I'm Drew Breunig and I obsess about technology, media, language, and culture. I live in New York, studied anthropology, and work at PlaceIQ.


Posts tagged sports

The Economist: Why Jeremy Lin Matters in China 

One of the reasons I love the Economist is their news cycle duration: a weekly rhythm allows them to absorb and then thoughtfully weigh in on viral subjects, which tend to carry lots of noise as they emerge. This piece on Jeremy Lin is a prime example:

Mr Lin has quickly amassed a huge following among Chinese basketball fans (and this country does love basketball). This poses a bit of a conundrum for Chinese authorities for a number of reasons. The most obvious is that Mr Lin is an American who is proudly of Taiwanese descent, which would seem to complicate China’s efforts to claim him (and oh how they have tried already—on which, more below).

But there are three other reasons Mr Lin’s stardom could fluster the authorities. First, he is very openly Christian, and the Communist Party is deeply wary of the deeply religious (notably on those within its own ranks). Second, he is not a big centre or forward, the varietals which are the chief mainland Chinese export to the NBA, including the Mavericks’ Mr Yi; and of course he came out of nowhere to become a star, having been educated at the most prestigious university in America, Harvard.

Mr Lin is, put plainly, precisely everything that China’s state sport system cannot possibly produce.

The whole thing is a great read, especially when paired with the Economist’s previous piece on China’s failure to field a decent football team.

Artifacts from the Payphone Era: In 1990, Beckett Baseball Card Monthly’s senior editor compiled a list of pay phone numbers in baseball stadiums so callers could obtains real-time game updates. (via Baseball Prospectus)

A Boston University autopsy of former Chicago Bears linebacker Dave Duerson discovered that his brain had developed the same “trauma-induced disease recently found in 20 deceased players.” After Duerson’s mental abilities began to decline, he shot himself in the chest so that his brain could be analyzed by BU. Duerson left a final note to his family asking that his brain be donated to the “NFL’s brain bank.”

The NFL issued this statement after BU’s findings were announced:

Our Head, Neck and Spine Medical Committee will study today’s findings, and as a league, we will continue to support the work of the scientists at the Boston University Center and elsewhere to address this issue in a forthright and effective way.

Not sure how this league licensed game is either forthright or effective.

Racing on Carbon Fiber Legs: How Abled Should We Be? 

One Olympic swimmer has a D-cup breast size. From a physiological standpoint, she’s at a disadvantage to a swimmer who’s an A-cup. If she amputated her breasts to become more streamlined, would we consider her crazy, or worse, a cheater?
The Amazons, after all, amputated their left breast so it wouldn’t impede their skill in archery. Though athletes have taken some truly crazy stuff to have an advantage, nobody’s gone so far as elective amputation.
I’ve spent the better part of my lifetime trying to get out from under an idea of being “disabled,” and the baggage that comes with that label. (Look it up in a thesaurus if you want a taste of what I mean.) As of yet, the best prosthetic available is not as efficient and not as capable as what Mother Nature gives us—or, what she was supposed to give me, and South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius. The revolutionary design of the woven carbon-fiber Cheetah Leg, nicknamed for its design inspiration, has been in existence for nearly 15 years—and after my initial triumphs with them in the mid 1990s, it has been the leg of choice for nearly all elite amputee sprinters. But in one instant, after Pistorius entered a summer 2007 track meet in Rome and placed second in a field of runners possessing flesh and bone legs, he and I were deemed tooabled.
Commence the comical nightmare of being told that we now possess an “unfair advantage” in wearing prosthetic limbs to run. The scores of amputee sprinters who had competed with the limbs for the previous 13 years—and were still comfortably categorized as “disabled”—were virtually ignored. What is fascinating is the immediate shift in society’s regard of a disabled athlete as an “inspiration” (cue the patronizing “awwwww”) to a legitimate threat to other athletes (“Uh, what the hell do we do now?”).

Wow. Aimee Mullins is guest editing at Gizmodo this week and she just knocked it out of the park. This is essential reading for any anthropologist or linguistic. Donna Haraway would be proud.

Aimee runs through the tricky issue of human modification in sports, chronicling the blurred border that defines the space. Just go read this now. (Via Gizmodo)