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The image is a black-and-white, lithographic crayon drawing, and it resides in Harvard’s Fogg Museum of American Art, an image of three men in various stages of dress in what appears to be the corner of a wooden shed or perhaps a barn. In the right background, seated in a darkened corner of the shed is a man, wearing only a shirt, leaning forward and pulling on his left sock. Even more shadowy and obscured are three men on the left of the drawing — one standing and apparently toweling off his face; another, nude and seated on the planked floor with his back to the painter; and a third, a baronial older man in derby and jacket, seated on the bench in the hazy background. You would likely not recognize it as an image of small-town, turn-of-the-century baseball but for its title: Sweeney, the Idol of the Fans, Had Hit a Home Run. More… “George Bellows: America’s Artist on the National Pastime”

Jay Thomas, Ed.D., is a professor of education at Aurora University in Aurora, IL, where he teaches courses on learning, motivation, and research methods. His publications include books and articles on assessment and gifted education, but he is equally proud of his baseball writing, which has appeared in Elysian Fields Quarterly and The National Pastime.

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Bowling alleys are closing. They are leaving holes in cities and along highways across America, to be filled in by auto dealerships and doctors’ offices and vape shops that hope to become pot shops. Some get turned into storage facilities, others into nothing at all, left to sit and rot in the dark, the pins still set up inside them.

Whether or not you’ve noticed that bowling alleys are closing might depend on where you live and what bowling means to you. In New York City, you might see young people dressed up to bowl while sipping 17-dollar craft cocktails. In most of the rest of the country, that doesn’t happen. Throughout much of the 20th century, in smaller towns and cities, the bowling alley was a community center — a place for people to retreat after work, a little beat down. Every so often someone would land in a league and turn out to be a pretty good bowler, maybe good enough to win a little money on TV. But now those places are shuttering and going away. More… “Halfway Back to Worcester”

Neil Serven is a writer, lexicographer, and candlepin bowler who lives in Greenfield, Massachusetts. His fiction and essays have appeared in Catapult, Bodega, Washington Square Review, Electric Literature, and elsewhere. Find him on Twitter at @NeilServen.

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In a society any less dynamic and complex, David Halberstam might never have found a place; he might have wandered the hills as a holy madman. He believed it was his personal destiny to feel the first impact of changing currents in national life. He went where the action was, kept his face turned to the wind. That meant Mississippi first, to cover civil rights, then Vietnam, then into the New York media scrum, which he maybe loved too much. His self-conception was always grand, sometimes risibly so. But in the turbulence of mid-20th-century America, he found a challenge equal to the scale of his ambition.

More… “On The American Beat”

Jonathan Clarke is a lawyer and critic living in Brooklyn.

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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’s fiction appears in Harper’s, Commentary, Virginia Quarterly Review, AGNI, and Boulevard, with other work running in The Atlantic, Salon, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, and JazzTimes. He is a regular guest on NPR’s Weekend Edition and Downtown with Rich Kimball, in addition to various radio programs and podcasts. His last book was The Anglerfish Comedy Troupe: Stories from the Abyss, and he has two books forthcoming in 2018: Buried on the Beaches: Cape Stories for Hooked Hearts and Driftwood Souls, and a volume examining the 1951 movie Scrooge as a horror film for the ages. Find him on the web at colinfleminglit.com.

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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.

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 Review. He won… 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…