Is Sportswriting a Dying Art?
"What Bert Sugar doesn’t know about baseball,
nobody knows," reads a quote from the great Yankees catcher Yogi Berra
on the back of Sugar's new book about the Baseball Hall of Fame. While
Sugar admits he doesn't know exactly what Berra means, it's clear in his
Big Think interview that
what he doesn't know about sports isn't a heck of a lot.
Sugar, who has written over 50 books (mostly about baseball and boxing), is a cigar-chomping panama-hat-wearing sportswriter and commentator in the tradition of Damon Runyon. And he laments that he's of a soon-to-be-extinct species. One of the big problems Sugar sees with the younger generation of sportswriters is that the demands of the Internet mean they don't have the opportunity to think enough about what they're writing. "They don’t have a discipline," he says. "Once they state a subject, they can go on. There’s no space restraint. And they’re writing quickly, so there’s no time for thought and cerebral thinking on an article, they’re just banging away."
Known as one of the foremost experts on professional boxing, Sugar also spoke about some of the more cerebral aspects of the "sweet science." "Sometimes the man’s IQ ain’t too high, but his boxing IQ is. So, you watch them think. You know, yes, it’s instinctive, but they’ve had—they’ve learned. You have to understand, the word 'experience' really is 'learning from mistakes.' That’s experience, just learning from mistakes. And everyone has made a mistake whether they won or lost because of it, they put that into their, sort of mental computer, thou shalt not do it again." He also spoke about some of the problems he sees in the sport today—namely that the best heavyweight boxers have gotten too heavy.
Sugar thinks the steroids scandal in baseball isn't as big a deal as the press has made it out to be. He thinks that the advantages that performance-enhancing drugs give some players are offset by all of the other little ways that players get edges elsewhere. "Baseball has always dealt in edges," says Sugar. "The Phillies used to raise their third base foul line—extra lime—so that Richie Ashburn’s bunts would stay there. The Cleveland Indians used to grow the grass higher at third base so Al Rosen, the third baseman wouldn’t break his nose or his fingers on every ground ball. It would slow it down. In the 1962 playoffs between the Dodgers and the Giants—by that time, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants—they watered the base paths so Maury Wills couldn’t get off to a fast start and steal bases. That’s legal, steroids aren’t. You know, all right. I don’t get that excited about it."
Finally, he shares his pick for the best baseball player ever to play the game—a certain rotund pitcher-turned-outfielder whose curse kept the Red Sox without a World Series title for the better part of the 20th Century.
Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.
- Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
- Alcohol's effects on the brain range from temporarily limiting mental activity to sustained brain damage, depending on levels consumed and frequency of use.
- Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.
- The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
- The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
- It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
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