Archive for the ‘books’ Category

Death of an Owner

When I wrote my latest book, The Bullets, The Wizards and Washington, DC Basketball,  I was able to speak to one of the owners of the Baltimore Bullets. Unfortunately, another had died and I was unable to reach the third, Arnold Heft. Two days ago I read that he died.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/arnold-a-heft-owner-of-horses-nba-team-dies-at-94/2014/03/26/fc810a4a-b501-11e3-8020-b2d790b3c9e1_story.html

Wish I had spoken to him about the Washington Bullets and owning the Capital Centre.

Sports Fans

I wrote The Bullets, The Wizards and Washington, DC Basketball partly because I was amazed at the issue of fans and their support of the DC teams over the years.

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Even when the Bullets were good, the numbers of fans were not as great as you’d expect. And when the Wizards were bad, man, fans had it tough.

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I’m working on two papers that I’ll be giving at the Popular Culture Association in Chicago and the North American Society for Sports History in Glenwood Springs, Colorado early this year.

Crunched some figures about numbers of fans who are linked to certain sports teams on Facebook. I looked at cities in the US that have teams in the four major US professional sports (baseball, football, basketball and hockey). These cities are Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Miami, Detroit, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Phoenix and San Francisco. I divided the number of fans on Facebook into the population of the metropolitan areas from the 2010 Census to determine the percentage of the population showing fan interest for each team.

The results show that Washington has the lowest percentage of its population involved with its teams and Phoenix has the second lowest. Boston has the highest. The data appears below organized by sport.

By Sport: (ranked by percentage of population)

Baseball

Red Sox  4,185,683 (92%)
688,605

Yankees  6,651,882 (68%) #1 in the New York area
1,034,752

SF Giants  1,866,243 (43%)
544,563

Cubs 1,874,234 (39%) #1 in the Chicago area
296,564

Detroit Tigers  1,404,184  (33%)
364,344

Texas Rangers  1,648,160 (26%)
345,642

White Sox  1,117,960 (23%)
166,165

Phillies  1,368,839 (23%)
792,530

Rockies  579,638 (23%)
110,404

Diamondbacks  371,803 (9%)
109,457

Mets  711,431 (7%)
222,596

Marlins  349,337 (6%)
102,530

Nationals  270,473 (5%)
154,611

Football (ranked by percentage of population)

Patriots  4,346,695 (95%)
777,350

Cowboys   5,896,128 (92%) #1 in the Dallas area
762,964

Broncos  2,014,604 (79%) #1 in the Denver area
420,029

49ers  2,332,133 (54%) #1 in the San Francisco area
562,706

Eagles  2,277,997 (38%) #1 in the Philadelphia area
414,192

Bears  3,062,435 (32%)
414,020

Giants  2,883,522 (29%)
538,485

Dolphins  1,496,534 (27%)
282,758

Lions  1,089,921  (25%)
304,469

Redskins  1,270,765 (23%) #1 in the Washington area
271,865

Cardinals: 667,826 (16%)
81,230

Jets  1,568,587  (16%)
618,924

Basketball (ranked by percentage of population)

Heat  9,483,777 (170%) #1 n the Miami area
2,111,279

Celtics 7,351,417 (162%) #1 in the Boston area
1,333,231

Nuggets  1,252,113 (49%)
255,361

Mavericks  2,756,809 (43%)
378,697

Knicks  4,148,183 (42%)

Suns  1,061,293 (25%) #1 in the Phoenix area
237,829

Warriors  929,247 (21%)
325,560

Pistons  714,206  (17%)
223,643

Nets 1,403,669 (15%)
366,964

Sixers  539,415 (9%)
264,650

Wizards  286,115 (5%)
195,223

Hockey:

Red Wings  1,492,132 (34%) #1 in the Detroit area
374,117

Bruins   1,516,883 (33%)
482,948

Avalanche  460,522 (18%)
148,098

Black Hawks  1,568,115 (17%)
480,212

Flyers  914,211 (15%)
300,810

Sharks  608,476 (14%)
185,226

Rangers  1,081,743 (11%)
279,517

Capitals  536,195 (10%)
198,594

Coyotes  148,657 (4%)
98,771

Stars  216,058 (3%)
137,717

Panthers  102,193 (2%)
93,960

Islanders  142,380 (1%)
101,573

 

 

 

 

Book Compares NFL Players to Strippers

Yesterday in the newspaper opinion section, Rick Maese, a sports writer for The Washington Post, provided an analysis of two books on experiences in the National Football League (NFL).  The two books are: “Collision Low Crossers,” Nicholas Dawidoff and former tight end Nate Jackson, who looks back on his six-year career in “Slow Getting Up.”  I’ll let you read the reviews to get the gist of his review.

Most interesting to me is that despite 500 pages, Dawidoff provides little insight into the sport’s locker room and its culture. Yet, we learn something we know already, that room is Y-chromosome world with few social boundaries, where teasing is a principle of communication. This kind of humor and teasing comes across in Jackson’s book. It’s a place where one ponders the on-demand adult movies available in hotels and daydream about Playboy models. The reviewer bemoans the lack of substantive discussion Jackson offers regarding the bullying or the use of stimulants and other illegal drugs to maintain one’s career. Maese does mention that Jackson likens being a football player to being a stripper:

“Both strippers and professional athletes live on the fringes of a society that judges them for their profession, based solely on stereotypes. These stereotypes are nearly impenetrable. Both stripper and athlete stand alone behind them, and often find solace with those who know what it’s like to be there.”

Maese found the comparison intriguing and wished the book had more of this kind of thought and insight. I agree that this is intriguing but don’t necessarily accept the comparison. First, I question whether being in a life of the NFL is on the fringes of society. Really, when most men in the game have homes with nuclear families to return to during the season and afterwards as well. Can the same be said of the majority of strippers? I used to live with two women who danced and they were always hoping to find some man who would take them away from the business. Would any NFL player feel that way?

While a stereotype might be guiding the way people view both professions, is the stereotype of the NFL player, such as the dumb jock, that much different than the stereotype of a basketball player, or  a baseball player. Isn’t there a lot of camaraderie that exists among athletes from different sports. They have their pro-am golf events among other places to play and exult with one another.  Does the stripper have a similar situation? I think she and the hes that perform, stand more alone and isolated.

I do agree that the “real person” behind the player or stripper many not be seen. I also see a comparison that Jackson does not mention, that each has a short-term career, that their careers are based upon physical fitness and performance of physical tasks that become harder as one ages. Both are pieces of meat, and are in such specialized professions that it cam be hard to adjust to a different work experience.

Indeed, as one ages, it is quite likely that the owners of the team or the clubs and bars, may find it easy to replace the player or the stripper. It’s then that I see the most potent similarity to their situations. Both will lose the bonding in their single-sex world; in the locker rooms, or back stage. They feel cast off and lose the strong sense of inclusion in a team/group and the identity that goes with their profession: football player and stripper. That loss is what Jackson identifies and observes is a powerful feeling to lose that disturbs many retired players.

NFL Concussions

Since I’ve been writing here for months about what the NFL knew about the potential for head injuries and CTE and when it knew it, I was pleased to see a review of the book, League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions, and the Battle for Truth, in today’s Washington Post. The review is by former NFL Tight end Nate Jackson, who in the first paragraph, explains to readers that he kept the last helmet that he wore in the final game of the season for every year that he played. He looked inside and saw a small, clear sticker behind and underneath the right earhole. In tiny print it reads, “Warning: No Helmet can prevent serious head or neck injuries a player might receive while participating in football….Contact in football may result in concussion-brain injury which no helmet can prevent. Thank God for lawyers trying to help companies avoid liability and law suits!\

Most intriguing is that Jackson’s review supports a good portion of what the book discusses. However, he makes a point that only a former player or a medical therapist might, that the physical pounding, CTE and disabilities that football players suffer is only one part of what a former gridiron star has to accept once his career is over. Jackson wants a significant amount of attention devoted to the loss of identity and sense of purpose that goes when a career comes to an end. He argues that suicide and depression are human problems. That the situation former players find themselves in is very human and about more than the physical effects of the brutal beatings that their bodies and minds take on the field. It’s a fascinating view and a significant argument that warrants attention. With all the money the NFL and the players make selling and playing football, some funding needs to go to education and post-football career development. Still, the reality of the problems that come from playing the game ought not to be diminished and Jackson’s review ends with a statement that encourages his brothers (former players) not to open Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru’s book.

Book Festivals

The Library of Congress Book Festival ends today. George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia continues its 10-day fest Fall for the Book until next Sunday. Covers popular fiction, historical fiction, history, biography, sports and culture.

Sportswriting: Baseball, Basketball, and Historical Perspectives@ George Mason Regional Library

Sep 26 @ 7:30 pm – 8:45 pm

Cultural historian Brett L. Abrams and Mason communications doctoral student Raphael Mazzone, co-authors of The Bullets, The Wizards and Washington DC Basketball, join long-time journalist Tom Dunkel, author of Color Blind: The Forgotten Team That Broke Baseball’s Color Line, to talk about their books and the art and craft of sportswriting in general. Sponsored by the Friends of the George Mason Regional Library.

Sex, Politics and Sports

Busboys and Poets in the District featured a discussion with Dave Zirin, sports editor of The Nation, magazine and the first open trans NCAA athlete last night.  Kye Allums played basketball at George Washington University.

alums

In November 2010, he announced his trans status. A very animated speaker, Allums said he took the step because other players on the team would not come out about their relationships. He had enough of that so he decided to make it easier on the other players by starting the coming out process.

Zirin and Allums discussed LGBTQ issues in sports and Zirin’s newest book, Game Over: How Politics Has Turned the Sports World Upside Down. Zirin has written about politics and sport team owners, noting the tax breaks and subsidies that they receive for new stadiums from the public treasuries. He has also documented the political stances many of team owners have taken, ranging from George Steinbrenner and his contribution excesses to the Christian conservative values of the owners of the Colorado Rockies of Major League Baseball and the Orlando Magic of the NBA.

Last night, Zirin offered a good summary of the connections between masculinity, heterosexuality and being proficient in sports. Starting with Muscular Christianity and eugenics in the late 19th century, through the arguments against lesbians coming out in college basketball, American culture has promoted the social good of the supposed connections between gender norms, sexual norms, and playing, or in women’s case, not playing sports.

DC Preservation League Video

Douglas Development has owned the Uline Arena/Washington Coliseum for years, using it as a parking lot until the time for development was right. With the NOMA corridor development springing up all around the former arena on M St and First St, NE, the time appears to be good now.

The company submitted a proposal for the arena. I’ve noticed the arena while riding the Metro Red line for years. My friend and I decided to write a book about Washington, DC Professional Basketball that includes the 1940s, when the Washington Capitols played at Uline and the 1969-1970 season when the Washington Capitols played in the ABA at the Washington Coliseum.

The Bullets, the Wizards, and Washington, DC, Basketball flyer_rev

This morning Raphael Mazzone and I discussed the basketball and social and cultural history of the building for the crew that are creating the video for the DC Preservation League. I’m standing in front of the old concession stand.

2013-08-11 10.37.01

This was the press box.

2013-08-11 11.15.37

 

Some of the remaining seating.

2013-08-11 10.38.21

Science and Dogs

I’m thrilled. As science proceeds to study animals rather than studies on animals, we learn more about their abilities. we can now continue our move away from acting patronizing to our pets, or to pet owners. It is time to realize how many of the emotions and cognitive abilities animals and humans share.

I enjoyed the book Animal Wise because it effectively summarized the studies done on the thinking and feeling of animals from dogs to elephants. It showed how much we have learned now that scientists and society are more open to seeing animals as amazing living beings.

Today’s Post carried an article on the ability of dogs to recall. See http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/dogs-can-copy-what-humans-do-even-10-minutes-later/2013/07/29/bcfbdbb0-f2ca-11e2-ae43-b31dc363c3bf_story.html

Book Festival

George  Mason University holds a Fall For the Book Festival on the weekend of September 22nd-27th. This year, they are having a panel discussion on writing books about sports on Thursday, September 26 at 7:30 pm.

The event will take place at the George Mason Regional Library and my co-author Raphael Mazzone will read  from our book, The Bullets, The Wizards and Washington, DC Basketball. My reading will come from my other sports book, Capital Sporting Grounds: A History of Stadium and Ballpark Construction in Washington, DC. The other panelist is sports author, Tom Dunkel, who’s book is Color Blind: The Forgotten Team that Broke Baseball’s Color Line.

Mark the readings on your calendar!

Balance Corporate Interest

Finally, here’s a major editorial that discusses the need for a balance to the self-interest focus of the business world. Very succinctly and eloquently, this writer has demonstrated that businesses and all human and natural endeavors need to be more than self-focused.

Businesses and corporations need to take into account the needs of the larger population when they make decisions. Since, so many in the business world err toward self-interest while we can hope that they can take the interest of others into account, nations and governments need to create a well-functioning regulatory apparatus to make sure that the businesses and the people who run them are held accountable for their errors in both judgment and when breaking the laws.

Put human nature back in business

By Ralph Gomory, Published: June 28

Ralph Gomory is a research professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business and a recipient of the National Medal of Science. He is a former a former president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and past director of research at IBM, as well as a former director of The Washington Post Co.

When two bombs exploded this spring near the Boston Marathon finish line, many rushed to help those who were hurt. We read about their actions with approval and admiration, but not with surprise. On some level people understand that it is human nature to try to help, even if doing so involves risk or sacrifice.

This part of human nature is largely absent in business, a world that believes almost entirely in motivation through self-interest and even in the social good of self-interest. This viewpoint was famously summarized by Adam Smith: “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”

Smith, however, was also conscious of the power of altruism. He could have been describing the scene in Boston when he wrote in 1759: “The plaintive voice of misery, when heard at a distance, will not allow us to be indifferent about the person from whom it comes. As soon as it strikes our ear, it interests us in his fortune, and, if continued, forces us almost involuntarily to fly to his assistance.”

Smith devoted a book, “The Theory of Moral Sentiments,” to explaining why widespread altruism is the natural and unavoidable consequence of the human ability to empathize with others.

A century later, Charles Darwin laid out a theory of natural selection based on the struggle for individual survival. However, in “The Descent of Man,” Darwin also described what we would call group selection: “An advancement in the standard of morality will certainly give an immense advantage to one tribe over another. A tribe including many members who, from possessing in a high degree the spirit of patriotism, fidelity, obedience, courage and sympathy, were always ready to aid one another, and to sacrifice themselves for the common good, would be victorious over most other tribes; and this would be natural selection.”

More recently, research by the distinguished Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson has shown the importance of group selection; he attributes the dominance of man and the success of certain social insects to their social capabilities. In “The Social Conquest of Earth,” Wilson writes of humans: “An unavoidable and perpetual war exists between honor, virtue, and duty, the products of group selection, on one side; and selfishness, cowardice, and hypocrisy, the products of individual selection, on the other.”

Evolution has produced two sides of human nature: the more self-centered and the more altruistic. Different training and circumstances can bring out in us more of one or the other, but they are both in our DNA.

Different situations demand more of one aspect of human nature or the other. We may be satisfied with relying on the self-interest of the butcher or baker, but who really wants a doctor who views his patients as a way to make as much money as possible? People want doctors who care about their health and intrinsically want patients to be well. We want doctors who use the other half of human nature. Many, if not most, doctors go into medicine so they can do just that.

In business, however, human motivation is thought of mainly in self-interested financial terms. Chief executives are supposed to be motivated by stock options to make as much money as possible for shareholders, because they will also make the most money possible for themselves. In almost every aspect of business, people identify simple, measurable goals and try to tie self-interest to them.

Often, however, it is not easy to find simple goals in complex situations, and sometimes simple goals can be attained in undesirable ways. It is also unrealistic to think that human motivation can be reduced to individual self-interest. In doing this, we neglect the part of human nature that is altruistic.

We might all benefit from more organizations with goals and practices that enlist both sides of human nature. A company can regard providing its service as just a way to make money and be willing to cut corners as long as it doesn’t interfere with profit. Or its goal can be to be viable and provide an outstanding service. People in such an organization will feel more pride in their work and satisfaction in contributing to something worthwhile. They will think of more ways to contribute. This approach might well improve both the economy and its distribution.

The laws of evolution and the experiences of daily life suggest that humans have an inherent desire to contribute to others. Organizations that take this side of human nature into account may well function better than those whose single goal is profit. And the people in those corporations, using both sides of their natures, will also lead more fulfilling lives.

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