For most of my lifetime, the accepted political narrative has been that the United States is generally a center-right country. While the political and intellectual centers of our nation lean left, the vast majority of Americans tend towards a more conservative personal ethos.
But if there’s one thing to learn from election day, it’s that that particular narrative is bullshit. Not only did a democratic President win re-election in the middle of troubled economic times but, in two states, voters approved same sex marriage while two others legalized recreational marijuana use.
The US population has proven to be a forward thinking electorate, voting in the direction of progress and expanded human rights and away from previously established orthodoxies.
Except for the sports world. And that’s starting to worry me.
This week’s Sports Illustrated opens with a profile of Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein. The writer can only get about a third of the way into the article before Klein’s Christianity is introduced. His parents enjoy the Jesus. They had Collin and his siblings home schooled so they would also enjoy the Jesus. Collin vowed never to kiss a girl until he was married, and so, despite the fact that he;s still in college and is only 23 years old, he’s already married.
I have no problem with any of these choices. They are personal and, no doubt, very sincere decisions on how to lead a life of goodness and piety. But the fervor turns me off. I am incapable of connecting with someone who wears their religion on their sleeve. The second faith is introduced as the defining characteristic in an athlete’s life, I instantly tune out.
As a New Yorker and, more and more often, as an American, this is not an issue. Unfortunately, though, as a sports fan it’s becoming a larger and larger problem. It seems like every week, SI features at least one profile of an athlete who holds up their religion as the central tenet of their day to day existence. And in the ever rarer instances of athletes who don’t share those beliefs, that fact alone merits attention. Minnesota Viking Chris Kluwe is an average punter on an average NFL team, but he supports gay rights. And that’s so rare in sports, he’s gained national attention for it. The man thinks like 70% of the population. There shouldn’t be anything remarkable about that.
The US is an ever-changing social organism. Things that were once taboo become the norm at a remarkably quick pace. And things that were once held up as undeniable truths morph into outdated ideas even faster. I’m starting to worry that the sports world can’t keep up.
(kudos to SI for not only making it impossible to link to articles from the current issue, but now also making it impossible to find a full size image of this week’s cover. I had to doctor the picture below to make it big enough. Dicks)
There’s an interesting yet seemingly unintended theme to the first half of this week’s magazine. On page 22, we have SI senior baseball writer Tom Verducci opining that steroid use is once again on the rise in the sport because players simply aren’t that worried about the punishment that comes from a positive test. He says a 50 game suspension is no longer seen as that big of a deal by players, who see their colleagues come back from steroid punishment without their reputations tarnished that badly. On page 25, we find Dan Patrick’s interview with new Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire. 10 years ago, Big Mac was the poster boy for steroid use destroying a player’s reputation. And while he admits he’ll probably never get into the hall of fame because of his PED past, McGwire has managed to restore his reputation within the game enough to continue making a good living in it. His career seems to prove Verducci’s point.
Collin Klein First Kissed His Wife At The Altar. Collin Klein Is Also One Bad Dude by Thomas Lake
Obviously, I’ve already outlined my true issues with the subject of this profile in the opening of this week’s review. But, I have a major issue with the structure of the piece as well. Thomas Lake writes it as a list of the 27 things you need to know about the K-State QB. Why 27? If there is some significance to that number, it’s never revealed in the article. And the piece isn’t actually broken up into 27 separate bullet points. Instead, the numbers seem to be assigned willy-nilly (technical writers’ terminology there) to paragraphs that make up an otherwise normal narrative.
Also.. SI cover jinx? Nice job getting blown out by Baylor, Kansas State.
Oh The Places They’ll Go (Just Not This Year) by Pete Thamel
Thamel writes about Urban Meyer’s efforts to “change the culture” at Ohio State. WHO CARES? The most notable thing about this article is that Thamel managed to profile Meyer without mentioning Tim Tebow.
Go With The Flow by Andy Staples
It’s a chart
Mirror, Mirror by Michael Rosenberg
Former Detroit Free Press writer Michael Rosenberg continues to follow the Joe Posnanski career playbook by joining a national magazine but continuing to write almost exclusively about sports in the market you seemingly became too big for. In this case, though, his profile of Michigan basketball players Tim Hardaway Jr and Glenn Robinson Jr is the best article in this week’s issue. I feel something of a personal connection to this piece. When I was a sophomore in high school, for some reason, I became obsessed with Glenn Robinson, who was the best player in college basketball at the time. I even ordered a Robinson jersey from the Purdue University book store, then wore it to school even though it was bright gold and kind of tight. Don’t worry, I wore it over a white turtleneck. JESUS! How did my mom ever let me leave the house in the morning? The thing I can’t figure out right now is how did I get the number of the Purdue University book store? There was no Internet. Did I call 4-1-1? Did I go to a library and look it up? Seriously, I have absolutely no idea.
Does Michael Vick Deserve This by Matt Gagne
Gagne seems to be fishing for a false equivalency between Vick’s efforts to turn his life around and the fact that the Eagles suck. Michael Vick visited hurricane Sandy victims, so how come his offensive line is struggling? That sounds pretty ridiculous.
The Most Powerful Man In Sports… You Had No Idea, Did You? by L. Jon Wertheim
No. No, I did not. Stan Kroenke seems like a pretty interesting character, though marrying into the Walton family then putting your 32 year old son in charge of a multi-million dollar operation doesn’t really make him stand out as compared to other billionaires.
Point After by Phil Taylor
Stats vs scouting. ENOUGH ALREADY!