Friday, April 1, 2016

You Need To Read The Current Sports Illustrated

While I think that the overall quality of Sports Illustrated has slipped over the last several years, every so often it summons up its past greatness and delivers a first rate article.  In the current edition, dated April 4, 2016, they knock it out of the park with two such articles.

The first is the cover story by Alan Shipnuck about Tiger Woods entitled simply, "What Happened?".  It has been eight years since Woods has won a Major Championship, three years since he has won a tournament, and now, at age 40, and after undergoing three back surgeries in 19 months, he is rarely seen with a golf club in his hands.  At best, he will only be a ceremonial figure at next week's Masters, where his fellow golfers are hoping that he will at least show up at the Champions Dinner on Tuesday. What has happened, indeed.

It is lengthy story, and my take away on it is this: like most highly scrutinized people in the celebrity culture of the twenty-first century, Woods is a complex and somewhat confounding person.  For every story about the guy who is curt and rude with fans or media, you find a story about the guy who was on the phone every day with his swing coach Sean Foley, when Foley and his wife were about to have a baby who might have been born with a fatal birth defect.  That child, by the way, overcame the defect, and is today a healthy active kid who Woods continues to check on, even though he and Foley have long since parted ways as Coach and Client.  And for every story of Woods' marital infidelities, there are stories of the hundreds of kids whose lives have literally been changed for the better via the services of the Tiger Woods Learning Center.

Lots of complexities, and lots of great quotes in the story.  You need to read it.

The second must read story is called "Under The Gun" is an excerpt from  a book called "The Arm" by Jeff Passan.  It is about the culture of youth baseball, travel teams, baseball academies, and Showcase Tournaments  in the United States, and the companies who run these events.  I found it to be rather disturbing.

Finally, I would recommend the column on the back page called "The Beauty of the Bracket" by Frank Kaminsky, now a member of the Charlotte Hornets of the NBA, but more famous as member of the University of Wisconsin basketball team that went to two consecutive Final Fours in 2014 and 2015.  It is a great story about the thrill of playing in College Basketball's showcase event, but I was really struck by this passage in Kaminsky's closing paragraph:  

"The hardest moment was getting back to campus and realizing that I was done in Wisconsin. Two days after the Final Four last year, I left school to start training for the draft.  It just happened so fast.  I was there, I was a basketball player and having the time of my life, and suddenly I was gone..."

So much for the myth of being a "student-athlete".  To his credit, Kaminsky never proclaimed to be a student.

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