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JOY AROUND THE WORLD
Eliud Kipchoge grew up in eastern Kenya and every morning, he’d run to school. Wouldn’t it have been cool if he had a stopwatch, a log of how quickly he could make the trip, trying to beat the bell? How old must he have been when he first broke the 10-minute mark? Did he even break a sweat?
Last Saturday, all of Kenya—with the rest of the world—watched Kipchoge run, and this time, there was a stopwatch. We kept looking back and forth, back and forth, seeing if he would actually make it. In a special event in Vienna, Kipchoge, the greatest marathoner in the world, was trying to run 26.2 miles in under two hours. One hour, 59 minutes, and 40 seconds after he started off, he crossed the finish line. In his hometown of Eldoret, crowds had gathered to watch a broadcast of the feat. It looked like they were watching the World Cup. When he finished, there was elation.
It was a landmark achievement, one that Kipchoge and race organizers compared to man walking on the Moon. The Atlantic wrote of the limitations of that comparison, “Running’s original moon landing, the sub-four-minute mile, took place back in 1954. Yesterday, Kipchoge launched running to Mars.”
Almost immediately after the cheers faded, though, skeptics started crowing. The run would not count as a world record, because it wasn’t an official marathon. Kipchoge ran on […]
Lost in Translation
Jesus brought basketball to China. Okay, that might be a stretch, but it’s not exactly wrong. Missionaries did it in the early 1890s, a handful of years after James Naismith first hammered peach baskets to the wall of a Massachusetts YMCA. They built courts there, and now if you enter the walls of the Forbidden City, you’ll find basketball courts between centuries-old palaces, just waiting for a pickup game.
The Chinese army brought Chinese basketball to America. And yes, that is exactly true. Mao Zedong banned all Western influences and culture—Beethoven, bibles, and baseball were all taboo—but basketball was always encouraged, especially in military camps. He viewed the game as a way to increase comradery and project national strength. For many years, only two sports were allowed in the country: basketball and ping pong. When Wang Zhizhi became the first Chinese national to play in the NBA in 2001, he was a member of the People’s Liberation Army and was ordered to report for duty back in China after every NBA season.
It was Yao Ming, though, who tied the NBA and China at the hip. More than 200 million Chinese fans watched Yao’s first NBA game (compare that to the 98 million Americans who watched Super Bowl LIII this year). In 2008, over a thousand people lined up for the opening of Beijing’s NBA Store. Just a month ago, the country hosted the FIBA World Cup. This week was supposed to be a celebration of the union between country […]
The Sun Sets on the Golden Age of NFL Quarterbacks
Let’s get nostalgic for a moment. Where were you 16 years ago? Here’s some context to help you remember: “Finding Nemo” had just been released, “Hey Ya!” was a #1 hit, and Michael Jordan had finished his final season with the Washington Wizards. It seemed like Howard Dean could possibly win the Democratic primary. And maybe you were in the crowds boycotting the Dixie Chicks?
It was also the last time we had an NFL Sunday without Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger or Eli Manning starting at quarterback. For 5,748 days, one of those three have started for their teams every week of the NFL season. Now, with Brees and Rothlisberger sidelined with injuries and Manning benched in favor of rookie Daniel Jones, the sun is beginning to set on the league’s golden age of quarterbacks.
Who knows what lies ahead for young stars like Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes, but it’s likely that their careers will differ from those of Brees, Roethlisberger and Manning in one key way: They won’t be synonymous with their teams the way that their predecessors are.
Our idea of a “franchise quarterback” is based on the model that this aging generation of signal callers created (or in the case of Tom Brady, will continue to create as he wins Super Bowls for the next 50 years). They defined their franchises. Sure, Brees started his career as a Charger, but he is the Saints. The New York skyline consists of […]
Test of Faith
Every day, it seems, we get a little bit closer to the day that college athletes start taking home a paycheck. The latest development? The California state legislature passed a law this week that would legalize college athletes’ ability to sign marketing deals (it would go into effect in 2023). Predictably, the NCAA appealed and called it unconstitutional, claiming that it would give California schools an unfair advantage. They’re right about that last part. If enacted, why would a top college basketball player go play for free at Duke when they could get paid (modestly, but still) at UCLA? Everyone knows what decision would be made.
But what the NCAA’s lawsuit is really about is that they’re scared of other states—football-crazy Alabama, hockey-mad Minnesota—following California’s lead in hopes of competing for national titles. Once that happens, there wouldn’t be any need for an organization hiding behind a shield of so-called amateurism. The NCAA’s decision to challenge the law is purely one made out of self-preservation. They don’t want to save college athletes from the horrors of being able to make some extra cash. They just want to protect their revenue streams.
So much of what we focus on here at Religion of Sports is centered around you–the fan. Why do we watch, what traditions do we follow, what would a win mean to us? What would it mean to our families?