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.
Steven Hyden has a fascinating article on grantland.com today about how digital downloads of music are quickly becoming a thing of the past as they are replaced by services such as Spotify. He notes that, while record aficionados will continue to buy physical objects (and one could also make this argument for those of us who prefer real books to their bastardized e-book cousins), no one will be nostalgic about downloading songs because no physical object changes hands. As Hyden writes, “[p]eople continue to buy vinyl records because they enjoy the process of buying and playing vinyl records;” there is no equivalent of this experience with digital files. Or, to put it in Marxist terms, buying a record (or a book!) is one of the most prominent examples of a commodity fetish.
Hyden’s explanation of the changing way we consume recorded music makes sense, but what his article (and similarly, all of the articles extolling the virtues of e-readers) fails to discuss are the consequences of having all of one’s music in digital form when we run out of fossil fuels in twenty or thirty years. All of that data becomes meaningless if there is no electricity (or so little that it is needed for more basic tasks such as cooking or heating the home) to run the computer or charge the iPod. I suppose this might also be a problem when trying to run a CD player (though it won’t when trying to read a real book as long as there is a window nearby!). But my point is that, while the Digital Age is an exciting one, we do not talk nearly enough about its environmental impact and how we will adjust when the energy that powers it is no longer as available as it is now. This is why physical libraries/archives are so important.
Photograph © copyright by George Frey for the Associated Press.
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.
The Baseball Hall of Fame announced today that no new members were elected from the players’ ballot. Jonah Keri has an excellent column here about why this result is ridiculous, but not catastrophic. As a Mets fan, I was all ready to write an outraged post if Mike Piazza didn’t get elected, but since no one else got elected, either, I can’t really complain.
Barring a failed physical this afternoon, the Mets will trade R.A. Dickey to the Blue Jays for several blue chip prospects. Rany Jazayerli explains in an article on grantland.com why this is a bad move for the Mets, but I think it is a reasonable move for the Mets (and for the Blue Jays, though as a Mets fan I’m not concerned about their end of the deal) because of the two teams’ 2013 context, which Jazayerli does not consider. The Mets will probably not be contenders this coming season. Therefore, while Dickey will probably be a better player in 2013 than Travis d’Arnaud, the main prospect who the Mets will receive (though there’s a good chance d’Arnaud will immediately be an improvement for the Mets at catcher), over the long haul d’Arnaud is likely to be more valuable. The trade makes sense for the Blue Jays because they are built to win now and Dickey helps in that regard, and it makes sense for the Mets because they are focused on the long-term. I am sad to see Dickey go and will root for him except for the rare occasions when the Mets and Blue Jays play an interleague series, but I feel good about the trade.
There’s a fantastic story by Bryan Curtis on grantland.com about Marv Albert’s childhood preparations to become a sports announcer here. It’s essential reading for anyone who cares about sports media. I knew that Albert was quite young when he began calling Knicks games, but I didn’t realize he began when he was only 21! I grew up watching him as the studio host for NBC’s baseball Game of the Week and listening to him announce football on NBC and the Knicks on WFAN. I remember him returning to announce game seven of the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals on the radio even though by that point Howie Rose was the Rangers’ normal play-by-play man. Albert is a national treasure, and Curtis’s article gives him the honor that he deserves.
There’s a new short film on grantland.com by Jonathan Hock about Alfred Slote’s children’s novel Jake, with a great introduction by Bill Simmons here. Like Simmons, I read Jake and one of Slote’s other novels, Hang Tough, Paul Mather, over and over as a boy. They were perfect because they used baseball, something which I and many other American boys were passionate about, as a channel through which to teach us about the difficulties of life. I picked up the books because they were baseball books, but, in hindsight, I kept going back to them because they taught me about compassion. Apparently they are now out of print, which is a tragedy. They are timeless.
Katie Baker has a hilarious column on grantland.com about Mike Francesa’s show this past Monday: http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/8452270/the-jets-giants-mike-francesa-bad-weekend-nyc-sports.
Some of my happiest childhood memories are of listening to WFAN, New York City’s all-sports radio station (the jingle comes into my head immediately: “Sports radio sixty-six, the FAN! W-F-A-N, New York!”), in the afternoon after coming home from junior high school or at night when the Mets, Rangers, or Knicks were playing. We didn’t have cable, so the radio was the only option for experiencing these games during the week. I learned the words to “O Canada” just from listening to Rangers games, and can still remember the words to it better than those of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” When I listened to WFAN in the afternoons, Francesa’s old show, Mike and the Mad Dog, was on, so I can hear Francesa’s voice as I read Baker’s column. Good stuff.
In my previous post I wrote about having a chess dream last night, and how I love chess’s material culture. Then this afternoon I ran across an article on grantland.com by Dave McKenna about a recent chess cheating scandal in Virginia (here is the link: http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/8362701/the-evolution-cheating-chess). First off, regarding the scandal, in which a player used a computer that was supposedly just for keeping score to access a program that fed him moves, there is no reason that amateur players who do not have some form of physical disability that makes it difficult/impossible for them to write by hand should be allowed to use electronic scorekeeping devices rather than paper scoresheets. Secondly, what an odd coincidence that grantland.com should happen to publish its first ever article about chess on a day that I was already thinking about the game. I’ve written here before about how every once in a while I will encounter a subject or personage several times within a very short period of time, and this feels like the same kind of thing going on. Weird.
With the latest news (it keeps changing! by the time I finish writing this post everything I say might be completely outdated) that the New York Knicks are going to let Jeremy Lin join the Houston Rockets, some people, most notably Bill Simmons, have asked whether it is justifiable for Knicks fans to switch their allegiance to the Nets since they are moving to Brooklyn. Simmons argues that it is justifiable because James Dolan is such an incompetent owner. In response, there is a discussion on grantland.com about the issue:
As a Knicks fan, I must say that it is RIDICULOUS to even consider becoming a Nets fan at this juncture. Sal Iacono writes in his part of the article that if you live in Brooklyn (i.e., if the Nets are now your “local” team rather than the Knicks), it is justified to switch to the Nets, and I agree, but this is the only circumstance in which it would be justifiable to switch. Being a fan of a team is about loyalty and history–the team’s, your own, and how they intersect–it’s not about throwing a temper tantrum about a decision you don’t agree with. Lin is an exciting player, but he hasn’t even performed at a consistent level for a year. He is far from a known quantity; it’s not the end of the world that he’ll be with another team.
Katie Baker puts it best in the piece (though her pessimism is a bit hyperbolic), and her words should be heeded by all Knicks fans: “Maybe I’m stubborn, or stupid, or both. But I’m sticking around. I’m going down with the ship, playing “Go New York, Go New York, Go” on a waterlogged and out-of-tune violin. I may be a bitter old biddy by the time the Knicks finally win a post-‘70s title; more likely, I’ll be dead. But I just truly don’t think I could ever imagine it any other way.”