Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

To ski?

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

T’s dad has been saying that we should take the boys skiing.  In particular, he’s suggesting that if D doesn’t learn to ski soon, he’ll never be "really good."


  • Skiing is ridiculously expensive, even at the dinky little mid-Atlantic ski areas that have almost no slope.  Between lift ticket and equipment, it gets up close to $100 a day per person.  We think long and hard about spending that kind of money.
  • Especially when there’s no guarantee that the boys wouldn’t try it for 5 minutes and then want to go home.  D still has his training wheels on his bike, because when we take them off, he panics when he picks up any speed and puts his feet down.
  • Downhill skiing is never particularly environmentally friendly, and is particularly not-so in the mid-Atlantic, where pretty much everything you ski on is man made.


  • Skiing is fun.  Downhill skiing is as close to flying as I’m ever likely to get without mechanical assistance.
  • T’s dad is right that it’s easier to learn when you’re young, and not as discombobulated by falling down.
  • D picked up skating this winter (on an indoor rink) pretty well, and many of the skills are transferable.
  • I can imagine that at some point in the boys life, they will have friends who ski, and they may feel deprived/outside/something if they don’t know how.  Yes, this is a huge marker of class privilege.  But both T and I did learn to ski as children, and in some real way, I think we both feel slightly guilty at the idea of not passing this opportunity on to our kids.  Especially since we’re probably slightly more affluent, not less, than our parents were when we were young.  But — even setting aside the fact that T grew up in Michigan and could learn to ski on a local hill — I think skiing just wasn’t as crazy expensive a sport at the time.


Sunday, February 3rd, 2008

I’m really not a football fan, but D’s teacher got him all excited about the super bowl, even though he’s never watched a football game, so we’re letting him stay up and hanging out watching it with him.  Fortunately she’s a Giants fan (or at least a Patriot’s anti-fan), because I’m not sure my brother would ever forgive us if D rooted again them.

I hope she’s a baseball fan too, because I’d really like some company to watch the ball games this summer.  I was a real baseball fan when I was a kid — I rooted for the Mets through some of the really bleak years in the 1980s, and was rewarded by the miraculous ’86 season — but haven’t been watching much lately.  I figured out last year that it’s because I don’t have anyone to watch with.

Well, I’m glad that D convinced us to watch.  That was a heck of a game.

Soccer and money

Saturday, June 24th, 2006


I was struck by Christine’s comment that soccer is cheap to play, requiring only sneakers, a ball and a field.  Certainly, it’s a lot cheaper than hockey.   But that field can be hard to come by in urban areas, which is part of the conventional wisdom for why city kids play basketball instead of baseball these days.  There’s a reason why "soccer mom" entered the lexicon as synonymous with suburban.

And yet, as Foer points out, in most of the world, soccer is not an upper-class pursuit.  Working class children play this game, without benefit of organized leagues, and generally without lovely green fields.  In Spain, we saw kids and young adults playing informal games on stone plazas, on the beach, pretty much anywhere there was an open space.  You just don’t see that in the US.  Is there such a thing as a pick-up game of soccer in America?

One of my friends also pointed out to me that the local kids soccer league is far more expensive than the local basketball league.  I thought that the $80 registration fee (for Fall and Spring seasons combined) was pretty reasonable, a lot better than the gymboree type stuff in the area.  But she told me that the basketball league only charges $5 a season.  Is basketball really that much cheaper to run, or is it that they expect poor kids to play basketball, middle-class kids soccer, and charge what the market can bear?


PS.  The rest of my trip photos are now up at Flickr.

TBR: How Soccer Explains the World

Tuesday, June 20th, 2006

Today’s book is How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization, by Franklin Foer.  I picked it up at the store as it seemed like an appropriate book to read while travelling in Europe during the World Cup.  It turned out to be a perfect book for travelling — a quick read, divided into self-contained chapters, interesting without being particularly challenging.

Unlike Stephen Jay Gould’s erudite essays about baseball, Foer’s essays aren’t really about the game of soccer.  You don’t really need to know anything about the game to enjoy them.  Foer writes about soccer fans, players, and owners, often focusing on the dark side of the sport — ethnic hatreds, corruption, violence.  He’s particularly fascinated by the persistence of local and national identitites in the face of globalization, and whether that’s inherently a bad thing.

I enjoyed the book, but am not sure how seriously to take Foer’s analysis.  One chapter is about soccer in the United States, in particular why some people are so vehemently oppposed to it.  Foer argues that they are, in their own way, anti-globalization activitists, objecting to the idea that Americans should like soccer just because the rest of the world does.  That seemed reasonable to me, but then he suggests that they’re defensive because baseball, the quintessentially American game, has failed in the global marketplace.  That argument doesn’t ring true — baseball is certainly struggling, but the games that it’s losing to (in the US) are US football (which is even more of an international flop) and basketball (which is increasingly an international game itself).  The gaps in the one chapter where I actually know something make me wonder whether there are similar holes in the rest of the book.


Via BitchPhD, some World Cup blogging.

The Ticket Out

Wednesday, June 15th, 2005

I’ve mentioned before that I was a Mets fan during the early 80s. I still remember the excitement over Darryl Strawberry and his amazing natural athleticism.  I also remember the days he seemed to call his performance in, causing the stands at Shea to erupt with derisive chants of Daaaaa-ryl, Daaaaa-ryl.

Today’s book is The Ticket Out: Darryl Strawberry and the Boys of Crenshaw, by Michael Sokolove.  It grew out of a NYTimes Magazine article Sokolove wrote about Strawberry, but broadens the focus to look at all the members of the 1979 Crenshaw High School Cougars, possibly the most talented team to ever play high school baseball.  (Chris Brown was also on the team, and several of the players told Sokolove that Strawberry was only the 3rd or 4th best player on the Cougars.)

Sokolove argues that the 1979 team was part of the last cohort of US-born black kids to consider baseball their game.  Their fathers had grown up playing baseball, worshipped the Dodgers as the team that had given Jackie Robinson his chance, and their love of the game was one of the only legacies they had to give their children.  And Crenshaw was lucky enough to have Brooks Hurst as its coach, a former minor-league ballplayer who loved the game and loved the kids who played it, but was tough enough to handle their attitudes.

Sokolove talks about the members of the team, what they were like in 1979, where their baseball paths took them (Strawberry and Brown were the only ones to make it to the majors, but several were drafted and played minor league ball), and what they’re doing today.  Some have achieved middle-class lives through other careers — cooking and plumbing.  Brown, whose baseball career ended after a series of hard to diagnose injuries left him with a reputation as a malingerer, is a crane operator.  Others found stability through military service.  One, Carl Jones, is in prison with a 25 years to life sentence for three non-violent crimes under California’s rigid "three-strikes" law.  Others are drifting along on the economic margins of society.

And then there’s Strawberry, who is pretty much unclassifiable.  His baseball career is finally over, after more second and third chances than most players get, thanks to both his undeniable talent and Steinbrenner’s love of publicity.  He seems to have blown through pretty much all of the millions of dollars that he made playing baseball, some on drugs, more on the entourage of hangers-on he accumulated, but still has his famous name, which opens doors.  He’s been in and out of rehab, and finally wound up serving jail time after breaking the terms of his probation.  The cancer he was treated for is a kind that tends to recur, but so far he’s doing ok.

The book is a quick read, although the attempt to fit so many stories into a 279 page book often left me turning back trying to remember who different people were.  Sokolove provides ample evidence of how poverty and racism limited the players’ opportunities in life, without making excuses for their failures.  And he notes that American literature — from Updike’s Rabbit to Springsteen’s Glory Days — is full of (white working-class) high school athletes for whom everything else in life is downhill.  He argues that given the limited opportunities in life open to a poor inner-city kid, going for the lottery shot of professional sports isn’t an unreasonable proposition.

My favorite line in the book comes after Sokolove has visited Jones’ family, which acted as surrogate parents to many of the Crenshaw players whose own parents were absent or messed up.  While he’s talking to Carl’s sister, Tahitha, her godson, Marvin, is playing nearby. 

" ‘His mom is out there on crack, so I keep him with me most of the time,’ Tahitha says.  ‘I love him like he’s my own.  He’s three, so we’re just starting him on baseball right now.’ "

"The Joneses are their own little social service agency.  Faith-based.  When they see someone in need, they try to give them baseball."


Tuesday, June 14th, 2005

Politics:  Hey! Both the candidates I was supporting won: David Englin for the Democratic nomination for the 45th district seat in the House of Delegates and Leslie Byrne for the Democratic nomination for Lt. Governor.  The 45th is a solidly Democratic district, so Englin should be a shoe-in for Delegate.  Byrne will have a harder time. 

Byrne’s pretty liberal for Virginia, and some naysayers over at Virginia2005 have been whining that she’ll drag Kaine down.  I think that’s wrong — Virginians are quite comfortable ticket-splitting.  She’ll definitely help mobilize the liberal base (like me!) who otherwise would have said "eh" about the ticket.  And while we’re in the voting booth, we’ll choke down our misgivings about Kaine’s position on choice, and vote for him because he’s a lot better than Kilgore.

Running: My track group did our time trial tonight.  I ran a 3:33 for 800 meters, which I think is quite respectable — especially since it was about 90 degrees.

Baseball:  The Nationals got creamed last night, 11-1, bringing to end their 10 game winning streak.  Listened to a few innings of the game on the radio, but it was only 2-0 when I went to bed.  Oh well, an important rule of baseball is that you’re never as good as you look when you’re winning or as bad as you look when you’re losing.  Hmmm, not a bad lesson for politics either.

Nationals 5, Diamondbacks 3

Thursday, April 14th, 2005

I’ve been cooking (black bean and sweet potato burritos, from  Moosewood Low-Fat Favorites) and listening to the National’s home opener on the radio. 

I actually prefer radio to TV for baseball, unless I’ve got someone to watch with and chat with during the slow bits.  By myself, I’ll turn on the TV, then pick up a book between innings, and forget about the game.  But listening to the ballgame on the radio is perfect for cooking, or gardening, anything that keeps the hands busy but leaves the mind free.

I’m excited to have a team in town.  Oh, I’ll always have a soft spot for the Mets, the team I grew up with.  (I was a fan when they were awful during the early 80s, and was rewarded with that marvelous couldn’t be believed 1986 postseason.)  But it’s hard to be a baseball fan without listening to or watching the games on a regular basis; you don’t know the players, their strengths, weaknesses and quirks, whether they’re hot lately, if they’ve choked in the clutch…  And a good bit of the joy of being a fan is being part of a community, being able to say "did you see that hit last night?" and expecting the answer to be yes.

My husband isn’t interested in baseball at all, and the boys are too young to really follow the game.  But I’m working on them.  I figure they should be ready for their first major league game right around when the new stadium is built.