Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Posts Tagged ‘sports

Rape culture seems to pervade contact sports

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A somewhat depressing post in ThinkProgress by Alex Leichenger. But I suppose the fact that it’s getting to be publicly known is at least a step toward actually holding perpetrators accountable for their actions. I can’t understand why progress is so slow.

Written by Leisureguy

2 April 2014 at 12:09 pm

Posted in Law

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Fascinating account of the big comeback in the America’s Cup race

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Surprisingly engrossing. Stu Woo writes in the Wall Street Journal:

The winds on San Francisco Bay started kicking up in the late morning. Before long, they were blowing more than 20 miles an hour.

Jimmy Spithill and his 10 teammates put on their crash helmets and flotation vests and climbed aboard the AC72, a menacing, 13-story black catamaran capable of near-highway speeds. As a powerboat pulled them into the bay for Race 5 of the 2013 America’s Cup, Mr. Spithill shot a glance at the Golden Gate Bridge. It was shrouded in fog.

An unfamiliar, uncomfortable feeling was tugging at him. Mr. Spithill, skipper of Oracle Team USA, the richest and possibly most prohibitively favored team in the history of the world’s most famous yacht competition, had lost three of the first four races. Something was wrong with the way the Oracle boat was performing. Now he was facing the unthinkable: His team might lose.The America’s Cup, first held in 1851, is believed to award the world’s oldest international sporting trophy. The contest also is one of the least professionalized. There is no permanent organization, commission or governing body. The winner gets to pick where and when the next race is held—typically every three to five years—and what type of boat is used. All that tends to make the racing rather lopsided. In most cases, the faster of the two boats in the finals wins every match—and the faster boat is usually the defending champion.

Fast boats, then and now. (All race footage courtesy America’s Cup Event Authority)

The 2013 Cup wasn’t supposed to be any different. But a competition that was expected to be humdrum turned into one of the most remarkable ever. This account of how that happened was pieced together through extensive interviews with the sailors, engineers and other team leaders.

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Largely because of team owner Larry Ellison, the founder of software giant Oracle Corp. and one of the world’s richest men, Oracle had all the advantages conferred upon the incumbent, plus some.

The 11 sailors were a collection of international superstars. The engineers who designed the yacht and the programmers who built the software used to plot strategy had no peer. Oracle’s computer simulations suggested the AC72—which cost at least $10 million to build—wasn’t just the better boat in the final, it was the fastest sailboat ever to compete for the Cup, capable of 48 knots, or about 55 mph.

Mr. Spithill wasn’t sure why Emirates Team New Zealand, Oracle’s opponent in the final, had been faster so far. The prevailing theory among Oracle’s sailors was that they were just rusty. As the defending Cup champions, they hadn’t had to race in the preliminaries.

Mr. Spithill on Oracle’s tactics at the start of Race 5.

As the AC72 dropped its towline on Sept. 10 and headed for the starting line, Mr. Spithill hoped that in Race 5, the Oracle crew would get its act together.

The start of an America’s Cup race is an exercise in pinpoint execution. The two boats can’t cross the starting line until a countdown timer hits zero. On this day, both boats hit the line simultaneously.

The five legs of the racecourse sent the boats from near the Golden Gate Bridge to the downtown San Francisco waterfront and took anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes to complete, depending on wind. Through the first two legs, Oracle was in total control, building up an eight-second lead.

The upwind third leg was the one that had been keeping Mr. Spithill awake at night. Sailors have known since ancient times that sailing against the wind requires plotting a zigzag course—called tacking—steering the boat back and forth at a roughly 45-degree angle to the wind. Oracle’s aura of invincibility had crumbled on this upwind leg. If New Zealand was behind at the upwind turn, it would take the lead. If the Kiwis already had the lead, they would turn the race into a rout.

How sailors use a technique called tacking to sail upwind. (Animations: Alberto Cervantes and Jarrard Cole/The Wall Street Journal)

Tacking involves an elaborately choreographed routine. To initiate the turn, eight sailors crank winches resembling hand-operated bicycle pedals, powering the system that moves the sail. Two sailors pull ropes to adjust the angles of the enormous mainsail and the smaller jib. At precisely the right moment, the skipper—Mr. Spithill—spins the helm. Then all 11 sailors scurry from one hull, across a patch of trampoline-like netting, to the other side.

If everything goes right, the boat loses little speed. A small misstep or two, however, can cause the boat to bog down—or in extreme cases, to capsize.

As the upwind leg began, New Zealand headed out toward the San Francisco waterfront while Oracle vectored toward Alcatraz Island. Mr. Spithill looked over his shoulder and saw he was ahead of New Zealand by 2½ boat lengths. But the Kiwis edged closer with every turn. Within three minutes, New Zealand’s red yacht crossed in front of Oracle. Mr. Spithill had blown another lead.

Mr. Spithill on how Oracle blew the lead in the upwind leg of Race 5.

By the time the boats reached the fourth leg, the gap was too large for Oracle to recover. New Zealand won by more than a minute. In racing terms, that might as well have been a week. New Zealand was now nearly halfway to the nine wins it needed to secure the Cup—and the time gap between the boats was only getting larger.

Even the Kiwis were surprised. After the race, Team New Zealand’s managing director, Grant Dalton, passed one of his sailors in the hallway and said: “I can’t believe we just won.”

As the AC72 skulked back to its berth, Mr. Spithill heard the voice of Russell Coutts, the New Zealand-born chief executive of the Oracle team, on his walkie-talkie: “Have you thought about using the postponement card?”

A postponement card is the America’s Cup equivalent of a timeout, envisioned as a way for teams to fix problems like broken equipment. By using it, Oracle would be able to delay the afternoon’s second race to the next race day, 48 hours later.

“We’re going to play it now,” Mr. Spithill told Mr. Coutts.

At the postrace news conference, the grim-faced skipper said: “We feel like we need to regroup, really take a good look at the boat.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 March 2014 at 11:33 am

Posted in Daily life

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Football round-up: Cheerleaders, Redskins, and unionizing

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First, the NFL cheerleaders have a crap job, as explained in the article at the link. It’s basically a scam.

Second, the saga of the Redskins team name continues, and it has really been an epic struggle. The link is to a long and well-researched ThinkProgress article. It’s an amazing read, and I highly recommend it. From the article, a little bit of US memorabilia:

Print

Seems an awful lot like genocide to me.

Third, Northwestern athletes are working to form a union to get better treatment from their employers. Josh Eidelson has a good report in Salon:

In a surprise move without precedent in the history of college sports, Northwestern University football players have petitioned to form a labor union.

“Something we talked to the players about – we said, look, we don’t know what the timeline is, there could be a number of appeals, and many of you could be gone,” said Ramogi Huma, a founder of the new College Athletes Players Association. “It’s possible that many of you will never directly benefit. But we said … if you believe it’s the right thing to do, then it’s a chance that no other college athlete’s had, to stand up in this area for not only future players at Northwestern, but future players across the nation.”

“And the response,” said Huma, “was just overwhelming.”

Huma filed the petition Tuesday with the National Labor Relations Board, the federal agency responsible for enforcing and interpreting most private sector labor law. Huma also directs the National College Players Association, a non-union group that, as I’ve previouslyreported, has mounted increasingly aggressive challenges to the NCAA since Huma, an ex-UCLA linebacker, founded the group in 2001.

An NLRB spokesperson told Salon the agency will hold a hearing on the petition Feb. 7. That could be the first step in a multi-year, precedent-setting legal battle, as both Northwestern and the NCAA insist the athletes aren’t employees covered by the New Deal National Labor Relations Act. “I think it is likely that they will prevail,” said former NLRB chairman William Gould. But “the matter could take two to three years at a minimum,” given the “long and convoluted process that is embedded in American labor law, that the university will take full advantage of.”

In an emailed statement, Northwestern vice president of athletics and recreation Jim Phillips said the students’ NLRB petition was in line with the school’s urging that they “be leaders and independent thinkers who will make a positive impact,” and that the “health and academic issues” they’d identified “deserve further consideration” – but that the school “believes that our student-athletes are not employees and collective bargaining is therefore not the appropriate method to address these concerns.”

An NCAA spokesperson referred Salon to a statement from the league’s chief legal officer, Donald Remy, which offered a similar upshot to Northwestern’s, though a less conciliatory tone. “This union-backed attempt to turn student-athletes into employees undermines the purpose of college: an education,” warned Remy. He added, “Student-athletes are not employees, and their participation in college sports is voluntary. We stand for all college athletes, not just those the unions want to professionalize.”

Huma dismissed that response as “more hypocrisy,” saying the athletes “are paid in the form of scholarships, on the condition that they provide a service and continue playing football or basketball. If they don’t show up to play in the games, that payment goes away.” Further, he told Salon, “I don’t think you can name another employee that the university has more control over than its football and basketball players.” NCPA notes over a billion dollars in additional revenue coming to the NCAA from its most recently negotiated contracts; scholars note that the sport’s influence over players’ lives extends to what they consume year-round and how they spend their vacation time.

In interviews with Salon last year, . . .

Continue reading.

Fourth, Ryan O’Hanlon has a good article at Pacific Standard on the politics of the Super Bowl:

On Sunday, there will be a football game played in a stadium just a short train ride from the Media Capital of the World. One team comes from a city with a high minimum wage that’s also the birthplace of Starbucks. The other team’s home is the symbolic center of America’s cowboy West. One team’s star player hails from Compton, wears his hair in dreadlocks, and is loud and outspoken on both issues of race and the question of whether he is the best cornerback in the NFL. (His answer: yes.) His counterpart is a white southerner, often praised for a workman-like, no-nonsense approach to football, just football, who also owns multiple Papa John’s franchises.

There are no rivalries in American sports based on the two sides of a Protestant/Catholic divide or a country’s monarchical center and its separatist northwest. No team was formed in response to another’s xenophobic recruitment policy. And no athletes have used their influence to help end a civil war.

So if you look at it a certain way, Sunday’s Super Bowl match-up might seem like the most politically-divisive American sporting event in recent memory.

On Sunday, there will be a football game played in a stadium just a short train ride from the Media Capital of the World. One team comes from a city with a high minimum wage that’s also the birthplace of Starbucks. The other team’s home is the symbolic center of America’s cowboy West. One team’s star player hails from Compton, wears his hair in dreadlocks, and is loud and outspoken on both issues of race and the question of whether he is the best cornerback in the NFL. (His answer: yes.) His counterpart is a white southerner, often praised for a workman-like, no-nonsense approach to football, just football, who also owns multiple Papa John’s franchises.

There are no rivalries in American sports based on the two sides of a Protestant/Catholic divide or a country’s monarchical center and its separatist northwest. No team was formed in response to another’s xenophobic recruitment policy. And no athletes have used their influence to help end a civil war.

So if you look at it a certain way, Sunday’s Super Bowl match-up might seem like the most politically-divisive American sporting event in recent memory.

Last Sunday, as you no doubt have heard by now, ….

no doubt have heard by now, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

30 January 2014 at 11:18 am

Posted in Business

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That’s some good kicking

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Story here.

Written by Leisureguy

28 December 2012 at 3:32 pm

Posted in Daily life

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Asian kid from Harvard succeeds in New York!

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James Fallows has an intriguing post that presents several interesting things: how a 140-character limit is much less restrictive if you’re writing Chinese (you will be amazed by the tweet: when translated, it is 155 words); how basketball was at one time considered a Jewish game because Jews had obvious racial/ethnic/cultural advantages that made them unbeatable at the sport, and a link to this quite interesting post from a venture capitalist.

All well worth the clicks.

Written by Leisureguy

16 February 2012 at 8:16 am

Posted in Daily life

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52 free essays from Sports Illustrated

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Trent Hamm has a good post for sports fans this morning:

Here are the fifty two essays included in Sports Illustrated’s Fifty Years of Great Writing, free for your own enjoyment. You might be surprised at some of the literary heavy hitters here – Steinbeck, Faulkner, DeLillo. Many of these are among the very best sportswriting I’ve ever read. I hope you get as much enjoyment out of these as I have.

The Players
The Boxer and the Blonde by Frank Deford
Yogi by Roy Blount Jr.
The Last Angry Men by Rick Telander
The Year, The Moment and Johnny Podres by Robert Creamer
Gifts That God Didn’t Give by John Papanek
All the Rage by Richard Hoffer
The Ring Leader by Frank Deford

45 more essays at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

20 March 2009 at 7:13 am

Posted in Books, Daily life, Writing

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Drugs and sports

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I’m not much of a sports fan, and I’m not following the Olympics, but I was intrigued about the pervasiveness of drug use to augment performance. Apparently, it’s universal. That makes sports even less interesting (if possible). Arthur Allen has a report in the Washington Independent. It begins:

When Mike, Chris and Mark Bell, were striving to become champion iron pumpers in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., the brothers never dreamed that Arnold Schwarzenegger, Hulk Hogan and their other idols were juiced. Steroids were for commies –like Dolph Lundgren in Rocky IV. Rocky himself was clean and sober. He chopped wood to get buff.

But, as they got older, the Bells learned the dirty little secret: their heroes were on ‘roids. The Bells would have to take them too, if they wanted to compete. Years later, Mark—who went by “Mad Dog” when he wrestled for World Wresting Entertainment, the WWE, and “Smelly” Mike – who can bench press 700 pounds– are still using the stuff.

Chris, the middle brother, tried steroids for a few months, stopped and decided to make a movie about them instead. His documentary film, “Bigger, Stronger, Faster: The Side Effects of Being American,” is a hilarious, poignant and thought-provoking look at the hypocritical culture of competition.

“I was brought up to believe that cheaters never prosper,” he narrates, over footage of President George W. Bush speaking against steroid use — though his Texas Rangers used them. “But in America, they always prosper.”

With the Olympics beginning Friday and millions of kids primed to watch their U.S. heroes compete with the world, Bell sadly reflected on what he learned about the clandestine doping that goes on beyond the noble striving for national glory. Bell, 35, spent three years working on the film, which incorporates dozens of interviews and other footage.

“I used to think the Olympics had the best drug testing, but it’s a big façade,” he said in a phone interview. The Balco scandal — in which a San Francisco steroid producer provided hundreds of baseball players with hard-to-trace steroid shots — revealed some of the tricks that trainers use to evade testing. Olympic committees have done little to keep pace with the cheaters, Bell said. “You can skirt the rules on hormones. There’s no test for human-growth hormone. There’s an improved test for Epo [which increases oxygen in the blood], but it won’t be ready for the Olympics.”

“I don’t want to be one of those conspiracy-theory guys, but there are a lot of people juicing,” he said. “You’re never going to have a 100-percent clean Olympics. It’s sad. Kids look up to these people.”

News accounts indicate a certain vigilance against doping Olympic athletes. But the history of such scandals, Bell suggests, is that only the unlucky get caught. During the 1988 games, Jamaican sprinter Ben Johnson lost his gold medal in the 100 meters for steroid use. Carl Lewis, to whom the gold was awarded, had also tested for banned substances in his blood during training. Rather than disqualify him, according to Bell’s well-documented account, the U.S. Olympic Committee changed the rules.

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

9 August 2008 at 7:30 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

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Better golfers see a bigger hole

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Many athletes and performers talk about the importance of visualizing their actions—and the following suggests that perception can indeed affect performance:

A new study demonstrates that imagination can have a direct effect on our perception of the world. This may help explain why more accomplished sports-players describe perceiving the ball, or target such as a golf cup, as bigger.

Jessica K. Witt, an assistant professor at Purdue University, found that golfers who play well are more likely to actually see a bigger hole.

Witt’s research team conducted three experiments. In the first, 46 golfers were asked to estimate the size of the hole after they played a round of golf. The diameter of a golf hole is 10.8 centimeters. The golfers selected one of nine black holes from a poster that ranged in size from 9-13 centimeters. Those who selected larger holes were the same players who had better scores on the course that day.

These findings matched up with previous research by Witt and Proffitt which found that people who were successful at hitting a ball remembered it as larger.

The question all golfers, and other athletes, will be asking is: how can I change my perception to increase my performance? Unfortunately this study can’t tell us what causes what. The big question is whether playing better causes the hole to appear larger, or imagining the hole is larger causes better play.

Although Witt’s research doesn’t tell us, a second new study does show how easy it is for imagination to directly influence our perception of the world. Joel Pearson from Vanderbilt University and colleagues found that people’s imagination influences both how they currently see something and how they see it in the future.

In their experiment …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

8 July 2008 at 9:12 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

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