David Beckham has announced that he will retire from soccer at the end of the season. He has had an excellent career, which most people forget because now he is more well-known for his off-the-pitch celebrity activities than for his footballing. In his honor, here is a link to the highlights of the 1999 Champions League final, one of the most thrilling matches ever. Both Manchester United goals come in the aftermath of Beckham corner kicks, and the first corner is set up by a lovely pass from Beckham to Gary Neville.
Category Archives: Sports
Bill Hader announced this week that he is leaving Saturday Night Live at the end of this season. While I got into SNL at the tail end of the Will Ferrell/Chris Parnell/Tracy Morgan-into-the-Tina Fey/Amy Poehler/Maya Rudolph days, Hader’s generation (Andy Samberg, Kristen Wiig, Kenan Thompson, with Jason Sudeikis and Fred Armisen having been there a bit longer) was the one that I connected with the most as a fan, and now that most of it is gone, I feel a keen sense of loss that isn’t just tied to the show, but is also tied to the forthcoming transition in my own life into a tenure-track (and thus explicitly long-term) position. It is like the fun times are over and it’s time to go into a settled, middle-aged life of bourgeois despair. I haven’t watched the show regularly this season after the first few weeks because the new cast members just didn’t have enough verve to fill the gap left by Wiig’s and Samberg’s departures at the end of last season, and now that Hader is leaving my guess is that I’ll watch it even less. There’s still a lot of talent on the show, and the new cast members have certainly been getting better, but somehow it no longer feels like it’s mine. Endings are always also beginnings (and it feels like there have been a lot of these that I care about lately, most notably the retirements of Sir Alex Ferguson and Paul Scholes), and I feel like I should be excited for mine as one would think Hader is excited for his (he’ll have more time to work on his thus far promising film career), but it just makes me feel old.
I woke up this morning to the news that Sir Alex Ferguson has decided to retire from his position as Manchester United’s manager. I have been a United fan since 1991, so I have never known the club without Ferguson, and it will be odd not to have him in charge. His amazing, unequalable record of success is well-known, and I am not going to repeat it here.
But I will say that I don’t think this day is a day of tragedy for the club like some are making it out to be. Ferguson had to retire sometime, and it is better for him to do so a year too soon than a year too late. Also, the young players that United currently have in the squad (who now already have the experience of winning the league), combined with veterans such as Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney (whose tensions with Ferguson can now be a thing of the past, which will be a good thing for Rooney and the club because now he can stay at the club), and (still!) Ryan Giggs, plus the veterans in defense, ensure that United have the potential to continue their unparalleled success.
Current rumors have Everton’s David Moyes becoming the new manager, and I would be happy with this decision because he is a good coach who does not hog the spotlight and would put the club first. The other major candidate, Jose Mourinho, is an excellent coach, but also brings a circus atmosphere with him and might be too much of a distraction. I would also be happy with a lower profile hire, such as an assistant coach who knows the club well, or Giggs as player-coach, or someone who has connections to the club and coaching experience elsewhere like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
King, John. The Football Factory Trilogy: The Football Factory, Headhunters, England Away. London: Vintage, 2000.
Sampson, Kevin. Awaydays. London: Cape, 1998.
I recently ordered these two books used from English bookshops via amazon.com. Sampson’s book is autographed, which is a nifty bonus, especially considering that I only paid $0.02 for it (both books originally retailed for £9.99).
Virtually no fiction about soccer is published in the United States (I remember reading one or two children’s novels on the subject as a kid), but I recently read Graham Parker’s interview of Sampson on grantland.com and decided that his work sounded exciting. When looking online for his book, I came across King’s as well. The only novel I’ve ever read that is even nominally about soccer is B.S. Johnson’s The Unfortunates, so I am looking forward to reading further in the field. I love English soccer, and these two books will be an enjoyable way of feeding my craving for it during the summer offseason.
I have decided to de-accession some of my books in preparation for my upcoming move. This is a difficult decision because I love my books, not just for their content, but also for the history that they embody. My obsessive book collecting is one way to document my life. There are many books that I have which I know I will almost certainly not read again and which probably will never come in handy as reference for my research, but I keep them because of the memories that I associate with them. Thus giving some of them away is like giving away part of myself, which sounds cliche, but is true in my case. I am not just a person with lots of books, I am a cyborg in the Harawayan sense who consists of my physical person and my books (and perhaps a few other objects as well).
But this group of books that I’ll take to my local bookstore (the Central Book Exchange) for some cash no longer have enough nostalgia attached to them to justify moving across the country. Most of the nonfiction is well-written, I’ll just never read it again. Most of the fiction (clearly not all–War and Peace is pretty decent, ha ha) is not. A few of the books are excellent, but I have two copies and only need one. It is an interesting cross-section of texts: some old religion textbooks from my undergraduate days, some superfluous chess books (I’ve had Pawn Power in Chess since high school, but I still haven’t read it, and haven’t played in about three years, so I wouldn’t get to it any time soon), some fiction.
I am hoping to visit New York City sometime this summer, and go to a Mets game. Last night I dreamt that I bought tickets to this game, and that Dwight Gooden would be pitching. I thought to myself, “How impressive that Gooden pitched the first game I ever attended, and he’ll be pitching this one, too. That’s a pretty good career.”
Gooden is long retired, but two of the three parts of that dream statement are true. Gooden pitched the first Mets game I ever attended, a win against Atlanta in 1985 (an account of this game can be found in Davey Johnson and Peter Golenbock’s book Bats [New York: Putnam, 1986] on page 210). Although I was unaware at the time of the amazing season Gooden was having (I was only five, so didn’t really understand the concept of statistics; Gooden went 24-4 that year with a 1.53 ERA and won the Cy Young Award), I already knew his name, and I love being able to say that I saw him in person during one of the best seasons any pitcher has ever had. The first Atlanta batter singled, but that was about it. The Mets won 16-4, and Darryl Strawberry (whose name I also knew) hit a grand slam. Also, the lady sitting next to me in the stands gave me some cookies (the weird thin wafer sandwich kind with vanilla creme layers, which were my favorite at the time), and my father bought me a pennant and a set of Mets wristbands, one of which I had to give to my sister when we got home.
People, myself included, tend to forget that Gooden had a good career because after the successes of his first few seasons he was supposed to have a great career. This potential was destroyed by drug abuse and its consequent legal problems. But he went 194-112 with a 3.51 ERA over sixteen seasons–with a winning record in all but four of them–and was an All-Star four times. That is nothing to sneeze at. The same (all of it, alas) can be said for Strawberry’s career, in which he hit 335 homeruns over seventeen seasons with eight straight All-Star selections from 1984-1991.
I admit that when I think of both of these men I think about their disappointments first. Together, they were the Mets version of Anakin Skywalker: the chosen ones who failed to fulfill that role, falling victim to the Dark Side instead. But this attitude isn’t quite fair to them. Aside from their individual accomplishments, they played central roles on the 1986 championship team and 1988 division winners, when Strawberry should have been voted Most Valuable Player (though again, my first 1988-related thought of Gooden is about his failure to close game four of the NLCS, even though that was just as much Johnson’s fault for not taking him out as Gooden’s). They both seem to have found some peace in their turbulent personal lives, and it is time for us as fans to come to peace with their impressive careers as well.
The USA defeated Costa Rica 1-0 outside of Denver in a World Cup qualifier tonight, and what a spectacle! It snowed steadily–and at times heavily–the entire match. In fact, I’ve never seen such snow at a sporting event before. It was a crucial match for the USA, and they earned an essential three points, but I found myself not even thinking about the significance of the match as I watched because it was so much fun to watch the snow. Kudos to the referee for letting the match go its full length. The USA should qualify for the 2014 World Cup, and thus this result will just look like an early step on the road to qualification in the record book, but it will be a match that is remembered for years and years. It will be an event that one sees clips from on ESPN anytime the possibility of snow looms over a sporting event. I am happy I got to see it.
Jay Caspian Kang has a hilarious column on grantland.com about this photograph of the Harvard band here. My favorite one is “Judith Butler.” I would love to know the bandmembers’ reactions to this.
Espada, Martín. The Trouble Ball. 2011. New York: Norton, 2012.
Espada gave a reading at my college this past Thursday, and I also had the privilege of having him speak in one of my classes. He is everything a writer should be: passionate, activist, happy to talk about his work, non-elitist. His poems are fun to read because they are vivid and engaging. The reading was one of the best I’ve ever been to, so buying his latest collection was an obvious decision.
One thing that I did not know about Espada is that he is a huge baseball fan. The Trouble Ball‘s title poem is about his father’s first visit to Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, and he is also working on a collection of essays about baseball and Latinos for Bloomsbury Press. I asked him who he roots for, and he said that he grew up a Mets fan, but switched to the Red Sox in 1986 because he was living in Massachusetts. Bill Simmons explains here why sports bigamy is wrong; Espada was immediately punished for his when the Mets defeated the Red Sox that year in one of the greatest World Series ever. But he and I both hate the Yankees, so he’s alright in my book. He also mentioned enjoying minor league baseball, and was happy to hear that Salt Lake City has a AAA team. Espada said his favorite baseball moment was game seven of the 2004 American League Championship Series when the Red Sox defeated the Yankees (he also made mention of the ninth inning of game four when Boston’s comeback began), and his second favorite moment was when Puerto Rico beat the USA in the 2006 World Baseball Classic.
Stoner, Kay. Strange Bedfellows: A Cautionary Tale for Times of Global Change. Bolton: Kay Stoner, 2010.
I first encountered Stoner’s work in Mennonot (she has a poem on page 16 of issue 2 and an article beginning on page 10 of issue 3, both of which may be accessed here), and found her to be an exciting pro-LGBT voice. I wanted to read more of her work, and uncovered the self-published novel Strange Bedfellows after doing some googling. It looks fascinating: Stoner claims that she dreamt it (shades of Coleridge!), and it includes images of some of her artwork to supplement the narrative.
Tonight is the final of the last Big East men’s basketball tournament. Yes, there will be a conference called the “Big East” next year that will include original Big East teams such as St. John’s and Georgetown, but the original Big East, the true Big East, dies tonight as a victim of the crazily shifting college sports landscape. It makes me happy that there is an original conference member, Syracuse, in the title game, and it feels just that there is also one of the newer members involved.
I no longer follow college sports because, as the recent Penn State football scandal showed, they have become “too big to fail” no matter what the consequences of keeping them afloat, and thus are detrimental to the educational mission of colleges and universities. But I will be watching the Syracuse-Louisville game tonight to pay homage to the Big East and the important role it played in my life. Some of my earliest sports memories are of hard-fought games between Syracuse, Georgetown, and St. John’s (Alas! Remember when St. John’s used to be good?) in the mid- to late-1980s on CBS, and I remember watching Big East tournament games on WWOR. As a teenager, I would rush home from school to watch early rounds of the tournament on ESPN with Sean McDonough and, especially, Bill Raftery announcing (“Sean McDonough, Syracuse comes out playing mantoman!” Of course Syracuse always plays a 2-3 zone, but I’ve heard Raftery use his tagline on the Orange anyway, and I would be disappointed if he didn’t.).
I was a Syracuse fan, but I always rooted for the conference, as well. It was a matter of regional pride. Yes, I hate Georgetown, but I’d root for them against an ACC team any day (The same with UConn. It kills me that Syracuse will be in the ACC next year.). It is sad to see an institution that has always felt like home to me go away.