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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Book Review: The Greatest Boxing Stories Ever Told

boxing books
Greatest Boxing Stories Ever Told
Boxing, perhaps more than any other sport, is as much about its history and lore as it is about current fighters.  The Greatest Boxing Stories Ever Told is a collection of essays and stories that continue that tradition.  This book is an excellent read.

Edited by Jeff Silverman, The Greatest Boxing Stories Ever Told is a collection of thirty-six essays and stories about the sweet science.  Silverman includes pieces from many different eras written by very different authors.  Some stories are about fights.  Some are about fighters.  Some are true.  Some are fiction.  And, as with many aspects of boxing lure, some stories are probably a little bit of both.  In the introduction of the book, Silverman states, "Unlike its athletic brethren, boxing needs no translations as it moves from culture to culture across time and around the globe."  For this reason, non-boxing fans, even non-sports fans, will find something enlightening and inspiring in this book.

I am a relatively new boxing fan.  I first heard about this book on the Top Men Boxing podcast.  I purchased the book to learn more about the history of the sport.  That mission was accomplished.  I was introduced to the writing of venerable sports journalists such as Frank Deford and Robert M. Lipsyte.  I learned about Billy Conn's family life and Benny Paret's brutal death in the ring.  This book also includes fictional accounts from literary giants such as O. Henry and Jack London.

My favorite story in this book was the short story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle titled, "The Croxley Master."  I grew up in the shadow of the coal mines of Norhteastern PA.  That story was written about a century before my birth and takes place in Whales, yet, it captured the sporting culture of where I grew up.  That story showed that no matter the era, sports is important to the people who sweat and bleed to feed their families.

In compiling such a varied array of essays and stories written by such a diverse group of writers, Jeff Silverman effectively communicates the timeless nature of boxing and of sports.  The Greatest Boxing Stories Ever Told is an excellent and pleasurable read for fans of boxing, fans of sport and fans of the human race.

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Saturday, July 30, 2016

Anniversary Flashback: Arbitrary and Capricious Sports

dumb sports rules
Precision is required after arbitrary ball spotting.
If you turn on ESPN or AM radio, you will hear grown men and women discussing sports in the most serious terms.  They are discussing money and suspensions and drug use.  Even when they are discussing the actual games, you would sometimes think they were discussing military strategy.  Don't get me wrong.  I take sports seriously, too.  But if we all take a step back, we have to admit there are some really silly aspects to the sports we love so much.

In this post from 2014, Banshee Sports took a look at the arbitrary and capricious aspects of sports.  It's a humorous look at the ridiculous things that are life and death matters for sports fans.

This is actually the third most popular post in the history of Banshee Sports.

The Arbitrary and Capricious World of Sports

Sports are the ultimate meritocracy.  Color and creed do not matter.  Whoever runs the fastest, throws the farthest and performs in the clutch can win glory in the world of sports.  The underdog always has a chance.  David can beat Goliath if his aim is true.  And yet, some aspects of sports are incredibly arbitrary.

I'm not talking about luck here.  This list is not about bad hops at third base, golf balls landing in divots or gusts of wind pushing field goals wide of the uprights.  This list is restricted to situations where the very rules themselves create arbitrary and capricious results.  Click here to continue reading.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Serena Williams is Super Special

Serena Williams celebrate
Serena celebrates the 2015 Wimbledon title
Hot takes are all the rage in the information age.  But, there once was a time when the public would wait days and even weeks to hear and share thoughts on a sports topic.  I am old enough to remember those times.  So is Serena Williams.  So, despite the passing of a little time since she last made headlines, I want to pay homage to the greatest female athlete of all time.

Yes, I said it.  Serena Williams is the greatest female athlete of all time.  I know that is a bold statement.  Before I get deeper into this discussion, I want to say that I was not always a Serena fan.  I have praised her on this blog in the past, but as the older sister in my family, if I was cheering for a Williams sister, I was cheering for Venus.  But, over the past few years, the greatness of Serena has been undeniable.  And, perhaps more importantly, the sheer joy she exhibits on the court embodies what sports are supposed to be.

On July 9, 2016, at the ancient tennis age of 34, Serena Williams won the women's title at Wimbledon for the 7th time.  The victory gave Serena her 22nd career major victory.  That put Serena in a tie with the iconic Steffi Graf for the most Grand Slam victories of all time.  Tying that record in this era is truly astounding.  The field in women's tennis during Serena's career is far deeper than it was in Graf's day.  As if the singles championship was not enough work for one day, Serena returned to the court later in the afternoon to capture the doubles championship with her sister Venus.  This was the fourth time that Serena won both of those prestigious titles in the same day.

Although it is a Wimbledon victory that prompted this post, Serena Williams is by no means just a grass court specialist.  Serena has won on all surfaces.  In fact, she has captured the Serena Slam twice in her career.  The most amazing part of that is that those magical years were separated by more than a decade.

I realize that recency bias is a plague of the sports blogosphere, but this declaration of Serena's greatness has been over a decade in the making.  I am not going to defend this declaration by tearing down the accomplishments of others.  Instead, I just want to take a moment to recognize the greatness of Serena Williams before it is over.

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