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kottke.org posts about sports

Abstract Photographs of the Colorful Insides of Golf Balls

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 16, 2020

James Friedman Golf Balls

James Friedman Golf Balls

James Friedman Golf Balls

James Friedman is primarily a documentary and street photographer, but for his Interior Design project, he went abstract and captured the insides of golf balls.

For some viewers, my photographs from this series, titled Interior Design, allude to celestial bodies and the sublime. For me, their serendipitous structural exquisiteness and their subtle and passionate arrays of colors have inspired new exploration in my photography; I am particularly delighted to see the diminutive golf balls transformed into 36” x 36” prints.

Incidentally, I do not play golf.

Here’s a 1966 British Pathé film about how golf balls are made (compare w/ a more modern process):

See also Friedman’s short account (w/ photos) about photographing Andy Warhol at a 1978 art opening. (via dense discovery)

The Kung Fu Nuns of the Drukpa Order

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 13, 2019

Kung Fu Nuns

Until recently, Buddhist nuns in the Himalayan region were denied leadership positions and the opportunity to exercise as part of their spiritual practice. Then the spiritual leader of the Drukpa Order, frustrated at the lack of equality for women in the region, changed that and the Kung Fu Nuns were born.

Traditionally, Buddhist nuns have not been allowed to exercise. They are forbidden from singing, leading prayers or being fully ordained. In some monasteries, it is believed that female Buddhists can’t even achieve enlightenment unless they are reborn as men.

“Everyone has this old thinking that nuns can’t do anything,” said Jigme Konchok Lhamo, 25, who has been part of the nunnery since she was 12. (Jigme is a first name that all the nuns share, which in Tibetan means “fearless one.”)

But the spiritual leader of the Drukpa lineage, His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa, has spent much of his life breaking down those patriarchal Buddhist traditions.

Gyalwang Drukpa doesn’t like “the terminology of empowerment,” he said in a 2014 interview. “That actually means that I have the power to empower them.”

“I’m just moving the obstacles, so that they can come up with their own power.”

The nuns train in kung fu and meditate for hours a day, which they say prepares them for their real duty: helping others.

They teach self-defense classes for women in an area that is known for violence against women and have biked thousands of miles to protest against inaction on climate change & human trafficking. The nuns hike to collect litter. Many of them are trained solar panel repair technicians. In the aftermath of the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, they provided aid to communities that other international aid organizations deemed too dangerous to travel to.

“I Was the Fastest Girl in America, Until I Joined Nike”

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 08, 2019

Mary Cain was on her way — and quickly. As detailed in a 2015 NY Times piece by Elizabeth Weil, Cain ran a mile in 5:03 as a 7th grader and by the time she was a high school sophomore, ran the 1,500 meters in 4:11.01. Her high school track coach didn’t know how to coach her properly, so when Nike called, she joined a legendary coach training a team of fellow track stars to see how far she could go. And according to Cain, that’s when everything fell apart.

A big part of this problem is that women and girls are being forced to meet athletic standards that are based on how men and boys develop. If you try to make a girl fit a boy’s development timeline, her body is at risk of breaking down. That is what happened to Cain.

After months of dieting and frustration, Cain found herself choosing between training with the best team in the world, or potentially developing osteoporosis or even infertility. She lost her period for three years and broke five bones. She went from being a once-in-a-generation Olympic hopeful to having suicidal thoughts.

This May, at the age of 23, Cain ran competitively for the first time in 2.5 years and won a four-mile race in NYC.

Update: Shannon Palus writing at Slate about Cain’s recent revelations:

Cain’s story might be superlatively horrifying, and her accusations go well beyond simple misunderstanding of female biology. (They include her coaches essentially ignoring her admission that she was depressed and cutting herself. The Oregon Project was shut down in October, after Salazar was banned from coaching for doping violations.) But the treatment of her weight, and the lack of understanding of how extreme workouts were affecting her body, is part of a much broader problem, and not just one that affects women with large brand partnerships. Many, if not most, female runners, from elite athletes to those training for their first 5Ks, will suffer at some point because of a lack of recognition of their physical needs, and how their bodies differ from men’s.

Update: In a Sports Illustrated article published today, eight other athletes corroborate Cain’s allegations of abuse.

Amid the fallout from Cain’s comments, Sports Illustrated contacted nine former Nike Oregon Project members, including Cain, about the culture under Salazar, and their accounts, extending back to 2008, validate her claims and paint a picture of a toxic culture where female athletes’ bodies were fair game to be demeaned publicly. Multiple authority figures appeared to lack certifications. Former team members now describe it, in retrospect, as “a cult.” Now leaders from the anti-doping world and even Salazar’s de facto successor as coach are calling for a third-party investigation of The Oregon Project.

I was talking with a friend about Cain’s story and how challenging the coach/athlete dynamic is. The nature of coaching is to help athletes to achieve things they cannot accomplish on their own, to push them past what they thought was their best. Pushing boundaries implies the need to be vulnerable, to embrace the unknown, to do things that you may not understand or want to do, and to trust your coach to have you do the correct uncomfortable & seemingly impossible things that will help you excel and not the wrong uncomfortable & seemingly impossible things that will damage your body and mind. From the outside or as an athlete in the midst of training, it can be tough to tell which is which. To have that trust betrayed must be devastating.

How Eliud Kipchoge Broke the Two-Hour Marathon Barrier

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 16, 2019

This past weekend in Austria, Eliud Kipchoge ran the marathon distance of 26.2 miles in 1 hour, 59 minutes, and 40 seconds, the first person in recorded history to break the two-hour marathon barrier, a feat once thought impossible. Wanting to know a bit more about how Kipchoge did it, I watched a pair of videos. The first was from Mike Boyd (who you might have seen learning how to kickflip a skateboard in under 6 hours) and it’s very much from an interested fan’s perspective.

Wired has been following Kipchoge’s attempts at a faster marathon, particularly the technology angle, and in their video, they talk with the Mayo Clinic’s Dr. Michael Joyner, who predicted in a 1991 paper that a sub-2:00 marathon was possible.

Boyd’s video references this paper as well. From a piece that Joyner wrote about his paper:

During the 1980s, ideas emerged about how maximum oxygen consumption, lactate threshold and running economy interacted to determine distance running performance. During medical school around 1985, I started think about how a person could run if he/she had the best laboratory values ever recorded for all three variables. I came up with an estimated time a few seconds faster than 1:58!

So how did Kipchoge run so fast? Well, the answer has to do with another interesting thing about this whole thing: his effort did not set an official world record for the marathon. From The Atlantic, The Greatest, Fakest World Record:

The planning that went into the event was a fantasy of perfectionism. The organizers scouted out a six-mile circuit along the Danube River that was flat, straight, and close to sea level. Parts of the road were marked with the fastest possible route, and a car guided the runners by projecting its own disco-like laser in front of them to show the correct pace. The pacesetters, a murderers’ row of Olympians and other distance stars, ran seven-at-a-time in a wind-blocking formation devised by an expert of aerodynamics. (Imagine the Mighty Ducks’ “flying V,” but reversed.)

Kipchoge himself came equipped with an updated, still-unreleased version of Nike’s controversial Vaporfly shoes, which, research appears to confirm, lower marathoners’ times. He had unfettered access to his favorite carbohydrate-rich drink, courtesy of a cyclist who rode alongside the group. And the event’s start time was scheduled within an eight-day window to ensure the best possible weather.

In an official marathon attempt, you’re not allowed to have pacesetters rotating in and out, refreshment via bicycle, or a pace car lighting the way. They touch on this in the Wired video, but technology has been wrapped up in human athletic achievement for more than a century at least. Compared to a runner competing in 1960 — when the record was 2:15:16, set by Abebe Bikila in bare feet — runners today have the benefit of better training techniques, superior knowledge of human physiology, better shoes, corporate sponsorships & other assistance, lightweight clothes that wick away moisture and don’t chafe, specially designed diets, better in-race nutrition, and, let’s be honest here, performance-enhancing drugs.

Drugs aside, all that is fine to use in an official marathon attempt, but racing alone with pacesetters (or downhill) is verboten. It’s always interesting where they draw the line on the use of technology in athletics. I think the most you can say at this point is that even with all these advantages, Kipchoge is perhaps the only person in the world right now who is capable of breaking the 2-hour barrier. But in two or three years? My guess is that 2 hours will be broken in an actual race in the next 5-7 years, even though a rough linear analysis I just did using men’s marathon record times since 1980 indicates that no one will run under 2 hours until 2033.

Men Marathon Graph

Meet Felipe Nunes, a Skateboarder With No Legs

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 14, 2019

Pro skateboarder Felipe Nunes hails from Brazil, is 20 years old, and recently signed on to Tony Hawk’s Birdhouse team. Nunes also lost both legs when he was six. From an interview with Nunes in Thrasher:

I was six when it happened but the doctors said it was super fast. I didn’t really hesitate because I was so young. I used a wheelchair until about the age of 11. I was a kid who wanted to do everything. Regardless of not having two legs I wanted to do it all. I rode my bike, played soccer, pretty much everything out in front of my house. I was a normal kid. It didn’t even look like I was missing part of my legs. My parents were essential in my recovery because they never stopped me from doing anything. They were afraid of me getting hurt like any parents, but they never held me back. When I wanted to give up the wheelchair and ride the skateboard full time, they let me go.

You can follow Nunes on his latest exploits on Instagram. (via the morning news)

Designing the Baseball Stadium of the Future

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 02, 2019

I really enjoyed this piece by architect Scott Hines on how he would design the next generation of baseball stadiums. He starts by talking about greater community buy-in:

Fans want to feel that the club has bought into them, and a bolder model of fan engagement could give them a real stake in the club’s success. One of the most promising recent trends in North American sports is the way soccer clubs are emulating their European counterparts by developing dedicated supporters’ groups. These independent organizations drive enthusiasm and energy in the ballpark, and make sure seats stay filled.

Instead of just acknowledging and tolerating the supporter group model, we’re going to encourage and codify it in the park’s architecture by giving over control of entire sections of the ballpark to fans. Rather than design the seating sections and concourse as a finished product, we’ll offer it up as a framework for fan-driven organizations to introduce their own visions.

This bit about better integrating stadiums into the fabric of the city particularly caught my eye:

We’re going to take a different approach: we’re throwing open the gates, and offering the stadium up to the street. Instead of simply using design touches to emulate surrounding buildings, we’ll erase the distinction between stadium and surround, and put the backs of those supporters’ sections towards the street. We can’t have cars on a concourse, so a series of pedestrianized streets — like those that have been successfully implemented in urban developments like Las Vegas’s Fremont Street, Kansas City’s Power and Light District, or Louisville’s Fourth Street Live — can place the park smack-dab in the middle of a vibrant, multi-use entertainment district, developed with the same open-handed, community-led process as the park itself.

Will some people be able to catch a glimpse of the game without buying a seat? Sure. The club can make money back by leasing land to the businesses drawn in by that activity. And on slow game days, the district can support the ballpark by bringing in people who might decide to catch a couple innings over a beer after dinner at a nearby restaurant. When the ballpark is bursting at the seams for a playoff game? The crowd can flow through the entire district, expanding the ballpark’s capacity greatly.

If you do a Cmd-F on the piece however, you’ll discover that “parking” or “public transportation” is not mentioned anywhere. If you’re trying to smartly weave a stadium into a city, how people get there is a huge consideration. Massive parking lots and gameday traffic tend to disrupt sleek architectural plans and neighborhoodish feeling while many cities don’t have the public transportation infrastructure to support getting a majority of fans to the game without a car.

Tony Hawk on the 21 Levels of Complexity of Skateboard Tricks

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 26, 2019

Legendary skater Tony Hawk breaks down 21 increasingly complex skateboarding tricks, from a standard ollie to a kickflip to a McTwist to a 1080 to a couple of tricks that have never been done. As someone who has always been in awe of what skaters can do but hasn’t logged much on-board time myself, I learned a lot from this.

See also a beginning skater learning how to do a kickflip in under 6 hours.

Full Metal Gymnast

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 25, 2019

Boston Dynamics programmed their Atlas robot to do a gymnastics routine.

I lost it when it did that little jump split at about 13 seconds in. That looked seriously human in a deeply unsettling way.

Inventive Trials Riding by Fabio Wibmer

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 23, 2019

You may remember my many posts about trials rider Danny MacAskill over the past decade (including Parkour On a Bicycle). Well, the new generation is coming up and in this video, Fabio Wibmer very kindly shows us around his native Austria, flipping, twisting, and flying off every conceivable obstacle. My favorite bit is either the escalator (~1:30) or the vehicular transfers (~5:10).

How to Become Freakishly Good at the Yo-Yo

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 19, 2019

You may not be particularly into the yo-yo, but any expert’s explanation of their particular skill or craft is fascinating. In this video for Wired, world yo-yo champion Gentry Stein explains the sport, shares some basic moves, and shows off his most difficult tricks. I used to yo-yo a bit — nothing like what Stein does in that video though — and watching him makes me want to buy one of these professional yo-yos and practice up.

“I Am Mokgadi Caster Semenya. I Am a Woman, and I Am Fast.”

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 26, 2019

Caster Semenya

For Out magazine, Michelle Garcia profiles track star Caster Semenya.

Immediately after that mind-blowing 800-meter final at the 2009 World Championships, some of Semenya’s fellow competitors went for the jugular. Italy’s Elisa Cusma Piccione (sixth place) insisted she was a man. Russia’s Mariya Savinova (fifth place) urged journalists to “just look at her.” Other athletes whispered, stared, and laughed at her. Then came the IAAF.

Initially, the questions about her drastic improvement were linked to suspicions of doping. When those tests came back negative, she was subjected to rounds of gender testing, reportedly involving analysis by an endocrinologist, a psychologist, a gender expert, an internist; most humiliating was a gynecological exam that included photographing her genitals while her feet were in stirrups. Eventually she was cleared to compete on the international circuit again but not before she missed nearly a year of competition during the IAAF’s deliberation over her test results.

The dirty secret here is that gender testing is common for women athletes — and yes, only women athletes.

I get why this is happening to Semenya — sexism, racism, bureaucracy — but it’s just so fucking ridiculous. Fundamentally, elite athletes are physically and mentally gifted outliers. Like, that’s the definition. They are amazing & marvelous freaks of nature. Their minds and muscles and chemicals and limbs are just hooked up differently from the rest of us. But you didn’t see Michael Phelps being sanctioned for his long arms, Usain Bolt for his height, Bjørn Dæhlie for his VO2 Max, or any number of championship male athletes for their abundant natural testosterone. Semenya is essentially being banned for being better than everyone else…as if that isn’t the goal of athletics.

See also Ariel Levy’s 2009 New Yorker profile of Semenya.

Neil and Buzz Barely Got Out of the Infield

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 18, 2019

Apollo 11 Baseball

With the 50th anniversary of the first crewed landing on the Moon fast approaching, I thought I’d share one of my favorite views of the Moon walk, a map of where Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the Moon, superimposed over a baseball field (bigger). The Lunar Module is parked on the pitcher’s mound and you can see where the two astronauts walked, set up cameras, collected samples, and did experiments.

This map easily illustrates something you don’t get from watching video of the Moon walk: just how close the astronauts stayed to the LM and how small an area they covered during their 2 and 1/2 hours on the surface. The crew had spent 75+ hours flying 234,000 miles to the Moon and when they finally got out onto the surface, they barely left the infield! On his longest walk, Armstrong ventured into center field about 200 feet from the mound, not even far enough to reach the warning track in most major league parks. In fact, the length of Armstrong’s walk fell far short of the 363-foot length of the Saturn V rocket that carried him to the Moon and all of their activity could fit neatly into a soccer pitch (bigger):

Apollo 11 Soccer

Astronauts on subsequent missions ventured much further. The Apollo 12 crew ventured 600 feet from the LM on their second walk of the mission. The Apollo 14 crew walked almost a mile. After the Lunar Rover entered the mix, excursions up to 7 miles during EVAs that lasted for more than 7 hours at a time became common.

Only One of the World Cup-winning US Women’s National Team Is a Mom. That’s Not An Accident.

posted by Tim Carmody   Jul 12, 2019

Jessica McDonald.jpg

It’s pretty well-known now that the US Women’s National Team for soccer is wildly underpaid, particularly relative to their male counterparts. But those low salaries also effect who gets to play on the team and how they live their lives. In the middle of an interview with Into the Gloss, Jessica McDonald explains how she makes it work.

I’m the only mom on the national team [USWNT]. And then amongst the National Women’s Soccer League [NWSL], there are seven of us. It’s so hard, oh my God. The best way I can describe it is that it takes a lot of mental toughness. Of my career in the NWSL, I’ve only played one season where I wasn’t a mom. Trying to figure out a routine is probably the hardest thing, and because I got traded a lot, I had to find new babysitters and child care all the time. Child care in particular was very difficult, because it’s expensive and we don’t get paid much. If I put [my son] in a daycare, that’s my entire paycheck, you know?

It’s not as if this is a problem unique to championship-winning athletes, but come on. You’d like to think, in a semi-just world, the best of the best could afford day care.

The Rock Skipping Robot

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 01, 2019

Mark Rober built a rock skipping robot and by adjusting a bunch of different parameters, he figured out the best way to skip rocks. And no, I completely did not get out a notepad and start jotting down notes while watching this video and there’s no way I’m heading out to one of my favorite rock skipping places tomorrow morning to try out some new techniques. Nope. Not gonna happen. (thx, tom)

Extreme Babysitting from Danny MacAskill

posted by Jason Kottke   May 20, 2019

Remember trials rider Danny MacAskill, who I’ve been covering on kottke.org for over ten years somehow?! In his newest video, he turns babysitting a friend’s young daughter into a death-defying cycling adventure…an oddly tender death-defying cycling adventure somehow.

Stay tuned after the main action for a short making-of feature (no children were harmed, etc. etc.) in which we see Daisy riding a bike of her own!

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Milwaukee’s Refugee Population

posted by Jason Kottke   May 15, 2019

24-year-old NBA superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo has led the Milwaukee Bucks to the Eastern Conference Finals this year, but as a child in Greece, he lived the life of a stateless undocumented immigrant.

Until recently, even the children of African immigrants who were born here found it difficult to secure legal residency, let alone citizenship. Their stateless status denied them national health care, Civil Service jobs and access to sports leagues. Antetokounmpo only gained Greek citizenship six years ago — just as he was about to go to New York for the N.B.A. draft.

“He was given Greek citizenship in order to prevent him from traveling to New York as a Nigerian,” said Nikos Odubitan, the founder of Generation 2.0, an advocacy group that helps second-generation immigrants gain legal status in Greece.

Danny Chau went to Milwaukee to speak with refugees from places like Syria and Myanmar about their lives, their struggles, and their awareness of Antetokounmpo’s story: Giannis Through the Eyes of Milwaukee Refugees.

Kasim serves as a medical interpreter at Aurora Health Care, Wisconsin’s largest home care organization. I walk past the Aurora pharmacy several times during my stay; above one of the entrance gates hand a vinyl FEAR THE DEER banner. I ask Kasim about the Bucks, about what he knows of the professional sports franchise that has brought new life to much of the city this season. For refugees like Kasim, they may as well be from another planet.

“I heard of this, but again, because of the situations, we are a bit away from the sports,” Kasim says. “We don’t have any chance. But now, I come here, I’m working at the community center, at the same time fulfilling other responsibilities, so time is pretty busy. So I don’t get the time to self-care.” Kasim, often solemn and deliberate in his speech, couldn’t help but let out a smile, having essentially wrapped the term “self-care” in sonic air quotes.

I tell him about Giannis.

He lives here in Milwaukee?

About how he’s one of the best basketball players in the world.

He’s from here or he came here with his parents?

About how, as a child, he, too, had no official claim to the home he had always known. About how he would peddle sunglasses, DVDs, and whatever else he could to make 200 or 300 euros a month for his family. And how his status as an undocumented person meant knowing that at any moment, police could ask his parents for their documentation, and that they could be sent back to Nigeria in an instant.

(via @sampotts)

Diego Maradona

posted by Jason Kottke   May 03, 2019

Asif Kapadia, the director of Senna and Amy, has directed a documentary film about footballer Diego Maradona, one of the best to ever lace up the cleats.

Having never won a major tournament, ailing football giant SSC Napoli had criminally underachieved. Their fanatical support was unequalled in both passion and size. None was more feared. But how they ached for success…

On 5th July 1984, Diego Maradona arrived in Naples for a world-record fee and for seven years all hell broke loose. The world’s most celebrated football genius and the most dysfunctional city in Europe were a perfect match for each other.

Maradona was blessed on the field but cursed off it; the charismatic Argentine, quickly led Naples to their first-ever title. It was the stuff of dreams.

But there was a price… Diego could do as he pleased whilst performing miracles on the pitch, but when the magic faded he became almost a prisoner of the city.

The film will debut at Cannes and HBO just bought the TV and streaming rights. Senna is one of my all-time favorite documentaries, so I’m excited for this one.

Update: I’ve embedded the full trailer above and moved the teaser down here:

Update: According to this new teaser trailer, the film debuts on HBO on October 1.

Stunning Overhead View of Shaolin Kung Fu Training Exercises

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 24, 2019

As part of their show Earth From Space, the BBC Earth team shows the coordinated movements of thousands of Shaolin Kung Fu trainees. The number of participants is so large that their movements can easily be seen in a satellite view. I mean:

Shaolin Kung Fu

(via bb)

Alex Honnold Breaks Down Iconic Rock Climbing Scenes

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 01, 2019

I’m not sure I can bring myself to watch Free Solo (my hands are getting sweaty and I’m feeling faint just thinking about it), but watching Alex Honnold critique famous rock climbing scenes from movies like Mission Impossible II, Star Trek V, and Cliffhanger is pretty entertaining and informative.

It’s no surprise that with a few obvious caveats, Tom Cruise’s climbing scene in MI:2 gets high marks. The MI stunt work is always legit.

Hiking Interactions

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 13, 2019

Comedian Miel Bredouw packed every single type of interaction you’re ever going to have with another human being on a hiking trail into a video less than 40 seconds long. As a semi-frequent Vermont hiker (including this recent winter hike), I can vouch for every single one of these. They’re all here: the friendly dog greeting, the sing-song “hello”, the running “excuse me”, and the classic “hey how ya doin?” My go-to is usually the panting “hey”.

Neighborhood Golf Association

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 19, 2019

Street photographer Patrick Barr has been out photographing NYC since the 1990s. Barr also goes by the name of Tiger Hood (or Nappy Gilmore) and when he’s out on the street selling prints of his photographs, he passes the time playing a street golf game of his own invention.

It’s a game that requires only three items: a golf club, a newspaper-stuffed milk carton, and a crate. What was initially just a way for Barr to pass time has gained traction from major news outlets and celebrities on a global scale. However, street golf seems to overshadow his true passion… photography. Barr’s archive consists of thousands of mind blowing film photographs of NYC from the 1990’s to 2000’s. His goal was to preserve a time and place that he predicted would dissolve in the coming years. With his archive as evidence, he predicted correctly.

You can find some of Barr’s photos on Flickr and Instagram but if you want to buy a print, you’ll have to catch him on the streets of lower Manhattan.

Skipping Stones: “Every Throw Is a Complete New Puzzle”

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 08, 2019

In this video, Wired’s Robbie Gonzalez talks to world record stone skipper Kurt Steiner, who achieved 88 skips with a stone in 2013. Steiner shares some of his techniques with Gonzalez and quickly gets him throwing better.

This video might be totally uninteresting to everyone reading this, but I just had to post it. I love skipping rocks. Ever since I was a little kid, it’s been one of my favorite things to do whenever I’m at a lake or quiet river. I may or may not have a stack of stones appropriate for skipping on the shelf next to my spare change jar. My personal record is somewhere in the mid-to-upper 20s…this throw was in that ballpark. After watching Steiner throw, I’m excited to get out in the spring and try hitting the water a little closer (and harder) than I normally do.

Buy the Cheap Thing First

posted by Tim Carmody   Feb 08, 2019

cast iron skillets.jpg

Beth Skwarecki has written the perfect Lifehacker post with the perfect headline (so perfect I had to use it for my aggregation headline too, which I try to never do):

When you’re new to a sport, you don’t yet know what specialized features you will really care about. You probably don’t know whether you’ll stick with your new endeavor long enough to make an expensive purchase worth it. And when you’re a beginner, it’s not like beginner level equipment is going to hold you back…

How cheap is too cheap?

Find out what is totally useless, and never worth your time. Garage sale ice skates with ankles that are so soft they flop over? Pass them up.

What do most people do when starting out?

If you’re getting into powerlifting and you don’t have a belt and shoes, you can still lift with no belt and no shoes, or with the old pair of Chucks that you may already have in your closet. Ask people about what they wore when they were starting out, and it’s often one of those options…

What’s your exit plan?

How will you decide when you’re done with your beginner equipment? Some things will wear out: Running shoes will feel flat and deflated. Some things may still be usable, but you’ll discover their limitations. Ask experienced people what the fancier gear can do that yours can’t, and you’ll get a sense of when to upgrade. (You may also be able to sell still-good gear to another beginner to recoup some of your costs.)

Wearing out your beginner gear is like graduating. You know that you’ve stuck with the sport long enough that you aren’t truly a beginner anymore. You may have managed to save up some cash for the next step. And you can buy the nicer gear now, knowing exactly what you want and need.

This is 100 percent the truth, and applies to way more than just sports equipment. Computers, cooking, fashion, cars, furniture, you name it. The key thing is to pick your spots, figure out where you actually know what you want and what you want to do with it, and optimize for those. Everywhere else? Don’t outwit yourself. Play it like the beginner that you are. And save some scratch in the process. Perfect, perfect advice.

What Time Is the Super Bowl? (According to a Theoretical Physicist)

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 31, 2019

Ever since the Huffington Post struck SEO gold in 2011 with their post about what time the Super Bowl started, pretty much every online publication now runs a similar article in an attempt to squeeze some of Google’s juice into their revenue stream. My “attempt” from last year: What Time Isn’t the Super Bowl?

For this year’s contest, Sports Illustrated decided to ask theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli, author of The Order of Time, his thoughts on time and Super Bowls.

6:30 p.m. is the time the Super Bowl will start in Atlanta. Most of us are not in Atlanta. So for us, the game will start later than that. You need the time for the images to be captured by the cameras, be broadcasted to air or cable, be captured by my TV screen, leave my TV screen, get to my eyes (not to mention the time my brain needs to process and decode the images). You may say this is fast — of course this is fast. But it takes some time nevertheless, and I am a physicist, I need precision. For most of us, the game will actually start some time later than the kickoff in Atlanta.

Not only that, but time moves at different speeds for each of us:

We have discovered that clocks run at different speed depending on how fast they are moved, and depending on how high they are positioned. That’s right, it is a fact: Two equal clocks go out of time with respect each other if one is moved and the other is kept fixed. The same will happen if one is kept, say, above your head, and the other lower, say, at your feet. All this was discovered by Einstein a century ago; for a while it was just brainy stuff for nerds, but today we are sure it is true. A good lab clock can check this, and it is truly true. Your head lives a bit longer than your feet (unless you spend a lot of time upside down).

So, the clock of the guy up in the high sections of the stadium runs faster than the clock of the referee on the field. And Tom Brady’s clock (if he were to wear one) runs slower, because Tom moves fast (okay, maybe not “fast,” but faster than the people sitting and watching him).

P.S. The Super Bowl starts at approximately 6:30pm EST on Feb 3, 2019. (via laura olin)

American Football Commentary, Animated!

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 28, 2019

For this video, freelance animator Nick Murray Willis took the audio from football commentators and made these little animated vignettes to go along with each line. Here’s a sample:

The Bears Have Won

My only complaint about this video is that it was over too quickly. Luckily Willis has done the same thing in videos for NBA, soccer, movie lines, etc.

The World’s Fastest Human on a Bike

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 14, 2019

In 1995, Fred Rompelberg set the record for the fastest speed on a bicycle: 167 mph. In September 2018, drafting behind the same custom-made dragster that Rompelberg used to set his record, Denise Mueller-Korenek smashed that record by almost 17 mph.

Mueller-Korenek mounted a specially equipped bike with a massive gear and tethered it to a race car, which then accelerated to 100-plus mph-the velocity necessary for the rider to turn over the cranks on her own volition. Then she unhooked from the car and stayed in the slipstream, smashing the pedals around to hit the highest speed possible under her own power.

Her speed on her final mile on the Bonneville Salt Flats was 183.93 mph. This short film from WSJ shows how Mueller-Korenek became the world’s fastest human on a bike. The salty maelstrom whipped up as she pushed past 180 is incredible. Tough. As. Nails.

Gritty, the Philly Sports Messiah

posted by Tim Carmody   Dec 14, 2018

Gritty 01.jpg

Like any once-and-hopefully-future resident of the great city of Philadelphia, I’m entranced by Gritty, the new mascot for the Philadelphia Flyers. Now, full disclosure: the Flyers were not one of the teams I initially adopted when I moved to Philadelphia, because my hometown Detroit Red Wings were still great in 2002, and so I was all set, hockey-wise. I picked up the New York Rangers when I moved to New York in 2012, when Henrik Lundqvist was winning Vezinas and stunting on fools. But Gritty is sufficiently compelling that I might have to add the Flyers to the Eagles, Phillies, and Sixers, becoming a full Philadelphia sports fan.

Why is Gritty captivating the world? Is it because or despite of his muppet-like googly eyes and shaggy appearance? I mean, when you really dig into it, it’s not like there’s a whole lot there. But a sufficiently advanced cipher can become a multilayered text to the devout, and that’s what’s happened with Gritty. Fans turned what was briefly an object of ridicule into an icon of devotion. And a legend was born.

For a deeper look into the Gritty phenomenon, seek no further than The Ringer, the website that was designed from its origins in the late, beloved Grantland to get to the bottom of sports questions like this. Michael Baumann’s “The Monster In The Mirror” is insightful, and nearly exhaustive, in answering why people inside and outside of Philadelphia have taken to Gritty so strongly. It also doubles as a psychological profile of one of my favorite cities and their sports fans.

Some excerpts:

In the past two and a half months, Gritty has proven to be an overwhelming success as a mascot. More than that, he’s become a legitimate cultural phenomenon, a weird and scary avatar for a weird and scary time. He is all things to all people.

“Gritty is fairly appalling, pretty insurrectionary for a mascot, and I don’t think there’s any question that that’s our kind of symbol,” says Helen Gym, an at-large member of the Philadelphia City Council. “There’s nothing more Philly than being unapologetically yourself.”

And:

The Flyers, Raymond says, had long resisted the idea of creating a mascot, at the insistence of founding owner Ed Snider, whom Raymond calls “old-school.” The Flyers unveiled a furry mascot called Slapshot in 1976 but quickly shelved it, leaving the team without a mascot for more than 40 years. But after Snider’s death in 2016, the team’s marketing department pushed ownership to reconsider, Raymond says, and after overcoming so much institutional inertia, they weren’t going to be half-hearted about their new mascot.

One part of doing a mascot right, Raymond says, is sticking to the bit no matter what, rather than submitting the mascot to the public for approval, a lesson learned from the Sixers’ failed mascot vote in 2011. Philadelphians, and people on the internet in general, can sense uncertainty and will punish it.

On Gritty’s Hensonian roots:

Mascots are always at least a little silly and ridiculous because at their core, they’re created more for children than adults. Gritty is no exception. His hands squeak, and his belly button—which Raymond calls a “woobie”—is a brightly colored outie. The woobie, says Raymond, was the brainchild of Chris Pegg, who plays Rockey the Redbird for the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds and is a mutual friend of Raymond and Flyers senior director of game presentation Anthony Gioia.

When the Flyers unveiled such a weird, menacing mascot, it brought to mind something Frank Oz said about his longtime collaborator and Muppets creator Jim Henson: “He thought it was fine to scare children. He didn’t think it was healthy for children to always feel safe.” According to Raymond, in any sufficiently large group of children, a mascot, even a familiar one, will make at least one of them cry. Not Gritty.

“I’d never seen a mascot rollout anywhere where I didn’t see at least one kid running, crying in terror, trying to grab on to their mother’s legs,” Raymond says of the Please Touch Museum rollout. “I didn’t see any of that [with Gritty]. The kids were dancing and hollering and calling for him to come over, but no kid looked terrified.”

And on Gritty’s additional incarnation as the subject and vehicle for leftist political memes:

Some Gritty memes, however, are not just funny or scary, but overtly political. Gym’s resolution addressed this issue head-on; “non-binary leftist icon” was one of the descriptions quoted in the resolution. The resolution itself goes on to praise Gritty for his status as a political symbol: “Gritty has been widely declared antifa, and was subject to attempted reclamation in the editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal. It has been argued that he ‘conveys the absurdity and struggle of modern life under capitalism’ and that he represents a source of joyful comic respite in a time of societal upheaval.”…

“The great thing about memes—as ridiculous as this sounds—is they create an instant mass internet mobilization,” FWG says. “Memes can be used to perpetuate systematic oppression, or they can be used to burn down the prison-industrial system or talk about police brutality.”

This identity is independent from — this is to say, it has been thoroughly stolen from — Gritty’s original role as a corporate sports mascot.

There’s a danger to wrapping up one’s identity in anything one can’t control, whether it’s an artist, a sports team, or a fuzzy orange monster. And if Gritty played it safe, he’d stop being worth investing in; the reason Gritty is so popular is because he’s weird and unpredictable in a way that isn’t cultivated to be “edgy.” Fear of being let down might just be the price of trying to live with empathy in a society that frequently elevates the cruel. It’s worth thinking about something FWG said: that their Gritty is not the same thing as the Flyers mascot.

“I think that the spirit of Gritty will be fulfilled through the proletariat,” FWG says. “As the spirit of Gritty moves people, that’s how the people will act.”

This is serious business! But as Walter Benjamin wrote, in a time of crisis, the here-and-now becomes shot through with messianic time. Gritty recalls the Phillie Phanatic, Sesame Street’s muppets, and Blastaar from the Fantastic Four, but puts all of their energy to use in a sense of futurity, that hope for the future that sports fandom echoes, however dimly. To quote Benjamin again:

It is well-known that the Jews were forbidden to look into the future. The Torah and the prayers instructed them, by contrast, in remembrance. This disenchanted those who fell prey to the future, who sought advice from the soothsayers. For that reason the future did not, however, turn into a homogenous and empty time for the Jews. For in it every second was the narrow gate, through which the Messiah could enter.

It’s ridiculous to see Gritty, the googly-eyed, outie-bellybuttoned Philadelphia Flyers mascot, as a messianic figure of the revolutionary left. But is that any more ridiculous than everything else that is happening in our fucked-up present? No. No, it is not.

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James Niehues: The Man Behind the Map

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 11, 2018

I’ve you’ve ever skied or snowboarded in the US, Canada, or many other spots around the world, chances are you’ve used a ski map painted by James Niehues. He’s hand-painted almost 200 trail maps for places like Alta, Vail, Big Sky, Okemo, and Mammoth.

Ski Magazine regularly ranks the Top 50 resorts in North America. Jim has hand painted 45 of them. His tools of choice are a camera, a notepad, a paintbrush and a canvas. Every painstaking detail — peaks, cliffs, trees and shadows — is painted by hand. Jim’s large and beautiful paintings have helped generations of skiers navigate and capture the unique character of each mountain. He has had more impact on the image and feel of skiing than almost anyone, yet few people know his name.

With the help of a small team, Niehues is publishing a hardcover coffee table book featuring all of his work along with a series of prints. Here are a couple of the maps that will be in the book:

Niehues Maps 01

Niehues Maps 02

The Best Table Tennis Shot of 2018

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 27, 2018

This is probably the craziest and most unlikely table tennis shot you will ever see. Just watch. The guy who pulls it off is Christopher Chen from the Trondheim Table Tennis Club in Norway. I haven’t watched ESPN in years so I don’t know if “getting on SportsCenter” is as big a deal as it used to be, but if so, this should get on SportsCenter.

See also the table tennis volley that sounds like the Super Mario Bros theme song and The Community of the Tables.

Scuba Diving in an Underwater Wheelchair

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 21, 2018

For a cultural program to accompany the 2012 Olympics in London, artist Sue Austin created a video of herself exploring a coral reef in a wheelchair outfitted with motors and wings to help it steer and go through the water.

It’s a tiny bit surreal to see how freely she moves around in something that many of us associate with an absence of a particular type of movement. But as Austin explains in her 2013 TED Talk, she thinks of her wheelchair in terms of freedom of movement, which is highlighted for others by the underwater video. (via colossal)