(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘sports

“This City is what it is because our citizens are what they are”*…

Joel Stein on the ascendance of Miami…

The last time Miami was relevant, it wasn’t important. In the 1980s, Miami provided nothing more than drugs, clubs, pastel blazers, jai alai gambling and, most notably, a hit TV show about all four.

But now Miami is the most important city in America. Not because Miami stopped being a frivolous, regulation-free, climate-doomed tax haven dominated by hot microcelebrities. It became the most important city in America because the country became a frivolous, regulation-free, climate-doomed tax haven dominated by hot microcelebrities…

How a refuge for the retired, divorced, bankrupt, and unemployed has evolved into a “paradise of freedom”: “How Miami became the most important city in America,” from @thejoelstein in @FinancialTimes. (A “gifted” article, so should be free of the paywall.)

An apposite look at ascendant cities worldwide, but especially in Africa: “Africa’s rising cities” (also “gifted”).

* Plato

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As we investigate epicenters, we might recall that it was on this date in 1986 that figure skater Debi Thomas, a Stanford undergraduate, became the first African American to win the Women’s Singles event in the U.S. National Figure Skating Championship competition. She went on to win a gold medal in the World Championships later that year, and then (after battling Achilles tendinitis in both ankles) to earn a Bronze in the 1988 Olympics.

Thomas then attended medical school at Northwestern, and has since practiced as a surgeon.

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“There’s always a shot; you just have to find it.”*…

Finesse at it’s finest…

[image at top: source]

* billiards adage

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As we take our cues, we might send accomplished birthday greetings to Mildred Ella “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias; she was born on this date in 1911. An athlete who excelled in golf, basketball, baseball and track and field, she won two gold medals (in track and field) at the 1932 Summer Olympics, before turning to professional golf and winning 10 LPGA major championships. She is widely regarded as one of the greatest athletes of all time.

Famed as an athlete, she had many other talents: she was a seamstress (who won the South Texas State Fair in Beaumont in 1931) and an musician (a singer and a harmonica player who recorded several songs on the Mercury Records label; her biggest seller was “I Felt a Little Teardrop”).

And she was a competitive pocket billiards player.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

June 26, 2021 at 1:00 am

“One of the advantages bowling has over golf is that you seldom lose a bowling ball”*…

Bowling is easy to shrug off as a mere leisure pursuit—a boozy weekend pastime in which anyone with decent hand-eye coordination can perform well enough. But hardcore bowlers have a very different take on the sport: To them it’s a physics puzzle so elaborate that it can never be mastered, no matter how many thousands of hours they spend pondering the variables that can ruin a ball’s 60-foot journey to the pins. The athletes who obsess over this complexity also understand the debt they owe to Pinel, whose career as a ball designer was just beginning when he attended the Super Hoinke in 1993. Notorious as a bit of a colorful crank, he is also the figure most responsible for transforming how bowlers think about the scientific limits of their sport.

After narrowly surviving two wrecks at a drag strip, Pinel thought it wise to find a safer way to satisfy his yen for competition. So he made the switch to bowling in 1969. He came to view the pastime as a spiritual cousin to drag racing: Both involve a few seconds of precise and rapid travel down a narrow path, and both appeal to those who relish technical conundrums. “A bowling ball is just a gyroscope that’s not on its preferred spin axis, right?” Pinel says when trying to describe his affection for the sport. “So ball motion is one gyroscope operating in the field of a bigger gyroscope, which is the earth.”

Pinel quickly taught himself the game well enough to win small purses at regional tournaments. He soon began to wonder whether he could reach the sport’s next tier by hacking his equipment. His main aim was to tease more flare potential out of a ball—in essence, reconfigure it to create a sharper hooking motion. That hook is essential because of how the sport’s pins are arrayed. There is an inches-wide “pocket” on either side of the front pin that all bowlers aim to hit at the optimum entry angle; if they manage to do so, they have a 95 percent chance of scoring a strike.

When Pinel looked into the discourse around ball performance, he found that most everyone believed that all that mattered was the quality of coverstock—that is, the exterior layer of a ball that is visible to the naked eye. Coverstocks are studded with microscopic spikes, the roughness of which is measured by the average distance from each spike’s peak to valley—a metric known as Ra. The higher a ball’s Ra, the more friction it can create with the lane and thus the greater the potential that it will hook well under the right circumstances. The hardness of the material that underlies the spikes is also an important factor. In the early 1970s, several pros had enjoyed great success by soaking their balls in methyl ethyl ketone, a flammable solvent that softened the coverstocks. (The balls became so gelatinous, in fact, that a bowler could indent the surface with a fingernail.) These softer balls gripped the lane much better than their harder counterparts, and so they tended not to skid unpredictably when encountering patches of oil used to dress the wooden boards. The use of methyl ethyl ketone had increased scores so much that rules were put in place mandating a degree of coverstock hardness as measured by a device known as a Shore durometer.

Pinel thought that too much attention was being paid to coverstocks and not nearly enough to what was inside the ball. The hearts of bowling balls, he discovered, were virtually all the same. Each had a round and centered core topped by a pancake-shaped weight block. Based on his experiences with drag racing, a sport in which the engine is every bit as important as the tires, Pinel figured he could change a ball’s dynamics by tweaking its internal structure…

And so he did. “One Man’s Amazing Journey to the Center of the Bowling Ball“: how Mo Pinel harnessed the power of physics to reshape the core of the ball– and the game of bowling itself. From Brendan Koerner (@brendankoerner)

Don Carter

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As we roll true, we might send relaxing birthday greetings to  Edwin J. Shoemaker; he was born on this date in 1907.  In 1928, he and his cousin Edward M. Knabusch prototyped a porch chair out of some wooden slats taken from orange crates; it would automatically recline as a sitter leaned back.  Since it was a seasonal item, his sales improved when he added plush upholstery for year-round indoor use.  Still, his chairs were for the most part locally/regionally sold.  So he designed a manufacturing facility which utilized the mass-production methods of Detroit’s automotive industry– and in November of 1941 went national with the La-Z-Boy recliner.

 Edwin (left) and Edward with their original creation

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

June 2, 2021 at 1:01 am

“I have no trouble with the twelve inches between my elbow and my palm. It’s the seven inches between my ears that’s bent.”*…

Humans are the only species that can throw well enough to kill rivals and prey. Because throwing requires the highly coordinated and extraordinarily rapid movements of multiple body parts, there was likely a long history of selection favoring the evolution of expert throwing in our ancestors.

Most people probably don’t think throwing is important outside of sports because they’ve forgotten its usefulness. Part of that has to do with the fact that people have been using weapons like bows and firearms for centuries.

But before the invention of these weapons, our hunter-gatherer ancestors threw darts, knives, spears, sticks and stones at rivals and prey. Even today, stones remain effective weapons; you’ll see protesters heave stones at police and stoning used as a form of punishment in some places.

Darwin considered the evolution of throwing to be critical to the success of our ancestors. As he wrote in “The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex,” it allowed “the progenitors of man” to better “defend themselves with stones or clubs, to attack their prey, or otherwise to obtain food.”

The development of the skill begins with the evolution of bipedal locomotion, or walking on two feet. This happened about 4 million years ago, and it freed the arms and hands to learn new abilities like making tools, carrying goods and throwing…

Why humans are the only species that can throw fast enough to kill: “How humans became the best throwers on the planet.”

Read the underlying research in The Quarterly Review of Biology here and here.

See also: “The Long, Sweaty History of Working Out.”

* Tug McGraw (pictured above; source)

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As we wind up, we might recall that it was on this date in 1931 that then-17 year old Jackie Mitchell, of the Chattanooga Lookouts (AA), pitched in an exhibition game against the New York Yankees. One of the first female pitchers in professional baseball history, she became legendary when she struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in succession.

Jackie Mitchell with Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, and (in the suit) Joe Engel

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

April 2, 2021 at 1:01 am

“I’d rather create a miniature painting than a Taj Mahal of a book”*…

Kieran Wright has been in Los Angeles for only three years but has fallen head over heels for his adopted hometown’s landmarks. The 28-year-old from New Zealand spent this spring and summer meticulously crafting miniatures of some of his favorite L.A. places including the Tiki Ti in East Hollywood and the New Beverly Cinema in Fairfax. “I have this deep appreciation of Southern California’s iconic architecture,” he says. “I love driving around looking for old buildings.”

At the beginning of this year, Wright was furloughed from his job marketing Australia as a travel destination and was looking for something new. During his down time, he visited the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco and marveled at the complexity of the 14-inch diorama of Disneyland. “I could stare at that for hours,” he said. “It inspired me to give it a go myself.”

A short time later he was having lunch with a friend at Rae’s coffee shop in Santa Monica when he was struck with the notion of recreating the 1958 restaurant in miniature and started photographing every canted angle and bit of neon in preparation for his first model…

The full story (and more pix) at: “This Man Has Spent Quarantine Making Ridiculously Meticulous Miniatures of L.A. Landmarks.”

Long-time readers will know of your correspondent’s fascination with minatures, e.g., Wright’s New York City compatriot.

* Mohsin Hamid

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As we muse on the miniscule, we might recall that it was on this date in 1919 that the Cincinnati Reds defeated the Chicago White Sox to win the World Series. In what became known as the “Black Sox scandal,” eight members of the White Sox were accused of throwing the series (in exchange for money from a gambling syndicate led by Arnold Rothstein, Aiden Clayton and Aaron Nelson). The hit to baseball’s reputation was sufficiently severe that the sport appointed the ostentatiously-upright federal judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis the first Commissioner of Baseball.

Landis banned the six players; and even after their acquittal at trial in 1921, refused to reinstate them. The punishment was eventually defined by the Baseball Hall of Fame to include banishment from consideration for the Hall. Despite requests for reinstatement in the decades that followed (particularly in the case of Shoeless Joe Jackson), the ban remains.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

October 9, 2020 at 1:01 am

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