Portugal’s Castles and Palaces

On our recent trip to Portugal we encountered several castles. One of the first area’s we visited in Lisbon was the old city of Alfama. The neighborhood dates back to the Medieval times and includes Moorish influences. Its winding streets proved nothing like the uphill trudge to Castelo, where the castle of St. George held forth on top of the hill. The views of the city and this uphill walk explained why this represented an ideal location for a fortification.



Amazingly, this fort served the Romans, the Visigoths who displaced them. The Arabs who took over the Iberian Peninsula, and finally the Christians. It served as the Royal Palace for the Portuguese during the late 1300s.




Another castle of the Arab and early Portuguese eras, served the walled city of Obidos. The best thing about the city involved being able to walk the old wall from the entry gate to the castle.


The sun baked the area in heat and you could feel sweat as we made our way. We reached the end where the castle stood. This palace lacked the charm of St. George’s but at least one  took solace in the presence of instruments of torture around the other side.


In the medieval city of Coimbra, the palace received a unique role, it became a university, and the University of Coimbra is well-respected one at that. Here’s the view the balcony of the palace offered:


The palace served as a location of class rooms, the former quarters of servants provided more classrooms and dorms. For those of us who earned doctorate degrees, defending in a room such as this with the university’s deans looking down upon you, daunting.



A second view from the outside balcony revealed the layout.


The notable library, known as Biblioteca Joanina, on the far right-hand side of the photo can be seen in these photos taken on the sly.




Some of us who consider ourselves rebellious and rule breakers might have taken a different route at this university. The library’s basement served as an academic prison for students who broke the rules. The student stayed in the stark concrete areas talking with no one and a guard escorted him to classes using the back stairs.

By far the most picturesque location for castles and palaces is Sintra. In the hills, an hour outside of Lisbon, Sintra attracted attention 200 years ago when the Romantics wrote wistfully about its charms. This UNESCOWorld Heritage Site, became the center of European nineteenth century Romantic architecture. But the castle served as a Arabic remnant that the Christians isolated during the ninth century. This photo illustrates the remnants that remain of the castle.


This view came from the top of the Royal Palace built under the reign of Queen Maria of Portugal (1834-1853) who left many of the details of the Palace de Pena to her husband, King-Consort Ferdinand. Taking over the remains of  the 16th century monastery of the Order of Saint Jerome, the royal pair hired an architect Baron von Eschwege to design the place. However, the palace had too many Germanic elements in its initial stages and five years later, the architect and Ferdinand shaped the palace more toward the history of their country and the royal pair’s taste.


It did seem to have a theme park look but the feel definitely became real as one entered inside through the archway. The tile felt very Portuguese and the Manueline, Romantic, Moorish and other styles worked together.


All servants and the royals walked around the palace using the cloisters which contained a great deal of elaborate design elements. This tile is different from the outside and there are several creatures whose mouths provide water drainage and visages scare away evil spirits.


Inside the three generations of kings and queens who used the palace had many rooms, including separate bedrooms, baths and offices. 100_3851


What’s a palace without great grounds. hidden amidst the acres of land were a chalet, three duck ponds, a small lake and a gazebo.


Marvelous trees lined the paths.


After stopping for lunch we headed to a palace from the late 1800’s built on land recently sold in 1892 to Carvalho Monteiro, who inherited family money made from precious stones and coffee from Brazil. A lawyer trained at the University of Coimbra, Monteiro and his architect Luigi Manini, build Quinta da Regaleira, to display symbols that reflected his interests and ideologies.

We went through the palace and chapel at hare speed.




We looked forward to taking on the amazing grounds. These neatly sculpted winding paths gave way to a forest toward the eastern end of the park.


The grounds included tunnels, initiation wells and lakes, fountains and even an aquarium.


One well carried the reputation of representing Dante’s circles of Hell. As you walked around and around, ever descending into the darkness one was left to wonder.





Novak Djokovic’s Special On and Off The Court

Novak Djokovic has clearly shown himself to be one of the best men’s tennis players in history. Yesterday’s ninth Grand Slam title moved him into fifth place among title winners in the Open Era and

I find Djokovic attractive physically and as a person. He has demonstrated a great sense of humor and I enjoy that he respects tradition and people and likes to enjoy himself as this video at the Wimbledon party demonstrates:


They have danced before: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xnen1RzgzFc&feature=player_detailpage

Is So You Think you Can Dance too far off in Novak’s future?

Olympics and Municipal Investment: US Style

Over the past two months, the momentum of the opposition to Boston hosting the Olympic Games spurred me while the narratives coming out about Rio sparked Matt Holder to write pieces about the Olympics for this blog. Matt summarized his article on media narratives with the statement: “…we see that media narratives care less about public good and more about creating an environment that efficiently routes public money into private pockets.” He cited Jules Boykoff’s book, Celebration Capitalism and the Olympic gamesas a notable explanation of how the Olympics are publically sold while the real beneficiaries are the hosting region’s elite.

Indeed, in their book Olympic Dreams: The Impact of Mega-Events on Local Politics, authors authors Matthew J. Burbank, Gregory D. Andranovich and Charles H. Heying discussed the Olympics as a growth strategy for U.S. cities. They analyzed how three US cities fared in their attempt to use the Olympics as an approach to economic growth in the post globalization United States. The authors argued that with less federal dollars available for urban renewal and a reduced tax base due to the global economy, regions have looked to the Olympics and mega events as ways to bring in revenue. Most importantly, the Games have enabled local elites to push forward changes to the city’s landscape that they would not have been able to do without the cover of hosting the Games.

The book discussed how the Clinton Administration funneled nearly a billion dollars of funds to Atlanta to help the city in its efforts to build infrastructure for the Games. With their bid for the Games, Atlanta’s officials proposed the conversion of 5700 units of public housing in some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods to nicer living conditions for those residents.The city received $250 million from the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for this conversion and a similar amount in private funds. Less than 10% went toward the project which led to the displacement of 16000 low-income residents, which one has to wonder of that wasn’t the goal.

Others have noted similar agendas when other cities have bid. I noted in my book, Capital Sporting Grounds that in the 2012 Baltimore-Washington-Northern Virginia Olympics bid. The plans for Great Meadows to be the equestrian site would circumvent the opposition to the development of that area. Others opposed to hosting the games noted that there were several other stadium locations that pushed a development program that local citizens did not want and had stopped from happening earlier.

During a session at the 2015 Popular Culture Conference I attended a panel in the Sports section where a discussion over the plans for Chicago’s bid arose. Everyone in the room seemed to know that the bid’s plans would eliminate some significant public spaces, including parks. Clearly there is an awareness about the agendas of elites to bind unpopular development changes to the Games and of the limited value of the Games to a municipality’s revenue stream in the long run. Perhaps this is what has energized the No Boston Olympics movement. In their Olympics Truth section they argue that the Games do not help local economies. In their Olympic Myths section, they make this point again, and include arguments that two of the proposed promises (improved subway system and the Olympic Village representing a great housing gain for the city) will not materialize.

I call on fellow sports historians, particularly those who study the Olympics, to join the public debate on the Boston Games!

Five-Ring Circus

The cycle of national group bids to host the Olympic Games usually has not generated the type of openly negative discussion that occurred this year in the United States. From newspaper articles to blogs, to “Olbermann” on ESPN, Boston’s winning bid to represent the U.S. as a potential Summer Olympic site generated a firestorm of criticism and even some incredulity.

Sports historians, social scientists and other academics have written extensively regarding the cost of constructing stadiums Early books, such as Dean V. Baim’s The Sports Stadium As a Municipal Investment, used economic analysis to demonstrate that the stadiums cost significantly more than their projected cost. Few stadiums built from the 1960s through the 1980s ever earned a net positive financial gain.

One prime example was the Olympic Stadium in Montreal, built for the 1976 Summer Games and used by the Montreal Expos baseball team. According to Robert C. Trumpbour’s New Cathedrals, the stadium left the city with a $ 1 million debt. Paying the debt through the mid-2000s, according to Garry Whannel in Culture, Politics and Sport marred the memory of the games in the minds of citizens. The memory and current circumstances regarding the stadium have not improved as the stadium has basically been empty since 2005,

The books on stadiums have focused on stadium proponents main argument: that stadiums generate economic growth. Andrew Zimbalist, an economist at Smith College has written extensively about the falseness of this purported reason for supporting public financing of stadiums. He and Roger G. Noll’s book Sports, Jobs and Taxes concluded that sports teams and stadiums were not a source of local economic growth and employment and that the public financing provided to the team far outweighed the new jobs and taxes that the team and stadium provided the city or state. The message about the economic viability of stadiums started to reach more of the public.

In some cities, opponents of publicly financed stadiums made pitched but unsuccessful efforts to stop these expenditures, In 2004, Kevin J. Delaney and Rick Eckstein captured these battles in their book, Public Dollars, Private Stadiums. Intriguingly, stadium proponents downplayed the economic gain argument, and adopted two others to win the financing in cities ranging from Pittsburgh and Cincinnati to Denver, Phoenix and San Diego.

The Olympic Games offered two key assets to the hosting city and nation. The first, particularly important during the Cold War, centered on national pride. The second, promoted the economic gains that the Games reportedly brought. Proponents asserted that economy of the host country attained growth spurred on from new construction that occurred before the start of the Games. The gains continued during the games from event and visitor spending during the event.

Montreal showed that the economic gains often still leave a debt. Ferran Brunet’s study, “An economic analysis of the Barcelona’92 Olympic Games: resources, financing and impacts,” offered a somewhat more positive example. The author observed the typical underestimation of the cost to the Olympics, “In the development of the Olympic project the forecasts went from 237,000 million pesetas in April 1985, to an estimated 768,368 million in March 1991, to the final figure of 1,119,510 million pesetas in July of 1993.” The city and national governments and private partners invested this money and actually generated $ 2.2 million in profit. The Games provided a rise in employment and a stronger sense of confidence and world presence for the city and nation. However, when I visited a decade later, much of the Olympic area in the city appeared empty and devoid of people and games.

Do cities in the United States need the Games for similar reasons? Atlanta won the 1996 Summer games and sought to use them to promote tourism and attract businesses to the region. Again, pre-Olympic projections expected the creation of 77,026 jobs and $5.14 billion into the state economy. Despite Barcelona’s success, it’s jobs total capped out at less than 67,000. According to Steven P. French and Mike E. Disher in “Atlanta and the Olympics,” Atlanta spent over $200 million each for an indoor stadium and Olympic stadium. Much of the money came from private sources and very little public funds.

At the close of the Games, the estimate of economic benefits from the Games fell over a billion dollars below initial projections. What organizers either did not consider or perhaps include was the Olympics would not bring new spending. The games shifted spending away from other entertainment activities and other revenue-generating activities could not occur in Atlanta because of the presence of the Olympics. Additionally, visitor spending on food and lodging totaled less that expected.

In their book Olympic Dreams: The Impact of Mega-Events on Local Politics, authors Matthew J. Burbank, Gregory D. Andranovich and Charles H. Heying analyzed how three US cities fared in their attempt to use the Olympics as an approach to economic growth. They argued that the Atlanta region benefited from the tourist, employment and construction windfall. City officials replaced aging infrastructure, although residents paid double the cost for water and some other utilities since the changes. Their chapter focused on urban development aspects that did and didn’t happen with the Olympics. That will be the focus on the promises and deliveries for US cities with hosting the Olympics.

LGBT Athletes

A new study regarding lesbian, gay, and bisexual athletes throughout the world indicated that the U.S. ranks far behind many other countries in the acceptance of gay and lesbian athletes. An overwhelming number of gay and lesbian athletes remained afraid to indicate their sexual orientation to teammates, coaches and others.


A new study estimates that 83 percent of gay male youth athletes in the United States are keeping their sexual orientation hidden from some or all of their teammates. Lesbian athletes in the same age group (under 22 years old) were more willing to be public about it — 63 percent said they were hiding their orientation.

The reason for the secrecy — even in an age when polls show that acceptance has been increasing — is often fear. Nearly half of gay men and 44 percent of lesbians around the world who kept their sexual orientation hidden said they did so in order not to be bullied. In addition, fear of discrimination from coaches or officials was mentioned by 32 percent of gay men and 28 percent of lesbians.

The survey found that 80 percent of the respondents, both gay and heterosexual, had witnessed or experienced homophobia in sports.

Titled “Out On The Fields,” the report was based on a survey of nearly 9,500 gay, bisexual and heterosexual people and claims to be the largest-ever study on homophobia in sports. (The questions only related to sexual orientation, not gender identity, so the study offers no information about transgender athletes.)

After publicizing the anonymous online questionnaire through various media outlets,1 the researchers received answers from several English-speaking countries. The highest numbers of responses came from Australia (3,006), the United States (2,064), the United Kingdom (1,796), Canada (1,123), New Zealand (631) and Ireland (501).

The United States received the lowest overall “inclusion score” of all the countries analyzed, with a high number of respondents saying the U.S. was not accepting of gay athletes. (Though because of the small sample sizes for respondents from New Zealand and Ireland, it isn’t necessarily fair to say that the U.S. ranks worst.)

In a phone interview, the survey’s lead author, Erik Denison, said attitudes about privacy among athletes are often related to the perception of homophobia in sports.

“I made that decision myself when I kept in the closet,” he said. “Implicitly it is about discrimination, though. The straight men can talk openly in conversations about what you did at the weekend, the women they met. If you’re gay though, you either have to make up stories or be excluded. It’s not the same.”

The large scale of the survey, though, doesn’t mean that it is the definitive word on homophobia in sports. Even in countries that had a high number of respondents, it can be difficult to tease out more detailed trends because the subgroups are far too small. Responses were split into youth and adult sports (i.e. under age 22 and over age 22) but also broken out by sports played and the sexual orientation of the respondents.

What’s more, not everyone even said they played sports — among U.S. respondents, for example, 81 percent of gay women and 75 percent of gay men said they participated in youth sports, while 63 percent of gay women and 42 percent of gay men said they participated in adult sports. As a result, the finding that 83 percent of gay male youth athletes keep their sexuality hidden from teammates is based on just 114 individuals.

Denison and his co-author, Alistair Kitchen, both members of Australia’s first gay rugby team, said they were are aware of those limitations. Their international approach was partly informed by the fact that past smaller-scale studies on homophobia in sport have been dismissed for being too limited in scope. The final methodology and findings were reviewed by seven academic experts prior to publication.

Overall, these results should be treated as estimates in an under-researched area filled with speculation, rather than definitive numbers about gay athletes.

Gay respondents were more likely than heterosexual ones to say that homophobia was more common in team sporting environments than in general society. But LGB athletes also related positive reactions to revealing their orientation to their teammates. In its write-up of the report, the gay sports site Outsports.com acknowledged many of the issues cited by respondents but added that “people in sports behave very differently when an athlete actually comes out,” often welcoming the LGB athlete and apologizing for language used in the past.

Denison also described what he called “the snowball effect” — the notion that the more LGB athletes there are who are open about their sexual orientation, the more accepted gay athletes will become in sports. As evidence for that, Denison pointed to the higher share of lesbian athletes in the U.S. who are open about their sexuality with their teammates and the fact that lesbian athletes around the world are more likely to say teams offer them a “supportive and safe environment.”

Because of their visibility, LGB professional athletes are likely more influential than amateurs in getting the snowball effect rolling, but few seem comfortable speaking publicly. The survey allowed respondents to submit detailed stories about themselves — around 1,600 did so. Denison said that about three dozen of those who provided narrative accounts were professional athletes, including at least two on their respective countries’ national teams.

Last year, after the professional football player Michael Sam told ESPN and The New York Times that he is gay, he said he received messages from many fellow athletes who “had the courage to tell me that they were also gay, but they do not have the same courage as I do to come out.”

So far, Sam’s decision has not created a snowball effect in the U.S. — partly because there will need to be other outspoken gay athletes before the sport reaches what Denison describes as “a critical mass.”

Wizards Doing Well

With the Washington Wizards in the playoffs and on a real hot streak, basketball is back big time in Washington, DC.

A writer noted that the present series between Washington and Atlanta has a long playoff history:



Tale of Cranes, Wolf-Dogs and the Rescue Community

The new documentary The Wound and The Gift is an  excellent depiction of the relationship between man and animals. Using an old Japanese folk story as a framing device, the movie reveals how some people have made attempts to treat members of the animal kingdom with the respect that they deserve.

The movie focuses specifically on what it sees as the major transformation in our relationship with animals through the growing “Rescue” movement. All over the world, people are saving the lives of animals that were bred for profit, abused, or sold on the black market.

By showing people who care for a wide variety of animals, from wolf-dogs to thoroughbred horses, to a Colorado sanctuary for everything from lions to bears, the movie raises questions about how humans live in the world without being preachy or didactic.

Homes for Cats

I attended the Washington Humane Society event Architects for Animals last night at the American Institute of Architecture on New York Avenue in DC last night and had a great time. All the food was tasty and vegetarian!

Architects volunteered their time and effort to design homes for feral cat communities that exist throughout the city. The designs were really all great. Very inventive and lots of fun. Two evoked Mondrian themes, one looked like a grass or cat nip plant, others provided soft cushions for the cats to lay on.

The top three designs were voted on by all the attendees. I’ll list the firm and put a photo of the design next to them: top design went to PGN Architects, PLLCwinning_design



first runner up is Martinez+Johnson Architecture PC,



second runner up is Suzane Reatig Architecture


Washington Theater Year: 2014

The top critic for the Washington Post compiled a list of the top plays and musicals of the 2014 year in the city. Happy to say that I saw half of the shows and one more when it appeared on Broadway. I agree with most of the choices, although I thought choice seven was a good character study that didn’t really get me thinking or generate any emotional response. The top choice wen to Broadway and didn’t draw enough audiences to keep running. Tribes was an incredible show that offered much, as did Bad Jews.


1. “Side Show,” Kennedy Center. Forever ahead of its time, this heartbreaking musical about conjoined twins turned vaudeville stars, nurtured in a splendid revival by director Bill Condon, was a succes d’estime, but both in D.C. and on Broadway after that, a disappointing box-office performer.

2. “Tribes,” Studio Theatre. Nina Raine’s play detailing the mixed and missed signals in an intellectual London family brilliantly intermingled the perspectives of deaf and hearing characters.

3. “Sunday in the Park with George,” Signature Theatre. The Pulitzer-winning musical by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine remains a profound statement about the art of making art, as director Matthew Gardiner’s smashing revival demonstrated.

4. “Bad Jews,” Studio Theatre. The funniest play of the year, set on a night of operatically pitched family battles, courtesy of a playwright, Joshua Harmon, we’re bound to hear more from.

5. “The Admission,” Theater J. A searing drama by Israeli playwright Motti Lerner that inflamed passions about the Middle East and, in the resulting political firestorm, likely contributed to the firing by the DC Jewish Community Center of the company’s artistic director, Ari Roth. (Honorable mention: the inspired Tovah Feldshuh in Theater J’s companion one-woman show, “Golda’s Balcony.”)

6. “Sleeping Beauty: A Puppet Ballet,” Pointless Theatre. This small-budget and enjoyably big hearted staging of the Tchaikovsky ballet with both puppets and actors established this resourceful troupe as Washington’s most promising young company.

7. “The Wolfe Twins,” Studio. Artistic director David Muse commissioned of Rachel Bonds this surprising and sharply drawn study of an American brother and sister (the wonderful Tom Story and Birgit Huppuch) having a devastating falling-out in Rome.

8. “Colossal,” Olney Theatre Center. Playwright Andrew Hinderaker and director Will Davis found parallels in the physicality of football and ballet, creating in the process an exhilarating dance-drama about a player dealing with a catastrophic sports injury.

9. “Sex with Strangers,” Signature. Laura Eason’s entertaining tale of boy writer-meets-girl-writer felt like a camera-ready romantic comedy, with expert help from director Aaron Posner and actors Holly Twyford and Luigi Sottile.

10. “The Two Gentlemen of Verona,” Folger Theater. The clever folks from visiting Fiasco Theater showed how excitingly newly minted Shakespeare can feel, when presented on a refreshingly intimate scale, with close and revealing attention to text.

Documentary on Knicks of the 1970s

After reading the Sports Documentary/Sports History issue of the Journal of Sports History (Summer 2014)  I watched Michael Rapaport’s contribution to ESPN’s 30 for 30 series, “When the Garden Was Eden.” The documentary intended to show how important the New York Knicks teams of the early 1970s were to the NBA and that they represented an oasis in the tumultuous era, where people from different backgrounds came together and played as a team. As a professional basketball historian and fan I wondered about accuracy of its main argument but also how it fit with the sports documentary analysis I’d read.

As part of ESPN’s series, this documentary fits into the company’s model that Travis Vogan describes (“Institutionalizing and Industrializing Sport History,” 197). While the actor does not provide the cache that some of the earlier film makers in the series did, he brought the enthusiasm of a Knicks fan to his project and the style of the series provides the makers with cinematic signifiers that Joshua Malitsky discussed in his article, (“Knowing Sports,”  206).

The documentary proved to have a few minor inconsistencies and errors.  “Garden was Eden” began by presenting the National Basketball Association as second to college basketball in New York City and as a “minor” professional sports league compared to professional baseball and football through the 1960s. One example mentioned is that the players received such small salaries to its players that they had to take jobs during the off-season  (When the Garden Was Eden, 5-6 minute mark). Interestingly, while the comparison is made among the sports league, there is no investigation of how much players earned in baseball and football. In both of these sports, as well as hockey, players found themselves in the same position of having to work second jobs. Basketball had two centers that earned significant salaries, Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain, each earned around $100,000 annually. Walt Bellamy, the Baltimore Bullets’ center, earned $30,000 before becoming unhappy with contract negotiations with the team. Baltimore traded Bellamy to the Knicks, and his salary with them undercuts Reed’s comment here that none of his Knicks teammates earned more than $22,000. (The Bullets, The Wizards and Washington, DC, 78)

As part of the discussion about the insignificance of the NBA prior to the emergence of these Knicks, the film mentions that the league sometimes had its playoff finals shown on tape delay (When the Garden Was Eden, 6-7 minute mark). As Mario R Sarmento showed in his work, “The NBA on Network Television: A Historical Analysis,” the league had gained ground on television during the 1960s through the skillful directing of Roone Arledge. Ratings crept up and the NBA received increased revenue for its product. The tape delayed finals were not resolved by the development of a championship team in New York, as the film leads us to believe. The tape delay showing of the NBA Finals occurred during the late 1970s, when the broadcasts of all NBA games suffered severe ratings declines (Sarmento, 48-50).

More than the aforementioned inaccuracies, an omission proved a very important to making the point about the uniqueness of the Knicks. While painting the Knicks as a multi-racial team with a variety of individual personalities, the documentary failed to discuss the composition of any of other NBA teams. Wouldn’t Boston’s Celtics, Los Angeles’ Lakers, or Washington’s Bullets, also provide this same cohesion of different individuals into a winning team? I would argue that each team met this standard as well.

The style of its presentation aided immensely in making “Garden was Eden,” appear persuasive. The documentary adopted most of the claims that Malitsky described as assertions that contemporary documentaries make about sport. Rapaport’s film certainly used sports as visually spectacular, as individual expression and as already narrativized.  However, it interplayed these three in an ingenious way that enabled them to reinforce one another and give more power to the argument the documentary advanced.  During a twelve-minute stretch, the director took people from a black-and-white image of a down New York City, through colorful individualized introductions to each of the new Knick players, as they joined the team. This individual introduction of the biographies and special talents of these players included visually spectacular footage that depicted these youthful players as heroes were typically presented in many a Hollywood narrative movie.  After more context about the disruption era with Civil Rights and Vietnam War protests, the montage ended with a photograph of all the players on the team seated in rows, presenting the  documentary’s argument that these people of diverse backgrounds came together as a team. “Garden was Eden” also touched on sport’s connection with Capital but was neither critical or accepting sport as a business like any other. The movie celebrated the Knicks as significant to lifting up the fortunes of a struggling league, drawing celebrities (31 minute mark) giving it cache in the advertizing world and in magazines and books (52-55 minute mark). Interestingly, the documentary missed one opportunity to further this point when it presented the trade of Earl Monroe to New York. “The Pearl” wanted to leave Baltimore for a few reasons, a major one being a lack of advertising and business opportunities that could be had if he played with the Knicks.(59-62 minute mark, The Bullets, chapter 6).


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