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Posts Tagged ‘sports

“But if you’re gonna dine with them cannibals / Sooner or later, darling, you’re gonna get eaten”*…

 

hot dog

 

A select few athletes are so iconic, they’re known by a single name. Jordan. The Babe. Serena. Pelé. Tiger. Shaq.

And, of course, Kobayashi.

The godfather of competitive eating, Takeru Kobayashi burst onto the American scene at the 2001 Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, where the lithe 5-foot-8 Japanese 23-year-old, using a revolutionary water-dipping technique and a body-wiggling maneuver known as the “Kobayashi Shake,” ate an astounding 50 hot dogs—double the prior record. That feat thrust Kobayashi to instant superstardom, and his subsequent five wins at the famed July 4th competition only solidified his standing as the king of the eating world—a title he’d only officially relinquish in 2007, when American Joey Chestnut dethroned him at the Nathan’s extravaganza.

The tumultuous saga of Kobayashi and Chestnut is the subject of ESPN’s latest “30 for 30” documentary, The Good, The Bad, The Hungry, which details the stratospheric rise and controversial fall of Kobayashi, whose reign was cut short by losses to Chestnut (winner of 11 Nathan’s contests, and a multi-world record holder), a falling-out with Major League Eating (MLE) and its co-founder George Shea, and an eye-opening arrest at the 2010 Nathan’s event…

More on this epic rivaltry at “The Rise and Fall of Kobayashi, Godfather of Competitive Eating: ‘They Were Making a Joke of Me’.”  Find The Good, The Bad, The Hungry here.

* Nick Cave

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As we go for the gold, we might recall that it was on this date in 1928 that sliced bread was sold for the first time, by the Chillicothe Baking Company of Chillicothe, Missouri.

For more on this seminal development, see “What was the best thing before sliced bread?

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Written by LW

July 7, 2019 at 1:01 am

“It’s all part of life’s rich pageant”*…

 

tshirt cannon

 

There’s an arms race of sorts now taking place in sports arenas. Hence, the Quad.

The Quad is the world’s biggest t-shirt cannon. The massive, four-barreled gatling gun resides in the bowels of the Milwaukee Bucks’ home arena. At some point during each home game, Bango, the Bucks mascot, rides it onto the court like Patton riding a tank into battle. Then he fires off 186 shirts in about 15 seconds, amid a cloud of cryo and shrieks from all the fans wanting something free.

The weapon of mass distraction is the latest brainchild of Todd Scheel, a former wedding DJ and Milwaukee-area businessman who now reigns as the Oppenheimer of arena armaments…

The NBA has invested much more than any other major sports league in “dead-ball entertainment,” or whatever you want to call the sponsor-friendly efforts to keep ticket buyers occupied during game breaks: “How The Milwaukee Bucks And A Former Wedding DJ Won The T-Shirt Cannon Arms Race.”

* Inspector Clousseau, A Shot in the Dark

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As we make ourselves targets, we might recall that it was on this date in 1897 that carpenter and cough syrup manufacturer Pearle Bixby Wait trademarked a gelatin dessert called Jell-O; his wife May and he added strawberry, raspberry, orange, and lemon flavoring to granulated gelatin and sugar.

Gelatin, a protein produced from collagen extracted from boiled bones, connective tissues, and other animal products, has been a component of food, particularly desserts, since the 15th century.  It was popularized in New York in the Victorian era by spectacular and complex jelly molds.  But it was Wait who launched gelatin into the mainstream… where, with some ups and downs, it has remained– though slightly tarnished as a family product by the 1980s advent of Jell-O shots and Jell-O wrestling.  As of 2016, there were more than 110 products sold under the Jell-O brand name.

Jello source

 

Written by LW

May 28, 2019 at 1:01 am

“I only fear danger where I want to fear it”*…

 

28176973487_b57067ddfa

The third annual International World Extreme Sports Medicine Congress confirmed our collective willingness to wreck ourselves in pursuit of stoke.

Global experts on how outdoor athletes stumble, trip, twist, crash, snap, pop, tear, and occasionally croak in hard-to-reach places convened in Boulder, courtesy of the University of Colorado’s sports medicine department. The mission? Bring practitioners up to speed on the many methods we’ve invented to destroy our bodies, so they can be prepared when they wheel in another human pretzel in a helmet…

An example of the findings that surfaced:

Seventy-two percent of BASE jumpers have witnessed a death or a severe injury.

Heard: Reporter had to depart before the question “are BASE jumpers insane?” was resolved. But we’re going with “yeah.”

More injurious insights at “19 Lessons I Learned from Extreme Sports Pros.”

* Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis

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As we take it to the max, we might recall that it was on this date that “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias won the 1954 U.S. Women’s Open Golf Championship.  Successful in in golf, basketball, baseball, and track and field (a double Gold Medalist at the 1932 Olympic Games), she is considered one of the greatest female athletes of all time.  She is surely also one of the most committed:  she had missed the 1953 Women’s Open, undergoing surgery for colon cancer; she was still in recovery when she took the title the next year.  Sadly, she relapsed and missed the chance to defend her title in 1955, as she was back in surgery; she died of her cancer in 1956.

250px-Babe_Didrikson_Zaharias_1938cr source

 

Written by LW

July 3, 2018 at 1:01 am

“Most players are just happy to get the bag on the board”*…

 

In 2000, Matt Guy [left-most in the photo above] began to notice his competition in professional horseshoes had gotten older, while no younger players came to replace them. There had never been big money to be made playing horseshoes, but Matt liked the competition and the opportunity to bond with his dad.

When his dad decided to retire from competition, Matt had risen as high as sixth in the world, but it was time for a change.

Soon enough, he was introduced to professional cornhole.

As Matt Guy rose among the ranks of professional horseshoe players, Frank Geers had his own dream. He wanted to create a sports league.

Geers figured his best bet would be a backyard lawn game, like horseshoes, ladders, or cornhole. He sought to emulate-lesser known spectator sports that still draw high levels of participation, like bowling. He eliminated some games for being too complicated or dangerous. Cornhole had obvious appeal for its simplicity and accessibility. Matt Guy noticed it immediately too.

“Horseshoes used in competition are two and a half pounds thrown over 40 feet,” Guy explained. “In cornhole, it’s one-pound beanbags being tossed 27 feet.”

Then, there was the money. Geers understood that people wanted to watch competitors win big prizes…

The two men leading the charge to turn the bean-bag toss into a major spectator sport: “Serious Cornhole.”  See also: “Life’s A Pitch When You’re The World’s Best Cornhole Player.”

* Frank Geers, founder, president and CEO of the American Cornhole Organization

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As we limber up, we might recall that it was on this date in 1963 that Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra was hired as Manager of the New York Yankees.  Berra played almost his entire 19-year baseball career (1946–1965) for the Yankees, where he became one of only four players to be named the Most Valuable Player of the American League three times.  According to  sabermetrician Bill James, he is the greatest catcher of all time and the 52nd greatest non-pitching player in major-league history.  

Berra’s accession to leader of the dynasty of which he was a crucial part was a natural, and a storied success. Less expected was his subsequent move to manage cross-town rival the New York Mets– where he was, again, successful.  He is one of seven managers to lead both American and National League teams to the World Series (as a player, coach, or manager, Berra appeared in 21 Fall Classics). He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.

Berra is also remembered for the “unique”  observations on baseball and life with which he graced reporters during interviews:  e.g., “Baseball is 90% mental, the other half is physical,” “It’s déjà vu all over again,” “You can observe a lot by watching,” and “The future ain’t what it used to be.”  In The Yogi Book, Berra explained, “I really didn’t say everything I said. […] Then again, I might have said ’em, but you never know.”

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Written by LW

October 24, 2017 at 1:01 am

“It’s not a matter of ‘Did you break?’ It’s a matter of ‘How far can you make it before you break?'”*…

 

Day 1, 1:42 a.m.: Lazarus Lake, who designed the Barkley Marathons in 1986 (no one finished that year), lights a Camel, signaling the start of this year’s race.

Since 1986, the world’s top ultra-runners have fought to compete in the Barkley Marathon, 100 miles through hellish Appalachian Mountain terrain. So far, only 15 have completed it…

For most of us, the 26.2 miles of a marathon represent the epitome of athletic endurance. For others, there are the ultramarathons, races that stretch to fifty or one hundred miles or more through some of the world’s most inhospitable regions. The Badwater 135 winds through the middle of Death Valley in July. The Marathon des Sables is a six-day, 156-mile race across the Sahara Desert. The Hardrock 100 is a high-altitude hundred- miler amid lightning storms and avalanches.

And then there is the Barkley Marathons.

Officially, it consists of five loops through Frozen Head State Park in Tennessee, totaling one hundred miles, but most participants believe it to be closer to 130. Runners must ascend and descend about 120,000 feet of elevation—the equivalent of climbing up and down Mount Everest twice. And all this must be done in just sixty hours. As of race time this year, of the more than one thousand people who have run it, only fourteen have finished.

It costs only $1.60 to enter. An application must be sent to a closely guarded email address at precisely the right minute on precisely the right day. The email must include an essay titled “Why I Should Be Allowed to Run in the Barkley.”

You must then complete a written exam that asks, for instance, “Explain the excess positrons in the flux of cosmic rays” and “How much butter should you use to cook a pound of liver (with onions)?” New runners, known as “virgins,” must bring a license plate from their state or country. “Veterans”— returning runners who did not finish—must bring an item of clothing. One year it was a flannel shirt. Another year it was a white dress shirt. This year it’s a pack of white socks. The few who have finished the course and are crazy enough to return, known as “alumni,” need only bring a pack of Camel cigarettes…

“An ever-shifting race, designed by a madman,” the story of the Barkley: “The Masochist’s Marathon.”

* John Kelly, Barkley contestant

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As we hit the trail, we might recall that it was on this date in 1984 that Carl Lewis won the long jump at the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, the second of the four gold medals he won at those Games.

In a career that ran from 1979 to 1996, Lewis won nine Olympic gold medals, one Olympic silver medal, and 10 World Championships medals (eight of them, gold). He is one of only three Olympic athletes who won a gold medal in the same event in four consecutive Olympic Games.  he was voted “World Athlete of the Century” by the International Association of Athletics Federations and “Sportsman of the Century” by the International Olympic Committee, and “Olympian of the Century” by Sports Illustrated.

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Written by LW

August 6, 2017 at 1:01 am

“The score never interested me, only the game”*…

 

All you need is a ball and a wall.

The mantra of handball players everywhere is also a manifesto on the sport’s accessibility. A deceptively simple game with a steep learning curve, handball — in one form or another — has been played since at least the 15th century, when its earliest recorded occurrence (1437) has King James I of Scotland ordering the blocking of a cellar window that was interfering with his courtyard play.

In 1884 the rules for modern handball — in short, you hit a ball against a wall with your hand until your opponent fails to return it — were made official by Ireland’s Gaelic Athletic Association, and the rest is history…

The perfect game?  “‘Tennis for savages’: A visual history of handball in America.”

* Mae West

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As we revel in the “twack,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1915 that Wilbert “Uncle Robbie” Robinson, a career major league catcher who had become the manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, decided to try to set a record of sorts by catching a baseball dropped from an airplane being flown 525 feet overhead.   The team was in Daytona Beach, Florida for spring training and in the market for a publicity stunt; they settled on the idea of a world-record catch.  And when all of his players demurred, Uncle Robbie agreed to do it.

The Dodgers recruited Ruth Law, an aviatrix in town to drop golf balls in another publicity stunt, to execute the “throw,” but at the suggestion of a member of her ground crew, Law substituted a grapefruit (from a mechanic’s lunch box) at the last minute and tossed that from her cockpit instead of the rawhide.

The grapefruit hit Robinson in the chest– and made such a mess that he thought he had lost his eye (because of the acid burn and the blood-like splatter that covered him).  But he twigged to the gag when he saw his teammates burst out in laughter.  Outfielder Casey Stengel, later a successful manager himself, claimed to have convinced Law to make the switch; but Law herself told the true story in a 1957 interview.  From this point on Robinson referred to airplanes as “fruit flies.”

Wilbert Robinson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1945.

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Written by LW

March 13, 2017 at 1:01 am

“The Olympic Games… purport to follow the traditions of an ancient athletics competition, but today it is the commercial aspect that is most apparent”*…

 

The above graphic from HowMuch.net, a cost information site, visualizes data from a recent study by Oxford University to compare the budgets of previous games.

The study found the average cost overruns for Olympic Games to be a whopping 156% from 1968 to 2016. This means that the Rio Games were a budgeting success, at least in relative terms, by ‘only’ running 51% overbudget.

It should be noted that the study accounts only for sports-related costs, such as those relating to operations or building venues. The study excludes indirect capital costs such as upgrading transport or hotel infrastructure, since data on these costs is harder to come by, and is often unreliable. Also, some Olympic Games were omitted from the study, as they did not have available public data on the costs involved.

The good news for organizers is that cost overruns, as a percentage, are generally going down.

The 1976 Summer Games in Montreal caught everyone off guard after going 720% overbudget, and the city was saddled with debt for 30 years. Lake Placid (1980), Barcelona (1992), and Lillehammer (1994) were all grossly overbudget as well with 324%, 266%, and 277% overruns respectively.

However, recent games – with the exception of Sochi (289%) – have all been pretty good as far as Olympics go. The average cost overrun since 1998 has been just 73%.

The bad news for organizers is that costs, in general, are still going way up. Organizers are just getting slightly “better” at budgeting for them.

Here are the total costs for all games in the study – note that costs are adjusted to be in 2015 terms.

More– and enlargeable/zoomable versions of the graphics– at “Rio Games a success at ‘only’ 51% over budget.”

* Ai Weiwei

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As we pass the torch, we might note that it was on this date in 1791 that the town of Pittsfield, Massachusetts voted to ban the game of baseball (and other activities that had disturbed many of the townspeople).

Until about a decade ago, it was widely believed that baseball was created by Abner Doubleday (or his contemporary Alexander Cartwright) in 1846; and indeed, the “modern” game– baseball as we know it– was. But historian Jim Thorn’s discovery of the Pittsfield Bylaw, fifty-five years older, is the earliest known reference to the game.

The relevant section: Be it ordained by the said Inhabitants that no person or Inhabitant of said Town‚ shall be permitted to play at any game called Wicket‚ Cricket‚ Baseball‚ Batball‚ Football‚ Cats‚ Fives or any other games played with Ball‚ within the Distance of eighty yards from said Meeting House – And every such Person who shall play at any of the said games or other games with Ball within the distance aforesaid‚ shall for every Instance thereof‚ forfeit the Sum of five shillings to be recovered by Action of Debt brought before any Justice of the Peace to the Person who shall and prosecute therefore And be it further ordained that in every Instance where any Minor shall be guilty of a Breach of this Law‚ his Parent‚ Master‚ Mistress or guardian shall forfeit the like Sum to be recovered in manner‚ and to the use aforesaid.

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Written by LW

September 5, 2016 at 1:01 am

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