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Posts Tagged ‘Red Sox’

Stage Struck

September 12, 2012 | by

Most of what I read about professional tennis, particularly the profiles of the game’s biggest names, appears around the Grand Slams, three of which are played over the summer here in the northern hemisphere. This was the summer of Roger Federer, Andy Murray and his new coach Ivan Lendl, and Venus and Serena Williams. Novak Djokovic, the world’s top men’s player when the summer began, had had his moment in Vogue in May 2011, during a season when, at one point, he’d string together forty-three straight victories and lose only six matches.

Near the end of that season, about a month after Djokovic saved two match points against Federer’s serve to win their U.S. Open semifinal, the New York Times Magazine ran an essay by Adam Sternbergh called “The Thrill of Defeat.” The occasion for the piece was the “278 million to 1” odds against the Boston Red Sox’s “epic” collapse during the 2011 pennant race. To a Federer fan looking back to the Open, though, those odds seemed about right. What also seemed right were Sternbergh’s thoughts about the basic absurdity of sports and, my affinity for Bart Giamatti notwithstanding, the “terrible sportswriters” who “argue that sports are a grand metaphor, a stage on which we witness essential narratives about determination, bravery and heart.” Read More »

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On the Ball

September 29, 2011 | by

Brad Pitt as Billy Beane in Moneyball.

Baseball, perhaps because its players spend so much time in stillness, prompts us to say some pretty silly things about it. Grown men go misty and reach for metaphor: “Baseball is cigar smoke, hot roasted peanuts, The Sporting News, ladies’ day, ‘Down in Front,’ ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame,’ and the ‘Star Spangled Banner,’” as Ernie Harwell—genius broadcaster, magician of nostalgia, limited poet—said in his Hall of Fame induction speech in 1981. The great appeal of Billy Beane, the general manager, beginning in 1998, of the Oakland A’s, who is played by Brad Pitt in the new movie Moneyball, is that he offers us an antidote to such sentimentality. He embraces innovative statistical metrics (called, with a ring of sharpness, sabermetrics); he is on a ruthless quest for efficiency. More thrilling still, he may not even like baseball all that much. One of the suggestions of the book Moneyball, written by Michael Lewis, and of its movie adaptation, is that Beane is at war with the game itself. As a middling professional in the eighties, he was tricked into thinking that he was good enough to play at an exceptional level, and there are hints that all his subsequent maneuverings have been fueled by a vindictive desire to upend baseball’s traditions, to make its most storied franchises look petty and stupid, and to stamp out its most deeply embedded myths. Read More »

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Of Playoffs and Boston Politics

October 21, 2010 | by

Dear Will,

It seems we’re going to have lots to talk about over the next few weeks, from haircuts to hurt. For starters, an answer your question: A fielder’s choice is recorded when the batter reaches base or a runner advances while another runner is put out. The infield fly rule prevents a trick double play on a pop-up. It’s important to note that The Paris Review team does not play with the infield fly rule in effect.

I became a fan the old-fashioned way: My father took me to a baseball game. Dad cut work, I cut school, and the Orioles beat the Indians, 2–0. Around that time (I was ten years old), my father also bought me a baseball glove. (OK, it was a softball glove, but I insisted on breaking it in with a baseball.) My little sister got one too, but after I showed off my arm by throwing at her head a few times, she went inside for good.

A few years later, when I was beginning my mornings with box scores, my dad started giving me books: David Halberstam’s Summer of ’49, Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Wait Till Next Year, a copy of Out of My League inscribed by one George Plimpton. In high school, I worked summers and Friday nights in the Washington Post sports section; in my interview for the job, I discussed the relative merits of Roger Angell and Roger Kahn, the Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio of baseball scribes.

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October Baseball and the Meaning of Hurt

October 20, 2010 | by

Photograph by Ed Yourdon.

Dear Louisa,

I’m very excited to be writing about the World Series with you.

When I moved to America, I knew that it was important to find a sport, something to fill the void that my enforced separation from Arsenal Football Club was going to create. I settled (the term implies, inaccurately, some level of critical thinking) on baseball.

I have an uncle who lives on the Upper West Side, and for Christmas every year he would send me Yankee paraphernalia. I did ask for it, he wasn’t imposing on me, and so, since I already had the cap and because I would be living in New York and am a locavore when it comes to sports teams, I settled into Yankee fandom. This was easy to do at the time—1993—because the Yankees were terrible. There was nothing fair-weather about it.

I enjoyed the first few Yankee triumphs: My girlfriend in college was in love with Joe Girardi, who wasn’t a threat; I went to the Leyritz walk-off game in 1995; and after graduating from college, my friends and I used to go sit in the bleachers with a flask and a selection of loose joints. On May 17, 1998, the last time I took ecstasy, David Wells pitched a perfect game. It was a good time to be a fan.

And then my team betrayed me. On the Internet one day, I discovered the Yankees, a team that so far had provided me with nothing but the occasional good time, had signed a deal with Manchester United. You know how people in Brooklyn can never forgive the Dodgers for moving to LA—well imagine they had killed your grandmother as well. Read More »

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