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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 a fine-tuned course especially built for speed. It was flat and mostly straight. Kipchoge wouldn’t have to adjust to altitude. He had a team of 46 runners who acted as pace-setters, or “rabbits” as they’re called in track, who would run in a V formation ahead of him to reduce drag. Ahead of those runners, a car projected lasers on the road so that they would know the most efficient path possible.

It’s this fine-tuning that has turned some people away, but that’s missing the point. To really go to the limits of human ability, you’re going to need help. Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the Moon, but it took 400,000 others to get him there. Sports are at their most interesting when they’re pushing similar barriers, whether that means trying to run to school more quickly or if it’s trying to become the fastest marathoner in history. We run to see how fast a human can go; we lift weights to see how much we can handle. Seen this way, sports are a celebration of the human body and spirit. Between the engineering, training, and teamwork required, Kipchoge’s marathon wasn’t just a triumph of the body—it was a triumph of the mind and of teamwork. Enough with the technicalities. Everybody should cheer for that kind of accomplishment. On Saturday, mankind got a little bit closer to perfection. It was no small step.

INTRODUCING: HEAD STRONG 

November is Men’s Health Awareness Month, and we here at ROS are proud to announce that we’ll be partnering with the NBC Sports Regional Networks and wide receiver Brandon Marshall to create Head Strong, an hour-long documentary that explores how athletes deal with mental health challenges like anxiety, depression and addiction. But that’s not all! We’ll also be producing some short form videos, podcasts, and other content exploring the intersection between mental health and sports. So stay tuned!

Focus on Sport / Getty Images

HOLY WARS 

Most NFL rivalries are known for big hits, trash talking, and old-school football. Jets-Patriots, though? Its signature moment is…the buttfumble! Now, we understand that Tom Brady and Co. have gotten the better of New York in recent years, but that’s not to say that this game isn’t just as worthy of celebration as all the other holy wars we’ve highlighted in recent weeks. It’s a game that goes back to the inaugural season of the AFL in 1960 when the Patriots returned a fumble to complete a 17-point fourth quarter comeback (reports from the time say that the Jets player who fumbled did not fumble with his butt). Since then, the game has seen legendary players like Joe Namath light up the scoreboard and legendary coaches like Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick switch allegiances. The Patriots haven’t lost this game since 2016. Will they keep their streak alive on Monday Night Football? (If we had to guess, we’d say almost definitely.)

SO LET IT BE WRITTEN… 

The Unbreakable Bond

By Mina Kimes • ESPN

Three years ago, Mina Kimes noticed that Houston Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins was wearing cleats that said, “END ABUSE.” She wanted to figure out why. The answer has to do with Hopkins’ mother, who is blind, and who never misses a game, where her daughter whispers play by play into her ear so she can imagine the circus catches her son is making on the field.

Former Buc Warrick Dunn Surprises St. Pete Single Mother With New Home

By Monique Welch • Tampa Bay Times

Warrick Dunn has reportedly helped 170 single-parent families move into homes. 170! It still gives us chills every time.

What Art Briles Brought to the Town That Never Asked For Him

By Kelsey McKinney • Deadspin

Here’s a report from Mount Vernon, TX, where girls basketball was a bigger deal than high school football—at least until former Baylor head coach, Art Briles showed up.

 

Toni L. Sandys / The Washington Post via Getty Images

ENOUGH WITH THE TALK OF SALVATION!

It’s been funny listening to commentators squeal with delight about how the “long-suffering” Washington Nationals finally won the National League pennant. It’s as if they’ve forgotten that this is baseball we’re talking about, the sport that plays out over eons and is perhaps the world’s best catalyst for generational pain. Are we really comparing the 14-year old Nationals franchise to the Chicago Cubs’ 108-year drought that ended in 2016? Or the Red Sox breaking the Curse of the Bambino in 2004? How about teams who are actually long-suffering: the Indians (haven’t won since 1948) or the Rangers, Padres, Brewers, and Mariners who have never won a World Series in franchise history (and have franchises that have been around longer than a decade and a half)? It’s not even like Washington, D.C. can necessarily be classified as a tortured fan base anymore: the Capitals won a Stanley Cup two seasons ago, and the Mystics just brought home the WNBA Championship last weekend.

Rob Carr / Getty Images

THAT BEING SAID…

Of course it’s fun seeing a new face contend for a championship, and of course we’re thrilled for Washington baseball fans. We just think things should be put into perspective a little bit. There is one guy who we’re especially excited about with the news of the Nats World Series-berth, though, and that’s first baseman Ryan Zimmerman.

There’s a funny thing that happens in baseball more so than in other sports. If a player spends their career in one place and finds a way to really connect with a community, they take on the name of their team. Ernie Banks will forever be best known as “Mr. Cub.” Tony Gwynn is “Mr. Padre.” Bob Uecker became so ubiquitous in Milwaukee that he’s simply “Mr. Baseball.” No matter what happens in the World Series, it’s clear that Zimmerman is bound to forever be known as “Mr. Nationals.”

He was the first draft pick in team history. Came up to the Major Leagues almost immediately. Became their first star player. Stayed in the lineup through eight managers. Outlasted Bryce Harper. Along the way, he became the franchise leader in basically every countable stat: games, hits, home runs, RBI, runs, doubles, and walks. He was injured this year, worked his way back in the lineup, and delivered a clutch RBI in the Wild Card game against the Brewers. He was a model star, then the best veteran you could ask for, and now, he’s well on his way to earning the most special title you can earn in baseball. 

OLD SCHOOL

Don Zimmer’s Life on the Plate (2001)

By Scott Raab • Esquire

It wasn’t too long ago that Don Zimmer was a fixture of October baseball as Joe Torre’s longtime bench coach for those great Yankees teams of the late 1990s and early 2000s. He had many nicknames in his day—Zim, Yoda, Buddah—and in this Esquire classic, Scott Raab finds the baseball lifer at home in Florida fishing, “playing ponies,” and eating white (make sure it’s white!) toast. In the process, we learn a little bit of the wisdom that can be gleaned as the result of dedicating one’s life to a sport. Raab says it’s the most fun story he ever worked on. It’s one of the most fun to read, too.

LAST WORDS

“Mental health isn’t just an athlete thing. What you do for a living doesn’t have to define who you are. This is an everyone thing.” –Kevin Love

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