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Baseball has almost always centered on one thing, which sounds reductionist, but isn’t terribly uncommon for a sport. Hockey, for instance, is all about time and space. If you are an offensive player, you wish to create time and space; if you are a defensive player, your goal is to limit both. Baseball has long been about pitching. Even the most successful batsman records an out 70% of the time. Everything is slanted towards the pitcher. Pitching is what wins games in October, and even offensive postseason heroics are often more a matter of timing — the clutch hit, that is — rather than sustained excellence.

Pitching has failed to rule the roost exactly twice: during the steroid era, when hitters began putting up numbers you’d never even say you accrued in a summer of Wiffle ball against your younger sister, and when one of the sport’s prospective pitching legends showed everyone he was that much better at hitting, and thus proceeded to overhaul America’s then-pastime. After which, when it was all over, everyone had come to know the value of pitching even more.
More… “Leaving the Mound”

Colin Fleming writes on art, literature, film, rock, jazz, classical music, and sports for Rolling Stone, JazzTimes, The Atlantic, Sports Illustrated, The Washington Post, and a number of other publications. His fiction has recently appeared in AGNI, Boulevard, Cincinnati Review, Commentary, and Post Road, and he’s the author of The Anglerfish Comedy Troupe: Stories from the Abyss (Dzanc), and is writing a memoir, Many Moments More: A Story About the Art of Endurance, and a novel about a reluctant piano genius, age seven or eight, called The Freeze Tag Sessions. He’s a regular contributor to NPR’s Weekend Edition. His tattered, on-the-mend website is colinfleminglit.com, and he highly recommends reading The Smart Set daily, along with ten mile coastal walks and lots of Keats and hockey for the soul.
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Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.

This sentiment has been echoed in every sport, at all levels of competition, and throughout time. Legacies have been sealed, fortunes have been made, legends have been forged on the back of victory. History remembers winners, not losers. Would we even know who Michael Jordan was even if he hadn’t won six championships? Would we even care about Babe Ruth if the Yankees weren’t so dominate? Would Jesse Owens have become part of American folklore if he didn’t defeat all challengers in Germany?

Matt Blitz is a writer based out of Los Angeles who’s written for Atlas Obscura, CNN, Untapped Cities, and Today I Found Out. He’s currently the head of Obscura Society LA. He does laundry on a regular basis. You can follow him on Twitter @whyblitz.

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No sports event in this country engages as many people over an extended period of time as the NCAA basketball tournament, better known as March Madness. This year, 68 teams of enthusiastic college kids have a shot at the championship. Fewer than half of the teams have a realistic shot, which creates the possibility of a tremendous upset. Perhaps, finally, a 15th-seeded team will make it to the Final Four. Maybe, for the first time, a 16th-seeded team, which always draws a number one seed for its first opponent, will advance to round two.

But for all the excitement, there is one thing that grates during March Madness, and that is the insipidity of most college nicknames. Most of them look like they were chosen by a committee of timid academic administrators. “We need something vapid,” I can imagine them thinking but of course not saying, “and to be extra… More…

Sports are full of clichés. Play one game at a time. Leave it all out on the field. There’s no “I” in team. Clichés allow fans to make sense of the unpredictable nature of athletic competition. Without them, how else would we be able to explain results that don’t make sense? How else did the underdog beat the favorite if they didn’t have more heart? The odd nature of sports clichés is that despite them being an exercise in generalities and vagueness, there can be truth behind them. There is a reason they became clichés in the first place. Sometimes a game isn’t just a game. Sometimes a basketball team isn’t just a basketball team. Sometimes a warm-up jersey isn’t just a warm-up jersey. The 1992 Lithuanian Olympic Basketball team wasn’t just a team who played in a game with an odd-looking warm-up jersey. They represented a whole lot more…. More…

The Winter Olympics are, in essence, about putting things on your feet. This is a function of the weather. You cannot go barefoot into the snow and ice. In the summer, you can run around with nothing on at all. That’s what the ancient Greeks used to do when they had their Olympic games. You can see pictures of it on ancient vase paintings. The Greeks jumped and ran and threw things in a state of total nudity. The Olympic games — in their original form more than two thousand years ago — were about the beauty, grace, and possibility of the human body in its purity. 

Morgan Meis has a PhD in Philosophy and is a founding member of Flux Factory, an arts collective in New York. He has written for n+1, The Believer, Harper’s Magazine, and The Virginia Quarterly… More…

You hear people say things such as, “That parking job was a work of art.” The sentence is really just a fancy way of saying you like something. The phrase “a work of art” can usually be replaced with the word “good” to no discernible loss of meaning.

 

Lionel Messi’s goal on April 18, 2007 in a semi-final match between his club, Barcelona, and rival Getafe during Spain’s Copa del Rey is a work of art. It is a work of art because it is structured and appreciated the way art is structured and appreciated. This fact was brought home to me in my recent mental and emotional preparations for the current World Cup tournament in South Africa. I was watching a YouTube clip of Messi’s 2007 goal (Messi is the star of Argentina’s national team, Group B)… More…

My favorite baseball team has been in a slump for over 20 years, and this year, their season is not starting well. Could poetry help in any way?

— Henry

I’m going to give you two answers: one that reflects my idealistic opinion that poetry can fix everything by virtue of simply being itself, and one that is more practical (but ultimately reflects the idea that poetry can fix everything).

The Poetry-Can-Fix-Everything-Simply-By-Being-Poetry Solution: Fans have shouted chants and slogans and other lines of light verse to opposing teams for years: “We want a pitcher/ Not a belly itcher!”  Nowadays, there isn’t so much of that clever heckling going on, so I think you should bring it back. This advice does come from my inner 10-year-old, so take it with a grain of salt:  Write some jeering lines of light verse for every fielder and shout them or print them on posters… More…

 

Based on the headlines I’ve skimmed, the World Series spurs a lot of questions — questions I don’t really care about involving starters and lineups and blah blah blah. I’ve got a question: How about that Philly Phanatic?!

If the Phanatic takes top billing this Series it’s partly because, well, New York doesn’t have a mascot. I suppose it reflects a minimalist sensibility that non-New York cities lack the confidence to adopt, but whatever the reason, the absence of a mascot is a point of pride. In a 2001 New York Times story on the injuries sports mascots suffer in the line of duty — broken legs, heat exhaustion — writer George Vecsey noted: “It is a tribute to my hometown, New York, that mascots are generally not seen cavorting on the playing fields. New York fans become engrossed… More…

Making too much of the gender divide is outmoded nowadays, and yet there are areas where the division still holds. One is the area of narrative. Women like it; men don’t. Granted, if you walk into a random funeral, you’re going to hear a narrative when they give the eulogy, whether the person in the casket is a man or a woman. But I’m talking about a tolerance for narrative beyond the bare bones (or dead body) variety. When it comes to that, women want more, men less. It’s the old foreplay-versus-sex-act thing, and it translates into other diversions — like fine dining (women like the ambience, men the food) and movies (women like character-delving plots — i.e. French movies; men like action films — i.e. anything with weapons or, barring that, anything not French). The whole thing can be boiled down to a simple dichotomy: Women like stories, men… More…

At the bouldering gym my instructor was wearing a shell-and-nut necklace. A choker, really. He was ripped and humble like most climbers, with the defined veiny forearms of a heroin addict, but the good nature and good looks of someone who gets high the natural way: from climbing rocks and walls.

I hadn’t been at all sure about even moving from my futon to the floor in the morning. But when I feel that way, sometimes I make myself leave my bed, get out of my house, and pursue some activity anyway, just to make things better. I left, the morning faded, and by late afternoon I was at the bouldering gym deciding that a sport like this, something done by healthy, hip people who probably love to get out of bed in the morning, sounded promising, so I decided to take a beginner’s lesson.

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