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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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"Chip in My Brain": This American Life Buried the Lede

“Chip in My Brain”: This American Life Buried the Lede

Like many here at Mockingbird, I’m a big fan of This American Life and Serial/S-Town and all of those NPRish, WBEC Chicago Public Radio podcasts. I’ve been listening to the TAL podcasts for going on four years now, and “Chip in My Brain” (Jan 13, 2018) is the most compelling to date, for me. That’s a huge compliment in my opinion, because, while TAL (much like 60 Minutes) can be a bit “hit or miss,” it usually hits, and this time, I wonder if it even knows what it has stumbled upon.

Going forward here, there will be some spoilage, and that is significant….

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Death, Taxes, and the New England Patriots

Death, Taxes, and the New England Patriots

I’m a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. In the main, the Steelers are a pretty great team for whom to root. They’re almost always pretty good, and win their division most years. Their ownership is stable, evidenced by the fact that they’ve had three coaches since 1969. For comparison’s sake, the Cleveland Browns—a nominal rival of the Steelers—have had eighteen coaches in that same period. The Browns are terrible. One of my favorite statistics is that, since he entered the league, Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers’ veteran quarterback, is the winningest quarterback at the Browns’ stadium…and he plays there once per season. The…

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I, Tonya Justifies the '90s

I, Tonya Justifies the ’90s

Where were you in 1994 when Nancy Kerrigan took the famous billy club to the knee? Can you believe that event took place nearly a quarter century ago? It’s one of those strange decade-defining events that’s lasted in our minds alongside the Milli Vanilli lip syncing scandal of 1990, the Clinton affair scandal of 1998, or the O.J. Simpson trial of 1994. For those who weren’t following the illustrious world of ’90s U.S. figure skating, or for those who simply weren’t born yet, there’s a fresh chance to get in on the story with this year’s Oscar bait dark comedy I,…

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Jesus Just Makes More Sense When We Lose…

Jesus Just Makes More Sense When We Lose…

Tua Tagovailoa (the freshman QB) came off the bench after halftime last week and led Alabama to (yet another) College Football National Championship, and below was his first interview right after the game. Wow! Did he just say what I think he said? (20 seconds in). “My parents will be mad, so, first, excuse me, but I’d like to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…”

Wow! — he did say that! His parents will be mad? Why? Is it because his parents think that Jesus would probably prefer that their son give direct answers to direct questions, and not try…

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