What I Read This Week - 9th July

Sports. I'm reading Chad Harbach's The Art of Fielding, too. I'll probably write about all this in more detail at some point, but for now: - Out of the Pool: On Leanne Shapton’s Swimming Studies (Buzz Poole at The Millions)

Trading water-pruned fingers for ink-stained ones, Shapton recognizes the similarities between the two equally ambitious pursuits. “Artistic discipline and athletic discipline are kissing cousins,” she writes, “they require the same thing, an unspecial practice: tedious and pitch-black invisible, private as guts, but always sacred.”

- What It Means When Instant Replay Tells Us There Is No Winner (Rebecca J. Rosen at The Atlantic)

The drama of sports -- surely lost in a coin toss -- come from pitting two well-matched people against each other and seeing how they fare. But in this case the match has turned out to be *so close* it reminds us how slender the notion of a winner can be -- milliseconds, millimeters, tenths of a point awarded from a judge.

- Baseball, Finally (Seth Sawyers at The Millions)

I struck out. I went 0 for 3, 0 for 4. I cursed. I grew hot in the face, empty in the belly. I spewed hot anger at the umpires, at their big stomachs, at their big pickup trucks, at the parents in the stands. I disliked myself. It went on like that. I loved baseball but baseball never loved me back. It’s true that I wasn’t fast enough, or strong enough. I did everything right except own the thing that makes a boy an athlete. What I did instead was to spend my baseball years saying to myself, I’d give three thousand dollars to be able to hit the ball like that guy over there, or two years of my life, or five thousand dollars, or five years. I’d give up Mom’s car. I’d give a toe.

- Federer Takes the Long View (Michael Terry at The Classical)

Sports narratives often sacrifice complexity for drama. One trope of the dominant athlete follows a basic path: athlete shows promise, athlete fulfills promise, athlete takes over sport, new challengers emerge (it is here where much of the drama ensues), athlete is eventually bested, athlete retires. A slight variant of this is that after the champion is toppled, he reemerges one last time (always briefly), to make us remember, to make us pay our respect to both the athlete's legend and legacy before he goes away, this time for real.