Saturday, October 13, 2012

Culture Wars, 1870s Style

The dominant narrative of the modern-day culture war is that the politicized secular/Christian showdown is a somewhat recent phenomenon in American politics. Yet, shades of the coming contest could be seen as far back as the 1870s.  Exactly one-hundred years before Roe v. Wade, the so-called Comstock Law (1873) was passed by the U.S. Congress. The law, named after New York purity crusader Anthony Comstock, banned circulation through the mail of obscene literature, abortifacients, and contraceptive devices. While Roe v. Wade has been credited with helping to galvanize a conservative political movement, the Comstock Law had the opposite effect - it led to the creation of the National Liberal League, a loose collection of free thought, free love, and free speech advocates who believed that the Comstock Law was unconstitutional and that the role played by the Christian religion in American government was the same.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Farewell Chipper: Baseball and Memories

I can't claim to be much of a baseball fan anymore. I still play fantasy baseball, and I still check the standings, and every now and then I tune in for fifteen minutes of a game. But the sport is really at the peripheries of my consciousness. I mean, I couldn't even pick out Mike Trout (only the most exciting young baseball player since Doc Gooden) in a police lineup. To channel Rob Lowe's character on Parks and Rec, I literally have not seen one Mike Trout at-bat this year. The season is way too long, the games are way too boring, and besides, there's summer league NBA basketball to watch.

But I've still held onto the Atlanta Braves.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Indian Identity and Jesse "Cab" Renick, Captain of the 1948 U.S. Olympic Basketball Team in London


In London the scoreboard read 65-21 as the final gong mercifully rang out. Thirteen Frenchmen stood in a line opposite fourteen Americans watching the Stars and Stripes unfurl and listening to the band play the Star Spangled Banner. The final notes lingered as the United States’ players rushed forward and carried a six-foot two-inch slightly balding 30-year-old named Jesse Renick off the court on their shoulders, bringing an end to the 1948 London Olympic basketball tourney, an event which brought the United States their second basketball gold medal and cemented Renick’s unique place in history.

Renick (55) shakes hands with a member of the Red Cross.
Or a random Olympic basketball player from 1948. I can't tell. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

How to Make NBA Free Agency Must-See TV: A Modest (And Completely Impossible) Proposal

On July 9, MarShon Brooks was trending on twitter. And he had not even done something crazy, like smashing a bottle over Chris Brown's face. No, Brooks was trending because it was revealed that he was a key piece in a possible trade that would send Dwight Howard to the Nets. 

As the Mayans predicted would happen so many years ago, we now live in a world in which MarShon Brooks can be a topic of overwhelming interest on the internet. David Stern's league has developed a cult-following among those who track the transaction wire and trade rumors as closely as they do box scores. So why not turn free agency into an event, instead of a weeks-long process? 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Best of 2012 Music (So Far)

I wear too many hats nowadays to also don the hat of amateur music critic. So I present this list with the caveat that I don't have the time, desire, will, and/or sense of self-importance to listen to all the new and notable albums that have come out this year. Of what I have listened to, these four albums stand out for the same reason: they are the only four which I consistently listen to from beginning to end. There are plenty of great individual songs that have been released this year. But only these four hold my attention for an entire album.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Four For the Fourth (of July)

My title, unnecessary as it may seem, still isn't on the level of the world's most ridiculous and repetitive (yet also grammatically correct) sentence, "Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo." With that fact established, feel free to click on for moderately interesting historical bits and pieces related somehow to the Fourth of July, featuring guest appearances by the three scariest things Fox News could dream up: pirates, Muslims, and big-government politicians.

London Olympic Basketball, circa 1948

The 1948 U.S. Olympic men's basketball team played in London 64 years ago, winning the gold. This year's U.S. team will be trying to follow in their footsteps. I wrote an article over at Yahoo about that team, and why they deserve to be remembered (besides winning the gold, of course).

The 1948 U.S. men's basketball team. Key players: Bob Kurland (90), Jesse Renick (55),
Ralph Beard (12), Alex Groza (15), Don Barksdale (33).


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Celtics/Heat, or Stealing a Meal from Lions

My wife and I have been plowing through the fantastic Human Planet  series. In the "Grasslands" episode, there is a remarkable scene in which Dorobo hunters from Eastern Africa demonstrate a traditional hunting tactic which basically goes as follows:

1) Find a pack of hungry lions tearing apart a fresh kill
2) Walk up to lions menacingly
3) Take the Lions' meal and walk away

(You can watch the scene for yourself here)

After watching the surprising result of the Heat/Celtics game last night, I couldn't help but think that the Celtics are like those three sparsely-armed hunters marching confidently towards the pack of lions. No one gave these Celtics a chance (especially me). The Eastern Conference championship, once Derrick Rose went down, was the Heat's meal. It was theirs. The only question was how many games it would take.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Sports: Where Perspective is a Bad Thing

Let me preface this by saying that I am no Lebron James apologist. In fact, half of my tweets are dedicated to cheap jokes about the same tired Lebron themes: no championship, indifference to taking big shots, receding hairline. But my dislike of Lebron is not a deeply-held personal conviction. It's just that I'm a Celtics fan, and he happens to stand in their way.

Sports are weird like that. But sports are weird in another way too: when it comes to our favorite athletes, we value their blatant lack of real-world perspective. And when athletes do demonstrate an awareness that there are way more important things out there than winning a game, we get frustrated. Perhaps the central victim of our strange misguided thinking when it comes to sports is Lebron.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

If English Majors Analyzed Kevin Durant's Game-Winner

Thirty minutes ago, Kevin Durant put the finishing touches on a 10-27 shooting performance by knocking down (or bouncing in) a game-winning fadeaway jumper over Shawn Marion's outstretched arms. I decided to turn my brain to English-major-mode and write a brief summary of the shot:

The paradigm-shattering nature of Durant's shot cannot be denied. Consider the profound implications that Durant's tripartite conception of making goals - using rim, backboard, and net - could have for future shot-makers. The typical perception of a pure shot is one in which the ball swishes through the net. Yet, Durant, considered the purest of all shooters, refused to submit to such stereotypes. Instead, Durant's shot was a blow to the constricting chains of society's rules and norms. Altering not the form of the shot, nor the ultimate delirious result, he opened up the world to the possibility that one can receive credit for a game winning shot without blindly submitting to the net-only, rim-net, and backboard-net combination that are deemed advisable by the guardians of basketball standards. In short, with one beautifully arching shot that clanged off both rim and backboard, Durant has introduced the world to a new shot-making archetype.


Judicial Activism: A Guide