Posts Tagged ‘Perfection’

Aught Lang Syne: The Sporting Decade

The defining sports game of this decade occurred at University of Phoenix Stadium on February 3, 2008. That night, in a game that moved about as quickly as the clock in Tecmo Super Bowl, the New York Giants upset the unbeaten New England Patriots, 17-14, to win Super Bowl XLII.

It is debatable whether Super Bowl XLII is the single best game across sports in the Aughts; however, it is almost certainly the game that crystallizes the two competing movements in sports this decade: the quest for historical transcendence and the ascension of the postseason underdog.

Sports are too broad and diverse a subject to write a coherent essay that addresses what happened in the Aughts. Too much happened to be melded into a sustainable theme or argument. And although for many the story of the Aughts is what occurred off the field—be it scandals surrounding performance-enhancing drugs, referees, or personal conduct—to me, the defining narrative of sports in the Aughts is of those two competitors in Super Bowl XLII: the unbeaten Patriots and the pedestrian Giants.

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Breaking Down Breaks of the Game

Breaks of the GameThere is a quote from Bill Simmons on the cover of my copy of The Breaks of the Game by David Halberstam, calling it “the perfect book about the perfect team.” Unfortunately, neither superlative is accurate.

Calling a book “perfect” is generally an overstatement, but it’s less often that an appraisal gets the subject of a book wrong. The problem is that The Breaks of the Game is a book about the 1976-1978 Portland Trail Blazers that covers the 1979-1980 Portland Trail Blazers.

The Portland Trail Blazers began the 1970s as a feeble expansion team, winning 47 total games in its first two seasons. They tried an array of players and coaches, but could never quite put it together—until, that is, a brief run at the end of the 1976-1977 season, when they won the championship, and the first 60 games of the next season, in which they went 50-10.

For that brief stretch, Bill Walton, a college star at UCLA who had struggled in his first two years in Portland, was the best rebounder and defensive center in the league; for that brief stretch, Maurice Lucas became a dominant offensive force; for that brief stretch, Lionel Hollins and Dave Twardzik were a dynamic guard combo. For that brief stretch, the team seemed perfect.

And then Bill Walton got hurt and the team pretty much fell apart. Continue reading

Why the Spelling Bee Never Disappoints

So last week I was lucky enough to wake up early and turn the TV to ESPN, expecting to see Cold Pizza or Mike and Mike in the Morning or something like that, only to find the Scripps National Spelling Bee. It was like pulling into the drive-thru at McDonald’s and hearing them say, “Sorry, we’re out of burgers, would you like a steak from Ruth’s Chris instead?”

The Spelling Bee is great. It is incredibly engaging television. I spent almost five hours last Thursday watching the semifinals on ESPN and then the championship rounds on ABC. Now, you probably just think this makes me boring, and there are definitely aspects of the bee that appeal specifically to me (I really like words like “apodyterium,” meaning, “the apartment at the entrance of the baths, or in the palestra, where one stripped; a dressing room”—which ironically is NOT recognized by Word’s Spell Check), but I maintain that the spelling bee is about as close to a perfectly designed competition as there is. Continue reading