There’s always another halftime coming around. Take a few minutes and check out some good writing from this week and earlier. What, you’re going to sit and watch commercials?
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Top image: Covington, Georgia, 8/8/15
See that cloud over there, darkening and moving fast? It’s the NFL season, friends, and it’s coming this way. The birds are chirping in alarm, the small woodland beasts are headed for higher ground. Bid farewell to your other beloved sports now, everybody, because if you thought the NFL offseason was a turbulent mess of overhyped drama and reheated bloviations, wait’ll we actually start playing the damn games.
I’ll be writing about the NFL all season over at Yahoo, including Friday night’s debut of Marcus Mariota in Atlanta. Keep up via Facebook and Twitter, and hear my dulcet tones on the Grandstanding podcast. (Subscribe via iTunes or via RSS feed.)
Plugs over. Onward with some fine work I read this week…
• “Zero to Mandalay: Myanmar and the Game Nobody Wins,” Spencer Hall, SB Nation
Anything Spencer writes, I’m in. The historical sense, the attention to precise detail, the literal-laugh-out-loud humor, the ornate construction … doesn’t matter the subject, Spencer writes in a way that makes you want to throw away your laptop. Read it.
“I was going to Myanmar to watch the game of chinlone, the sort of unofficial/official national game. Mr. Maung might be there to meet me, or he might not. He might be selling jade to Chinese billionaires, funneling arms to Karin insurgents or fixing cellphone tower contracts deep in the jungles of Chin State over a table of rice wine, Johnny Walker Blue and a thousand cigarettes. He might be meeting with monks in a political strategy meeting or setting up a bed and breakfast in Katha so Orwell-philes could stare at the sagging remnants of the British colonial clubhouse there.
“If he wasn’t doing all this, someone was. They were most likely doing it by the light of a flashlight or generator. Flying in from Seoul, I can trace the blasting lights of industrial eastern China, then clearly spot Ho Chi Minh City before a stretch of deep black nothing that is Laos, and then spot the blinking lights of Thailand. It’s easy to see when you cross into Burma. Everything goes piteously, completely dark.”
• “Fox and Friends,” Rachael Maddux, Longreads
What a hell of a fun story this was, a tale of fox hunting where neither the fox nor the hunt is really the point. Filled with lush description and sly humor, this is a story that’s everything I love in sportswriting. Plus, we could all use a whiskey horse: “That’s a horse,” one hunter said, “that’ll get you home no matter how much you’ve had to drink.”
“If I was ever going to understand fox hunting, I would have to understand it as making peace with the outer edges, with always hovering just beyond or beside the center of things. The unspeakable, the uneatable, the unfathomable. I would have to know that I would never be able to get close enough to be satisfied—I have to be a hound, or the fox itself. But it has to be enough sometimes to know that somewhere out there, something is happening, happening as it always has, without having to know what or why.”
• “Bucs rookie QB Jameis Winston has the look of a football nerd,” Eric Adelson, Yahoo Sports
Look, Jameis Winston might just have the widest gap between on-field potential and off-field idiocy that we’ve seen in sports in a decade. In assessing Winston’s possibilities, my man Eric doesn’t shy away from the fact that Winston has made dumb choice atop dumb choice in his personal life, but notes the irony of the fact that Winston appears to make all the right choices when the ball’s in his hands. This guy’s going to be fascinating to watch. From a distance.
“Smart” is not the word for Winston’s overall behavior since his high school days. Yet his work ethic has never suffered noticeably, even to close friends. “I asked him, ‘How’s the playbook?’” said new Jacksonville Jaguar and former Florida State receiver Rashad Greene last week, recalling a conversation from earlier this summer. “He said, ‘That’s my baby.’ He understands it; he knows it.”
• “Star Tribune’s Amelia Rayno adds her own story to Teague scandal,” Amelia Rayno, Minneapolis Star-Tribune
Here’s the most important story of the roundup: how powerful men can, and do, take advantage of women in the source-journalist relationship. Rayno’s story of how now-disgraced former Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague sleazed up their professional relationship should open some naive eyes.
“This December night was different. Teague asked me about my longtime boyfriend, as he often did. My mistake was acknowledging that we had just broken up. The switch flipped. Suddenly, in a public and crowded bar, Teague tried to throw his arm around me. He poked my side. He pinched my hip. He grabbed at me. Stunned and mortified, I swatted his advances and firmly told him to stop. He didn’t.”
• “Officer back on the streets, with a story to tell,” Gregg Doyel, Indianapolis Star
NFL training camp is generally a high-volume melange of non-stories and puffery. So Gregg Doyel, who bucked the journalistic tide by going from the Internet back to a newspaper, takes a different angle here, and it’s a damn fine one: talking to a police officer at Colts camp who’s on a prosthetic leg. This is a powerful story of heroism — the real kind, not the sports kind — and shared sacrifice. Check it out.
“Marty Dulworth probably should have died the night he lost some of his left leg and most of his blood in the 300 block of Water Street in Pendleton — or later in the back of a blood-red Chevy Silverado doing 115 mph on Martin Luther King Boulevard, somewhere between Pendleton and Anderson, somewhere between life and death. He’s back on the streets now, this 39-year-old public servant, and he has a story to tell.”
• “‘I Don’t Remember Him Ever Being Happy’: The Joyless Dominance of Alabama’s Nick Saban,” Michael Weinreb, VICE
What do you do when you’re the best in the world at what you do, and that’s still not enough? Alabama head coach Nick Saban once complained that winning national championships detracted from his recruiting time, which is the Platonic ideal of missing-the-forest-for-the-trees. In this brief article, Weinreb reviews both the new biography Saban and the dour existence of Saban himself, and concludes, quite rightly, that this is a curious way for a man to live.
“I want this sport to be of high quality, but I also want it to be unpredictable and exciting and fun, which is why I will continue to admire Saban’s joyless competence from afar while hoping that, as happened against Auburn a couple of years ago, the whole thing falls apart in the end.”
• “Getting beyond 63 at a major seems ‘inevitable,’” Jason Sobel, ESPN.com
Thursday marks the start of the PGA Championship, the final major of the golf season. Golf is unique among sports in that you’re playing on the exact same courses that have hosted tournaments for decades, even centuries. While the specifics may change, the scenery never does, and in this fine piece of reporting and statistics, Jason breaks down the way that no golfer has managed to break the near-mythical number of 63 in a major.
“Since the first Open Championship in 1860, there have been a total of 434 editions of the four annual majors as we know them today. In the modern era, starting in 1934 with the advent of the Masters Tournament, that number is 313. Add them up and (excluding the 23 years of match play at the PGA Championship through 1957) there have been 1,160 rounds. That’s 107,105 individual player rounds during this 82-year period. Twenty-six times, someone has posted a round of 63. Never has anyone fared better.”
• “How to Bayern in 11 Steps,” Bill Connelly, SB Nation
Look, I don’t know a whole lot about the intricacies of soccer; trying to navigate the byzantine arrangements of clubs and leagues in Europe for me is like asking a European futbol fan to sort through the thicket that is the SEC. But this story makes me want to learn more, much more, about the German team Bayern, if nothing else because they seem to kick copious ass and everyone loves jumping on a front-runner’s bandwagon. This is a fine breakdown of the way to build a dynasty, interwoven with the kind of regional sense of place that I really appreciate.
“Creating light from darkness is a German specialty. In this country, you are never far from something beautiful, and you are never far from a reminder of how things can go terribly wrong. This is the obvious case with Munich itself — from atop war rubble, only a few miles from the concentration camp in Dachau, you watch over gorgeous views from every angle.”
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