Sportuality2019-07-26T16:41:35+00:00

Sportuality

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Why the Washington Nationals Won the World Series

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THERE’S NOTHING LIKE A GAME SEVEN

Faith. That’s how the Nationals won the World Series earlier this week. It’s what they held onto when they were 19-31 nearly two months into this season. It’s what they believed in when they were down two runs late in the do-or-die Wild Card game. It’s what they remembered when the deciding Game 5 of the NLDS came down to extra innings. And it’s how they won on the road against the Astros. And then again. And again. And again.

We talked last week about the Baseball Gods, and in response, our co-founder Gotham Chopra said that the Nationals have that team of destiny feel to them. That’s code for saying that Washington had the Baseball Gods on their side. Ryan Zimmerman explained the victory in simpler terms. “We were just ourselves,” he said.

In the end, it was some combination of the two. The Baseball Gods have been breathing life into the Nationals since late May, and the Nationals never questioned it. They just let it happen. They believed. Every player did.

There’s Ryan Zimmerman, who’s been with the team since as long as it’s existed, back when they played at RFK Stadium, when they lost 100 games in a season.

There’s Stephen Strasburg, who was compared to Walter Johnson as a rookie, then told he was too fragile to be a true ace, and then pitched the most dazzling game of the […]

The Baseball Gods Are Here to Have Fun

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THE BASEBALL GODS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN

There’s an old phrase that people throw around when something inexplicable happens on a baseball diamond. There are unbelievable turns of events in any sport, but they seem to happen in baseball the most. When they do—when there’s a home run that floats out of the park seemingly because of a cosmic gust of wind, or when there’s a grounder that worms its way around infielders and into the outfield for a late-inning RBI—we throw up our hands and declare that the only explanation is that the Baseball Gods are out there having a little fun. The Red Sox breaking the Curse of the Bambino by completing an epic comeback against the Bambino’s Yankees? Baseball Gods. The Cubs finally winning a World Series when their drought reached 108 years? Baseball Gods. When you realize that there are 108 stitches on a baseball? Well, you get the idea.

The Baseball Gods are having a field day right now. If you’ve watched these playoffs or this World Series, you know what we’re talking about. It was there in the ALCS, when the Astros, having led all game, gave up the lead in the 9th inning. With Houston up to bat, second baseman José Altuve—fan favorite and Astros lifer—stepped into the batter’s box against Aroldis Chapman, the filthiest pitcher of his generation. With two outs, Chapman left a slider hanging, something that never […]

Let the Marathon Record Stand

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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 […]

The NBA, China, and the Purpose of Sports

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 […]

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