Friday, March 30, 2007

Pat Tillman and President Bush

Here is a breaking news item about the political machinations after Pat Tillman's death. The AP article details how "just seven days after Pat Tillman's death, a top general warned there were strong indications that it was friendly fire and President Bush might embarrass himself if he said the NFL star-turned-soldier died in an ambush, according to a memo obtained by The Associated Press." The article hints at a whitewash of the episode. Click the photo for the complete AP story. Also, for an excellent profile of Tillman, read Gary Smith's article, Remember His Name.

[Update: 4/20/07]

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Is the UFC getting its due?

Football, baseball, and basketball are America's major sports and deserve the majority of the media coverage, of course, but it is astounding to me how little play ultimate fighting, an enormously popular sport among young men, gets in the mainstream media. (ESPN radio host Colin Cowherd continues to rail against ESPN and Sports Illustrated for ignoring the UFC; he makes the salient point that it is not the media's job to promote sports as much as cover events that are of interest to people.) Among combat sports I find boxing more aesthetically intriguing, and I tend to agree with Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach who told me recently: "It’s painful to watch these guys punching like girls. When they get on the ground it gets boring and slow and they get tangled and it's slow. They don’t have good [boxing] technique. The sport, I just can’t get into it. I don’t know, but it's probably because I have been in boxing so long." Roach is a boxing man through-and-through yet he has trained boxing to mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters and knows the sport well enough to realize that MMA attracts large crowds. I must admit I prefer boxing, too, but I have grown to appreciate ultimate fighting. When I reported a piece a couple years ago for TIME (check out Robert Gallagher's excellent photo essay from the story) about the UFC I came away impressed; I was given a lot of access to the fighters and management, and I studied the fighters in the dressing room doing their pre-fight routine and I watched some bouts ringside (UFC legend and current heavyweight champ Randy Couture graciously sat with me and explained strategy), and I thought the fighters had decent athleticism, and the passion and intelligence of the fans went against the prevailing attitude that the sport's spectators were blood-hungry grunts. Boxing still has the lore and it can capture the public's imagination in spurts (the Mayweather-De La Hoya fight on May 5, for example), but it has become, sadly, a complete mess. The UFC is well run and the other day it bought out Pride, its main rival, which will only make the sport bigger. There is obviously an audience for the UFC, which has made light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell and Jenna Jameson-dating fighter Tito Ortiz into household names. Can you name more than two belt holders in boxing?

Monday, March 26, 2007

Peyton Manning on Saturday Night Live

Friday, March 23, 2007

Film: Offside

I'm always intrigued with films that relate sports to social issues. It's doubtful that many people in the United States will see this film (it is, afterall, about soccer and Iran), but Offside is getting good reviews and it won the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize at the 2006 Berlin Film Festival. In the Christian Science Monitor, Peter Rainer gave it an A- and wrote: "Jafar Panahi's 'Offside' is a small-scale movie that actually says quite a lot. In Iran, women are not allowed into the soccer stadiums to watch the matches. Despite the law, girls disguised as boys often attempt to infiltrate the matches. 'Offside' is about the travails of a group of girls who are caught and taken to a holding area on the upper tier of the stadium by young soldiers who, in many ways, are as naive as they are. The interaction between soldiers and captives becomes a microcosm for an entire culture. It's a wisp of a movie but it has stayed with me longer than much supposedly weightier fare."

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Satire: McSweeney's on ESPN's College Game Day

Report: Former NFL players and dementia

Well-reported article article in yesterday's New York Times about dementia in ex-NFL players.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Renovating the Midwest's Classic Football Stadiums

Some of the Midwest's classic football stadiums are going under renovation, including the University of Michigan's "Big House" (article about the makeover controversy here; the Wall Street Journal's take) and the University of Illinois' Memorial Stadium (shown in the photograph), a true beauty of brick-work, has a renovation underway, too.