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?
This Sunday, the entire country will park itself in front of a TV, and soon after that, muscle memory will take over. We’ll switch from channel to channel, game to game, taking note of who’s breaking off big runs or dropping touch passes into double coverage. And all the while, we’ll be on our phone or computer, obsessing over decimal point differences. Fantasy football season kicks off this Sunday.
Oh right, the NFL does too.
This year, an estimated 60 million people will play fantasy football, according to the Washington Post. To put that in perspective, 17.1 million people attended NFL games last year. 60 million is about the same population as the entire country of Italy.
To see just how much our obsession with fantasy football has changed the way we consume the NFL, look at the way the sports world reacted to the news of Andrew Luck’s retirement. Indianapolis Colts fans booed him as he ran off the field, and immediately–on Twitter, talk shows, and columns–they were eviscerated as immature, brutish fans. Sure, it’s ridiculous to boo a player for prioritizing his health over a game. But it’s a fan’s primal instinct to cheer for people who help their team and to boo those who hurt it. By choosing to leave the team moments before the start of the season, Luck was hurting the Colts, plain and simple.
Outside of those diehards, though, it was hard for anyone else to see […]
Q&A with Tom vs Time director and Religion of Sports co-founder, Gotham Chopra
1. How did the idea for Tom vs Time come about?
I had gotten to know Tom six or seven years ago when he spent his offseasons in Brentwood, a part of LA not far from where I live. I'd been a lifelong fan of the Pats and obviously a big admirer of Tom's because of all the success he'd helped bring the franchise. I tried to keep that hysteria in check, albeit with mixed success. Over time, as we got to know one another and Tom's rise and the team’s run continued, I kept trying to convince Tom that we should document it.
He politely declined every time, but then, after Super Bowl 51 — the historic way that game ended and just the drama of that whole season — I think Tom realized on his own that something special was going on and it was worth capturing. He called me during that offseason and said I could bring a camera to some of his workouts. I was there in 24 hours!
The Facebook idea was an evolution from there. He already had a relationship with them because of his presence on the platform. They were launching a new product (Facebook Watch), and collectively we came up with an idea of chronicling his offseason training leading up to his 40th birthday. So away we went!
50 Years of Memories
Tomorrow marks the 50th anniversary of Open tennis — that is, when the U.S. National Championships became the U.S. Open and allowed professionals to compete.
Let’s take a look back at some of the most iconic moments in the tournament’s history, shall we?
- 1968: Arthur Ashe, a lieutenant in the United States Army at the time, wins the inaugural U.S. Open. Fun fact: As an amateur, Ashe was unable to receive the champion’s prize of $14K, so he took home a mere $280 in per diem.
- 1971: 16-year-old Chris Evert takes two weeks off from high school to play and advances all the way to the semifinals. She’d win five of the next nine U.S. Opens while advancing to at least the semifinals in all of them.
- 1988: Steffi Graf completes the “Golden Slam,” winning all four majors AND a gold medal at the Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea.
- 1991: 39-year-old Jimmy Connors makes an improbable run, eventually losing in the semifinals. His performance was so memorable they made a 30 for 30 about it. Watch this, it’s awesome.
- 2006: Andre Agassi addresses the crowd after playing his final match (a third-round loss): “The scoreboard said I lost today. But what the scoreboard doesn’t say is what it is I have found. Over the last 21 years, I have found loyalty. You have pulled for me on the court and in life.”
- 2008: Roger Federer becomes the first […]