HBO’s Real Sports is showing a segment on cockfighting, so I appeared on Marc Daniels’ The Beat of Sports show on Orlando’s 96.9 The Game this morning to talk about the cockers I met and talked with while reporting on cockfighting for VICE Sports.
“The fate of the Cedar Creek Nuclear Power Plant, the self-styled “safest plant in the world,” looks fairly secure, all things considered.
There’s a terrorist placing C4 while another provides covering fire, but they are only two men and the Counter-Terrorist Unit, with their superior numbers, are swarming the bomb site. And you are adjacent to the terrorist in overwatch position, with the entire conflict laid out below—a deific perspective usually impossible, or at least highly unusual, to achieve in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. But virtual reality is changing how we can watch esports, and as the desperate fight to set off or defuse the bomb reaches a fever pitch right, you could simply tilt your head up to where a giant screen floating in the sky displays the down-the-barrel view so familiar to video gamers and figure out where things stand in the semi-final round of the Intel Extreme Masters CS:GO competition at Oakland’s Oracle Arena.”
“Halweg was laying out transmission pieces on the garage’s back table in anticipation of the more that were coming and was taking advantage of her bike’s forced downtime to do some maintenance work. Her 1983 Harley-Davidson Ironhead’s gas tank was licked with flames the kind of supernatural green you’d have seen on a Juicy J shirt in the mid-aughts, tipped with chartreuse, a perfectly iconic bit of motorcycle adornment she admitted she almost got rid of until she got matching grips—these sparkle-like fishing lures—and a seat, which makes the whole green thing look badass. Unfortunately, the Ironhead is one of those temperamental, needy kinds of beasts who regularly finds itself under the wrench.”
“For decades, analog sports athletes were little more than grist for the mill. Before the rise of free agency, players had little to no control over which team they would play—and bleed and hazard bodily harm—for. Before the outcry over concussions suffused sports, hundreds of players had their brains beaten into jelly with little more than faded press clippings and souvenirs for severance. They had to organize and fight in the 1960s and 70s for salaries commensurate with both their sought-after skills and their sports’ ballooning profits.
Traditional sports learned these lessons the hard way, in other words, and their involvement in esports may expedite the learning curve for their digital brethren. The well-being of players may very well become baked into esports structures from their earliest days, rather than needing to be shoehorned in generations after the fact—and hopefully mitigating some of the potential downsides of professionalization. Organizations like the PEA may serve as the beginning of player’s associations and unions to protect esports athletes from being fleeced financially, as well as providing them with economic agency. Combine this with the analytic muscle and arms-race mentality of traditional sports, and a jump in skill and strategy could be forthcoming, as well.”
“There was a benevolent power that drove Rider’s skating, an application of force with the kind of precision and appeal normally limited to conversations about boxers and smart missiles. He struck difficult tricks with such seeming effortlessness that it requires repeated viewings—maybe two, or even three or four—to register just how fucking fast he is skating, how high he is snapping, how tall the ledges and rails he is blessing are, how truly ridiculous every trick is, a man launching himself with a blink-and-you-miss-it savagery before alighting like a premier danseur.“
“Athletes, like everyone else, suffer from mental-health issues—ailments generally far more difficult to assess than a pulled muscle or broken bone. Unlike everyone else, however, athletes perform in controlled, quantified environments. A person who isn’t in training doesn’t always have crystal-clear markers for how an anxiety disorder impacts their life, but an athlete faces cold numbers every time they step on the field: distances run, assists made, goals scored, games won.”
“The Coast Guard and Merchant Marines work closely together. Outside of the military purview of the Navy, the two services are responsible for practically all the nation’s goings-on at sea. Their students experience a maritime life few others ever live, with on-board training every summer for the Coasties and for an entire year at Kings Point. Perhaps it is this familiarity that sparks such competitive fire on the gridiron each fall; as in a sibling rivalry, the knowledge that those across the field from you are motivated by the same desires, live the same rigorous days, and are destined for a familiar future is trumped by the burning need to assert internecine dominance: same conquering same.”
“That “entertainment factor” is what led NBC to promote Weir and Lipinski to the top broadcasting slot for figure skating in the run up to PyeongChang 2018, and propelled them to be the delightfully different voices at such venerable sporting institutions as the Super Bowl and the Kentucky Derby and, now, the Summer Olympics. It is what keeps their social media feeds humming with roughly half a million followers, and also what caused my non-sports-fan friends to gush pronouncements of love for the pair when I told them about my assignment, and that is what makes them so important. In a sports-media landscape choked with old white guys offering hot takes, where antiquated notions of toughness and “honor” are conflated with masculinity and used to obfuscate or excuse violence and misogyny, Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski bring something beyond entertainment and knowledge. They bring inclusiveness.”
“The tennis player, the golfer, the free-throw taker or field-goal kicker or fustian batter with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth—all are under the kind of immense pressure from which our most precious natural resources are made, and those who transmute in the heat and weight are paid like the valuable commodity they are.”
In honor of Go Skateboarding Day, some of my writing on skateboarding: