche at the same school is not getting paid." [Sports Media Guy]
Your media softball team sucks: "Your media softball team is a drag and a bore to hear about at parties. Your media softball team isn't that good at softball and don't get us started on how good you are at media, either. Your media softball team isn't winning you any friends, brother. Your media softball team is like the least interesting possible subject of conversation for anyone who doesn't share your entire set of demographic and socioeconomic traits, right down to the office address. Your media softball team is probably the wackest of all your hobbies, and that's not a short list, man. Your media softball team is not something to be admired." [Gawker]
Mike Emrick > Mike Breen: "It's a fun parlor game to debate the best play-by-play broadcaster in a sport, but there is no debate when it comes to hockey here. There is Mike Emrick, and then there is everyone else. 'We employ Kenny Albert and Sam Rosen for football, and they are both very good in hockey, but even they will even tell you: Doc Emrick is special when it comes to the sport,' said Fox Sports senior producer Bill Brown. Said Sam Flood, the executive producer of NBC Sports and VERSUS: 'No one calls a hockey game better, no one paints a better picture, and no one is better at building up a moment. He is the voice of hockey in this country, and as talented a play-by-play guy as there is in any sport.'" [SI.com]
We Are All Dave McKenna CXVII: Here's your daily link to Dave McKenna's brilliant "Cranky Redskins Fan's Guide to Dan Snyder," which we'll be posting until Snyder's dumbass libel suit is left in a hot car with the windows rolled up.
And You Will Know His Name Is The Lord: According to one theological study of Tim Tebow's snatched-up-with-rabid-quickness autobiography "Through My Eyes," His Mile Highness's second commandment is "Thou shalt play football for thy Lord, for there is no greater glory." [Westword]
"How much greater will it feel when we get to heaven and Jesus takes off his headset, opens up His arms, gives us a big hug, and says, 'Atta boy. Great job. You finished. I loved you.'"
It's a sad day when allegations of greed surface in the world of high-stakes gambing: Poker pro Phil Ivey won't be competing in the World Series of Pokers this year. It all goes back to the federal crackdown of online sites, and Full Tilt not paying players money owed in said crackdown's wake:
I am deeply disappointed and embarrassed that Full Tilt players have not been paid money they are owed. I am equally embarrassed that as a result many players cannot compete in tournaments and have suffered economic harm. I am not playing in the World Series of Poker as I do not believe it is fair that I compete when others cannot. …
My name and reputation have been dragged through the mud, through the inactivity and indecision of others and on behalf of all poker players I refuse to remain silent any longer. I have electronically filed a lawsuit against Tiltware related to the unsettled player accounts.
Full Tilt raised Ivey with a statement of its own including the line, "Contrary to his sanctimonious public statements, Phil Ivey's mertiless lawsuit is about helping just one player — himself." [PokerListings.com]
At least he can still get around: Videos of Bulgarian youth-soccer matches wouldn't be complete without footage of Daniel Borimirov taking a running start to punch a parent with a kid on the opposing team square in the face. Hence, this video from a Sofia/Cherno match the other day completes itself around the 1:12 mark. [Yahoo! Dirty Tackle]
And it was always neatly pressed: "There was something almost awesomely square about Tressel, with his Transitions Lenses and ties. He was like a football Mr. Rogers, the only man in America who could come home from a sweater-vested day at work and change into something even more impossibly Protestant. You pictured him removing his loafers and putting on boat shoes, swapping out the sweater vest for an even goofier sweater, like Donald Sutherland's high-collared job in Animal House (only without his bare butt hanging out). Jim Tressel looked like the kind of guy who put on a bowtie to take a shower." [Mr. Destructo]
Wicked stereotypical: Here's what it sounds like when a Boston Bruins fan finds himself in Vancouver with a microphone.
Yet another chapter for the Ryan Leaf memoir trilogy: "Former NFL quarterback Ryan Leaf was recovering in California on Tuesday after doctors removed a benign tumor from his brain stem. The 35-year-old Leaf had been experiencing headaches, dizziness and blurred vision before seeing a doctor May 18, his publicist, Margo Myers, told The Associated Press. He had surgery a week later at Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., and was released Saturday." [ESPN]
Let Shaq carry your morning: Quickish has assembled the motherlode of Shaq's greatest video moments.