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World Wide Wednesday

Deep Routes

A pretty enlightening NY Times Q&A with Fat Joe:

Q. You were a longtime coach at the Entertainers Basketball Classic tournament at Rucker Park in Harlem. And in 2003, your team was set to play Jay-Z’s team in the championship game. But the game never occurred. Can you explain?

A. I had been successful at Rucker for years. I would take the summer off to coach and run a team out there, and then Jay brought a team to Harlem that summer, with Beyoncé in the stands watching. And his team was smacking down everyone they played, so it was inevitable for our two teams to meet in the championship game. On his team for that game, he had Shaquille O’Neal, LeBron James, Tracy McGrady, Lamar Odom and Jamal Crawford. I countered and brought in Allen Iverson, Stephon Marbury, Al Harrington, Mike Bibby, Carmelo, Amar’e, Zach Randolph and Rafer Alston. I had a crew, and he had a crew, and we were about to go at it. And then the blackout hit New York City, so the game was canceled. The next day, the power came back, and the game was rescheduled. And Jay’s team didn’t show up. They forfeited the championship.

Q. Have you ever asked him about it?

A. Never again. I haven’t even talked to Jay-Z again after that incident.

In Slate, Stefan Fatsis writes about the dangers of youth tackle football:

I know that Matt Chaney, who wrote for the roundtable this week about the tackling technique that won’t make football safer, is on board with the idea that tackle football is simply too dangerous for the brains of children, and that a distinction needs to be made between what adult men choose to do professionally and what kids are permitted or often pushed to do by parents and other adults. In his new book, Concussions and Our Kids, co-written with journalist Mark Hyman, Cantu proposes barring tackle football before age 14, or the start of high school. The cutoff is arbitrary, Cantu said at the Washington panel. The more important consideration is an individual child’s physical development: If he’s skeletally immature, if he hasn’t developed axillary hair, he shouldn’t play tackle football.

“Youngsters are not miniature adults,” Cantu said. For starters, he explained, their brains are not fully myelinated, meaning their nerve cells lack the complete coating that offers protection. That makes them more susceptible to concussions and means they recover more slowly from them than adults. Cantu said children have big heads relative to the rest of their bodies and weak necks, creating a “bobblehead-doll effect” that elevates the risk of concussion. They typically play in the oldest equipment, with the least educated coaches, and with little or no available medical care. They are allowed to hit each other in practice—up to 40 minutes per session in Pop Warner football, under new guidelines—to a greater extent than NFL players are in season. And finally, kids are unable to provide meaningful informed consent. “Rarely do they really understand the risk they’re taking,” Cantu said.

In the Chronicle of Higher Education, David Pargman calls for the NCAA to let athletes major in sports:

Why not permit the teenage freshman to declare in a straightforward manner his authentic purpose in coming to the campus? In so doing, he would be granted the opportunity to honestly pursue his wish to formally study football, basketball, or baseball, by no means a shame-worthy declaration. I’ve yet to meet a parent who would deny feeling pride and pleasure upon learning of a son’s success in securing an NFL, NBA, or MLB contract. Our culture is solidly supportive of its professional athletes. (And while female students also pursue professional sports careers, the far higher number of young men with those aspirations makes them our topic here.)

What’s more, the young man would be given the opportunity to undertake meaningful education under the auspices of distinguished professors of sports behavior in the same way that an entering student studies within a university’s program of English literature, mathematics, or music. Elite collegiate coaches and their support staff are as competent in their specialty sports as are their counterparts in other campus departments (although their salaries are often embarrassingly incomparable). Higher education, for better or worse, purports to be a pathway to a vocational future. Why is this not so with regard to professional sports?

Quick Reads

- The case for the unionization of domestic workers. [Gawker]

- Here’s what a bacon cheeseburger bloody mary looks like. [Food Beast]

- An argument for legos as the best toy of all-time. [Wall Street Journal]

- NFL pregame shows are way down in the ratings this season. [Awful Announcing]

- A comic about freelance web content creation that is SPOT ON. [The Oatmeal]

Food Porn

Pulled Lamb Sandwich @ Popeye’s (Lake Geneva, WI)

Omelette in an everything bagel @ Grand Geneva (Lake Geneva, WI)


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