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The Necessary Execution: Preaching, Losing, and LeBron James

The Necessary Execution: Preaching, Losing, and LeBron James

I thought that the conventional wisdom was that sons turned into their mothers. It seems that, on the other hand, I’m turning into my mother-in-law.

We’re different in profound ways, of course—though we both love her daughter—but I’m discovering that when it comes to watching sporting events in which we’re heavily invested, I’m picking up her mannerisms.

It used to be that I was the only person I knew who could happily watch a sporting event on my DVR. I’d record the game, stay off social media, and watch it later, skipping through the commercials. I’ve heard, time and again, that live…

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Violence & Faith

Violence & Faith

LeBron and Curry are crushing the NBA Finals. The never-anything Washington Capitals and never-before Las Vegas Golden Knights are a Dream Fantasy of Stanley Cup legendizing. Even baseball has some sex appeal amid a Yanks/Sox Genetic Superiority Grudge Match.

But if you are a sports monogamist like me, and you love football, this is the lamest time of the year. At every level, last season has faded into anecdotal irrelevance. Those who are coaching or playing know that spring practice is either over or is soon to be over. NFL followers are so over the draft and the kneeling (or not), and…

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Let Us Now Praise Lebron James

Let Us Now Praise Lebron James

It is difficult to imagine now, but there was a time when he could not be counted on when it mattered.

Vividly I remember June 2011, when my Mavericks were made the agent of God’s moral retribution, which he spares us in life but applies in the world of sport. Those Mavericks pre-figured many of the teams Lebron James had dragged to the NBA Finals before and would drag in later years, including this year: led by one transcendent star, Dirk Notwitzki, a Swiss Army Knife of a player from neighboring Germany, the Mavs were otherwise a thrown-together group of single-dimensional…

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LeBron, Rest, and Execution, and Will

LeBron, Rest, and Execution, and Will

I ran into a fascinating juxtaposition in a fascinating (for a difference reason) article recently. The article in question, an ESPN piece by Brian Windhorst, is about LeBron James “perfecting the art of resting while playing.” If that sounds counter-intuitive, it probably should. We’re used to thinking of athletes “giving 100%” (if not more; there’s always that mythical “110%” that people are always claiming to reach) while they’re on the court, field, pitch, or whatever. Then, they come out of the game and rest until they’re ready to go back in and give it 100% again. Of course, in sports…

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Mamba Mentality for Losers

Mamba Mentality for Losers

Kobe Bryant won’t go away. I was desperately waiting for him to retire so that I wouldn’t have to watch his brand of basketball or listen to his brand of pop-psychology anymore.

Then he retired. But now he’s back.

Bryant developed a reputation during his playing career for being ultra-competitive (true) and always coming through in big moments (not true). There’s a difference, you see, between being willing to take an important shot at the end of a basketball game (competitive fire) and actually making that shot (coming through). Bryant was always willing to shoot it, regardless of the presence of more-open…

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Geno Auriemma and the Tyranny of…Wait, Didn’t We Just Do This?

Geno Auriemma and the Tyranny of…Wait, Didn’t We Just Do This?

Geno Auriemma is the high priest of women’s college basketball. His career record is 1027-136, which, I promise you, is not a typo. I checked it a bunch of times. His University of Connecticut basketball team is the unquestioned top dog (it’s a pun…they’re the Huskies) in the sport. They get all best recruits, lose an average of about one game a season, and nearly always win the National Championship.

But Auriemma’s not satisfied. He has no peace.

Sports seems to provide the perfect crucible for this sort of impossible-to-satisfy quest. Tom Brady’s on it, and so is almost every other athlete,…

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On Dead Lions, Live Donkeys, and the Limits of Endurance

On Dead Lions, Live Donkeys, and the Limits of Endurance

David Grann has penned a gripping New Yorker profile on Arctic explorer Henry Worsley. If you don’t have time to read the whole lengthy piece (or even if you do), this 25 minute New Yorker Radio podcast is a fantastic supplement. A retired British army commando, he was obsessed with the Arctic explorer (and current leadership book icon) Earnest Shackleton. Worsley (who once spent the night sleeping near his hero’s grave) adopted Shackleton’s credo as is own: “by endurance we conquer.”

Shackleton’s fame, however, should not obscure the fact that he was “in many ways, a failure.” He emerged physically broken after Captain…

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Tom, Time, and the Tyranny of Perfection

Tom, Time, and the Tyranny of Perfection

I’m finally ready for Tom Brady again. Are you? We watched as he was doubted at points during the second-to-most-recent NFL season—during which he was thirty-nine years old—only to come back and win the Super Bowl. We watched as he was lauded last season—at forty—only to lose the Super Bowl. We’ve listened to sports talk radio wonder how long he can play, how long he can be good, how long, how long, how long. I needed a break. How long, Oh Lord (Psalm 40), must we listen to stories about Tom Brady?

It’s March, and I guess I’m ready again. The…

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Snatching Defeat from the Esophagus of Victory

Snatching Defeat from the Esophagus of Victory

I.

Y’all, I’m going to be real with you: last Thursday night, I experienced something that made me feel more intensely depressed than I have felt in a really, really long time. What happened, you ask? Did someone I love pass away? Did I lose my job or break up with my girlfriend? Did I watch a documentary about the Syrian Civil War? Nope, nope, nope.

I watched a basketball game. I watched what has been my favorite team in all of sports since I was an infant—the currently unranked Louisville Cardinals men’s basketball team—lose to the #1 ranked Virginia…

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Done and Never Done

Done and Never Done

This NBA season has seen a spike in contentious behavior and talk between players and referees. Technical fouls are up, ejections are up, but most obviously, criticism is up. Referees aren’t available to the media, so we don’t have public instances of them criticizing players, but players are contractually obligated to talk to the media, so we have plenty of examples of them complaining about the refs. I guess that’s how the transaction works: a frustrated player complains after a frustrated official calls a technical foul. Which came first, the complaint or the technical? In a sense, this is nothing…

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Chris Mazdzer, Passive Righteousness, and the Fastest Sport on Ice

Chris Mazdzer, Passive Righteousness, and the Fastest Sport on Ice

The other day, Chris Mazdzer did something no American has ever done: medal in the Olympic luge. You know the luge, it’s the one where the seemingly rubber-suited guys lie on their back on a sled and hurtle down the bobsled track at 80 miles an hour, sneaking an occasional peak to see where in God’s name they’re going and on which upcoming turn they might die. It’s a sport dominated by Eastern Europeans, because we Americans have apparently decided we have better things to do, like explaining, during literally every single routine, the excruciatingly simple colored dots scoring system…

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Nothing Means as Much

Nothing Means as Much

It’s the Super Bowl, 2018. Perhaps a billion humans are linked to it. In the stands, 80,000 humans are next to you in full expression. Real things happen, and some are unheard, despite the billions of ears and ears.

11 men stand alone on one side of a ball, while on the other side another 11 men gather. Those first 11 men have done this many times before. They have won this game many times before. They have been better than those in the other cluster many times before. This group is led by a person who is older than everyone else…

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