Dear Dust

Sports are terrible now. The NFL is in the middle of a lockout because the millions they’re all making isn’t enough. MLB has seen two no-hitters this year and fans continue to stay away from ballpark. Even the media are having a hard time to find compelling stories to highlight. The NBA is a joke — players collude in the off season to determine what team to play for, demanding salaries that could relieve entire nations of health and medical problems. Tiger Woods was the reason to watch golf and now he can’t make it through nine holes. Seriously, do sports suck so hard?

All Blows


Dear Blows

I read a very interesting anthropological report a few years ago. Some French researchers spent ten years radio tagging and observing the two dominant groups of orangutans in the jungles of Madagascar. They discovered that every year, as the dry season approached, the males from each group would participate in a bloody battle. The winners would be ceded rights to territory, as well as a certain number of females from the other group. Invariably, fortunes were reversed the following year, so territory and females were traded back and forth, while the corpses piled up. What’s interesting is that during the eleventh year of observation, one of the groups was stricken with a disease, and almost all of them died. There was no dry season battle. So the remaining group went to war with itself. It staged a contest where there was no territory or females at stake. They killed off a third of their own tribe, entirely for sport.

It appears we are not the only ones hardwired to find release through violence, choreographed or otherwise. Which would lead me to believe that sports “suck” because there are no actual corpses, territory, or prize females at stake. On any given broadcast, during the endless truck and beer commercials occasionally leavened with reenactments of lower primate mayhem, there is a complete absence of true consequence. This is because certain monkeys are paid huge sums to strap on helmets and absorb the punishment for us. They are glorified to the point of infantilism, a conferred regency for the ability to leap unusually high or shoulder another to the ground with maximum force. All while the rest of the tribe watches from a safe distance. Or at least a flat screen. Sports suck because we have long ceded the right to join in the violence, and can therefore never be happy. Every weekend, in our deepest pre-conscious brains, while pretending to cheer, we sublimate the all-encompassing shame of not participating. Of not baring teeth and pulling fur. Of not snapping femur and dragging off a new mate by the tail. This simultaneously relieves and enrages us. It is an exercise in impotence. And so, because it is the only release left to us, we bitch about the coach and the general manager and the owner. We bitch about players and salaries, gilding memories of “the old days” when athletes were tougher, less money-conscious, and somehow better people. We whine about schedules and uniforms and rules changes. We scream about conspiracies and fixes and payoffs. We bitch, because bitching is the only recourse left to those who prefer a sedentary and voyeuristic fandom to the danger of getting their fur bloody. The question, really, is not why sports suck, but why don’t sports suck so much worse?


Dear Dust

Big Roethlisberger fan from Ohio here. Found this site from my Ben google alerts, which led to some article about the date rape thing, which lead to your Mike Vick comments. On the article, lots of smoke but no fire, was essentially nonsense and money grubbing. Did you know girls follow NBA teams and then keep the rubbers after they have sex and impregnate themselves with them? Paternity suit in a bag. It’s true. Groupies want to be near guys and bling, they’ll do anything. Haunt team hotels,bars and clubs. Anyway, I have a question and thought you were the one too ask. Do you pussies know anything about sports at all? So, if not, why are they talking about it?

Tom A.



Dear Tom

The Roethlisberger situation is interesting to me in the sense that it brings up a lot of questions about why we view athletes the way we do, and the breadth of our expectations for them. My understanding of his case, and admittedly this comes without doing the reading I should–mostly because my research budget was slashed in half by Helmsman Listi last month–is that your hero Ben forced himself on a woman in a bar bathroom while they were both drunk. A bodyguard blocked the door. Roethlisberger wanted sex and the woman wanted proximity, and during the negotiation he failed to cease groping her when she asked him to. She says he had sex with her. He says they just messed around. Apparently there wasn’t enough DNA evidence to charge him with sexual assault in court, but his behavior was deemed sufficiently ugly to suspend him for six games under the NFL’s morals clause. I don’t know what really happened in that bathroom, and I don’t know if anyone but Roethlisberger and his accuser do either. It wasn’t the first incident of this type he has been connected with. In any case, I can’t say I found another episode in the long line of athletes taking advantage of their celebrity to either cajole or demand sexual favors particularly surprising. Many months later, when the incident was resolved, at least legally, I was interested by what seemed to be a fairly genuine public reappraisal by Roethlisberger. He did a few interviews where he said he’d had an epiphany. After facing a judge, and real consequences, he suddenly realized that he’d been acting like an asshole for years, in almost every facet of his life. He confessed to being arrogant, rude and entitled. He’d said he’d taken to drinking too much and treating women poorly and mooching random sex (not really his exact words, but I read between the lines.) He finished by admitting he was not the person he wanted to be, was raised to be, or intended to be in the future. Now, perhaps these confessions were all orchestrated by his agent and comprise nothing more than a cynical ploy to get him back on the field and cashing paychecks. But looking into his eyes, I half-believed him. And I’m fascinated by instances where people, in whatever circumstances, and for whatever reason, come to profound realizations about themselves. And further, begin the process of enacting real change in their lives. Mostly because I think it’s rare. The majority of us pass the years imbued with a degree of certitude, and don’t much waver from it, if for no other reason than that the severity of our “bad” experiences are not sufficient enough to force us to. It’s possible that because of the “bathroom incident’ and the resultant publicity, loss of career, and potential jail time, Roethlisberger truly altered his behavior. It’s possible he’s become a better person, son, teammate, and sexual being. Maybe for the first time in his life he’s having genuine emotional connections with women. Or maybe it was all bullshit–he’s giddy he got away with rape or something like it, and he’s just biding his time until he can do it again.

I don’t know. But what I do know is that in any of these highly publicized instances of athlete misbehavior, we rarely take into account the ingrained mindset of the people we’re talking about. Most high-level athletes have done little of cultural consequence during a youth dominated with training and performing. They rarely interact with those outside of their sport. They don’t take a year off to backpack in Europe, or spend the summer smoking pot and reading comics, or take courses in classical literature, go on protest marches, or play in a cover band. They were likely identified at a very early age for their physical gifts, and have been isolated, coddled, and constantly told that they were special ever since. I am quite sure I was at least half an asshole when I was eighteen. I can’t imagine what the percentage would have been had I been handed a thirty million dollar contract. Or had a super bowl ring by time I was twenty-two. Or had endorsements and personal assistants and people screaming my name wherever I went, not to mention women jostling for my autograph every time I stepped off the team bus. I’d like to think my ethical foundations, which I had already spent some time exploring, would have stood firm. But I’ll never know.

People always complain about “the modern athlete,” either due to the money they make or their increasingly egotistical behavior, traipsing out the same tired cliche that hasn’t been true since 1938: “they get paid a fortune to play a kid’s game.” Well, most athletes do get paid a fortune. And there is certainly a measure of fame and glory. But they’re also getting paid for grueling year-round physical training and all the sacrifices it entails. They’re on the road half of any season, living out of a suitcase and staying in hotels, which for security and publicity reasons are difficult to leave. In a cell phone camera/stalker society, they’re constantly vigilant about what they do or say, lest it end up on ESPN the next morning, or the crime blotter at night. They handle huge sums of money with very little real-world experience, often parceling it out among jealous family and friends. Playing means performing, in front of huge live crowds and even larger TV audiences. They are doomed to fail (not score, not hit, not throw a touchdown, lose, fumble, strike out, let the winning goal into the net) again and again on a national stage. They are contractually bound to answer tedious and ridiculous questions before and after every game. They can never lose their temper. Never say anything the least bit controversial. Never make a sexist joke, or a racial comment, or say anything that offends any particular group of fans without immediate protests and boycotts and rounds of pre-written apologies. They are expected to sign autographs and found charities and visit hospitals. They are often pilloried for not being “authentic” enough off the field. Pilloried for being too black. Pilloried for not being black enough. At the mercy of radio and talk shows and magazines for every personality flaw or example of temperament which fails to display the requisite humility, graciousness, and good humor. All of which really means not frightening white fans over the course of an analysis which takes place during the 24 hour sports news cycle, in living rooms around the country. Oh, and on top of all that, perform. Consistently perform, against all mathematical odds. Hit .300. Average 4 yards a carry. Have a plus/minus of at least 6. Have a first-serve percentage of 89. Snag 12 interceptions a year. Don’t fall down, don’t be slow, don’t throw the ball away, don’t commit an error.

Very, very few fans who feel perfectly comfortable casting aspersions and demanding better performance could balance these same demands, let alone admit that they most certainly do not take place under the auspices of a “kid’s game.”

Of course, none of this excuses sexual assault or any other egregious behavior. But it does bring us closer to understanding where the sense of entitlement, detachment, callousness, and shocking immaturity comes from. In fact, it always amazes me that most athletes handle themselves so well. I am astonished there aren’t more arrests, more deaths, more crimes, a higher rate of suicide. Especially among football players. Before the Roethlisberger whispers started, he crashed a motorcycle while not wearing a helmet, apparently hitting a car head-first. Google Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE. Google Dementia Pugilistica. The high rate of neurodegenerative disease among even very young football players is the dirty secret of the NFL, one they have ignored for decades and is only now beginning to be talked about, in the same way that steroid use was “discovered” in baseball eight years ago. By the end of this decade, football will no longer exist as we know it, or perhaps not at all, when it is learned exactly what the true long term costs of running full speed into another body are.

Maybe Big Ben got smacked in the head too many times.

Or maybe he’s just an asshole.

Either way, by the end of next season, his brain will be significantly more damaged than it is today.

Finally, Tom, in terms of us here being pussies? Yeah, it’s probably true. Writers are rarely athletic, tough, or particularly cool. But you spent the time to read and consider those other articles, and presumably this one as well. Which seems to me a small victory, because, if nothing else, I will never spend a single moment watching you watch football.



Dear Dust

Why don’t you ever mention Canada? More to the point, why don’t you ever mention hockey? Unlike America, we did not sell out our people by deregulating the banks. And unlike the talent level in other sports, which has decreased due to apathy, huge salaries, and league expansion, today’s hockey players are more fearsome and skillful than ever. The hits continue to be brutal, the games are fast-paced and there are plenty of compelling players to follow. If ever there was a time for hockey to rise to prominence in the US, it’s now. The Dust getting on board would be a big help. Thanks!

The Nordique



Dear Nordique

Hockey remains a minor sport in America for three reasons:

1. Most of us didn’t grow up playing it, and so the rules aren’t second nature. More damaging, the unfamiliarity with the game makes it difficult for Americans to envision themselves performing icy heroics, and thus even the best Bruins/Habs nail-biter will always be far less fulfilling than a single fantasy dunk over Lebron.

2. While it may not be fair or accurate, on a base intellectual level, there is something disconcertingly feminine about men on skates. Which means, by extension, that hockey is gay. While it is certainly time for an all-gay sport to rise in both America and Canada, finally giving us common ground to put aside decades of animus and border antagonism, I’m seeing something along the lines of Sweatiest Twinks or Competitive Fashion Dont’s as more likely to land all-important sponsorship and endorsement deals.

3. The NHL commissioner, Gary Bettman, is a moron. Hockey has no television deal. Television is sports. Broadcasting hockey on Versus is like listening to Fleetwood Mac on 8-track. The playoffs have been going on for a month and a majority of the country hasn’t seen a single game. Do you remember when boxing became irrelevant in America? It was during the mid-eighties, exactly the same time it went to pay-per-view. The sport barely exists any more, due to short term greed. When boxing was on ABC every Friday night, poor kids across the country grew up wanting to be Marvin Hagler or Leon Spinks. There is not a single kid in the world, except possibly those who grew up eating two-headed carrots outside Chernobyl, who wants to be Vitaly Klitchko. If Bettman weren’t a moron, he would lease broadcast rights to CBS for free for a decade. Even after giving his product away at a loss, once 8 year-olds who play with Matchbox cars while hockey flickers in the background grow up and become nostalgic and sedentary young professionals, the sport will explode.

4. I was kidding about hockey being gay. It’s more like super frenetic bi-curious, but with way fewer teeth.



Most sincerely,


The Dust




Ask Me Anything.

Talk Shit. Be Vulnerable.

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J. ANGELUS DUST is not much interested in biography. J. Angelus Dust wants to know where it hurts.

90 responses to “Ask The Dust – Vol. 25”

  1. SAA says:

    All of the above on Ben Roethlisberger. He is, and always has been, a calculating douche bag.

  2. Becky Palapala says:

    1. I don’t know that sports fans are non-participants. And it’s disingenuous to talk about athletes as if they’re big dumb drooling animals who have been lured involuntarily out of the wild, strapped with equipment and thrown into the fighting ring to act out their basest impulses so others don’t have to. Like most cross-sections of humans, athletes are smart and stupid, interesting & boring, more aggressive or less aggressive, meaner & nicer, etc. etc. There’s a kind of de-humanizing intellectual fetishism to your perspective and a clear lack of understanding of the mental rigors, judgment, strategy, psychology, etc. inherent in sport, especially at a professional level.

    Whenever I hear someone looking down his/her nose, carrying on (even if only in a sideways fashion) about how sport & competition is abject and low, full of senseless violence, commune-hostile competition, ogres, and tits, all I can ever think is, “There goes a human who sucks at sports.”

    I mean, it’s both okay and possible to be both an intellectual and physical force. To be both smart and an unapologetic sports fan. To have a quick wit and a wicked slapshot.

    Which leads me to the most important thing here: The source of All Blows’ problem is that s/he is not watching hockey. Those other sports suck because they’re not real sports.

    2. *raises hand* I know quite a bit about hockey (though admittedly, I have not followed this season closely). Reno knows about football. I’m sure someone knows about basketball, but I’m not sure why anyone would care. Richard knows about golf…umm…who else?

    They don’t take a year off to backpack in Europe, or spend the summer smoking pot and reading comics, or take courses in classical literature, go on protest marches, or play in a cover band.

    Pretty sure this is the young adulthood recipe for the creation of an insufferable, condescending, beige bourgeois douchebag. I mean, it could turn out well, but odds are against it. Just saying. I’m pretty sure I see this guy sitting shirtless on the quad singing songs about commercial whaling and snorting cocaine. Fuck that guy.

    3. You’re not just a person who can’t play sports, you’re a hostile, provincial warm-weather American as well!

    Hockey players have knives on their feet, carry bludgeoning instruments, and are encouraged to crash into each other with violent force. Only willful delusion could find something effeminate in this scenario.

    It’s okay, Nordique. Not all Americans are so ignorant or athletically incompetent as The Dust.

    There may be just enough TNBers–both contributors and readers–who enjoy hockey to put together a pick-up game.

    I play D. Who’s in?

    • Fabian says:

      Hi, I’m Fabian, The Dust’s personal assistant. Thanks for your query, Becky Palapala! Mr. Dust says:

      “It’s possible that I’m ignorant, although the fact that I’m willing to entertain the possibility makes me think at the very least I am ignorant-lite. In any case, as I do every day, I will wake up tomorrow and try to learn something new.”

  3. I’ve never met a Canadian I didn’t like (and I’ve met lots of Canadians).

    The San Jose Sharks’ Jamal Mayers is my cousin.

    I’m not sure how or even if this contributes to the debate, but there it is.

    • pixy says:

      ditto to the canadians bit.


      • Admittedly I’ve never met Celine Dion or Aileen Wuornos, but all the others seem very sound.

        Actually Wuornos seemed quite pleasant in that documentary by one of my favourite Englanders, Nick Broomfield.

        • pixy says:

          i don’t know. i mean… celine dion conducts electricity here at about 1:39. and the rest of the video is pretty hilarious. anyone who can be that much of a jackass knowing that a camera is on her all the time is kinda ok in my book, irrespective of the shitty music she’s plagued the word with.

        • Fabian says:

          Hi, I’m Fabian, The Dust’s personal assistant. Thanks for your query, Steve Sparshott! Mr. Dust says:

          “I can think of nothing more terrifying than Aileen Wuornos’ eyes in that movie. The mixture of fury and psychosis in each electric pupil haunts me still. Although perhaps not as completely as those of Courtney Love in Broomfield’s Cobain doc.”

  4. Sarah says:

    What Becky said.

    In addition, I will agree with Dust that one of hockey’s biggest problems is marketing and the lack of visibility. I think if everyone sat and watched one full hockey game it could surpass basketball as the #3 sport in the U.S. Football will always be #1 and I still feel baseball is #2. Hockey is exciting and great because of the speed and constant motion. You may think the skates pussifies the sport, but on top of the fact that, as Becky says, there are sharp weapons on their feet, they are moving more often than not. Each team gets one time out PER GAME. None of this NBA crap where the last two minutes of game time take a half-hour of real time to play.

    And anyone who says athletes are “just” anything is obviously not an athlete. You hit a 95 mph fastball 400 feet. You rush a quarterback with a 350 lb man grabbing you and pulling you down. You jump five feet off the ground to dunk over a 7 ft tall man with freakishly long arm extended over his head in your face. You stop a puck coming at your face at 150 mph while on ice, on steel blades, with four people blocking your angles and view. They aren’t “just” anything. They are people with exceptional talent and a skill level that surpasses 98% of the planet’s population. Because their talents and skills are funneled into that tiny niche does not negate how wonderful it is.

    I also refuse to listen to anyone complain about how overpaid athletes are if the complainant watches one second of televised sports, owns one team affiliated T-shirt or has ever attended a live game. An athlete’s salary is supply and demand in its simplest Economics 101 form. If you build it, they will come. If you pay hundreds of millions to build a championship caliber team, the people will come and empty their wallets of their hard earned money to cheer you on. Don’t like it? Don’t watch or don’t go. It’s not like those millions of dollars, were they not spent on athletes, would go to the starving and needy in a third world country. In fact, more money is probably distributed to worthy causes *because* these guys get paid so much money – between their personal donations and the charities they champion that get major donations due to that player’s fame.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      The myth of charitable redirection of wealth.

      Working where I do, I see it all the time.

      The student paper is full of the activist, Europe-backpacking, pot-smoking, culturally contributory individuals the Dust describes, pompously and completely idiotically carrying on about how the University should redirect the money it spends on athletics to Liberal Arts scholarships.

      What is idiotic about it is that without athletics, the University doesn’t have any of that money and then some.

      The athletics departments are, in a manner of speaking, already keeping the arts afloat in Universities, already helping to keep tuition lower, in the form of parking fees, concessions, other direct and indirect income directed towards general and discretionary funds.

      Nevermind the incredible sums of money that come in the form of charitable donations dedicated specifically to support of athletics. If a University is paying a coach’s salary out of an athletics fund to which donors have given specifically for the support of athletics it is against the law for the University to spend the money in any other way. It would constitute misappropriation of charitable funds. People imagine that University money is all just in one giant account and checks can be cut wherever the University wants, with the University choosing athletes over artists. Not the case.

      Not the exact same thing you’re talking about, Sarah, but similar. People who talk like that, like the huge sums of money circulating in sports would still exist and suddenly go to feeding the homeless if sports didn’t exist have not stopped to think about what they’re saying.

      • Sarah says:

        “People who talk like that, like the huge sums of money circulating in sports would still exist and suddenly go to feeding the homeless if sports didn’t exist have not stopped to think about what they’re saying.”

        Thank you. Very often you manage to succinctly and clearly state what I mean yet clearly fumble.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          I have my own reservations about the prominence of athletics in higher education, don’t get me wrong.

          I feel like I have to make that clear. I’m a worshiper at the altar of the academy, and, hockey fan or not, am an admitted elitist in that way.

          But part of being an elitist is looking down my nose at people who don’t think. And people who talk like this are saying things that have no basis in reality.

    • Sarah says:

      And for the record, I’m a huge, huge fan of all four major sports. I have my pecking order, sure, but am a third generation die hard of all four, proudly raising a fervent fourth.

      I do, however, talk hockey up as much as possible, as I see all the time it never gets the attention and love it deserves. Especially playoff hockey. It has an atmosphere of 60 minutes of sudden death overtime. Seriously. I urge everyone to find the Bruins/Lightning game tonight and give it a good 15-20 minutes. It’s 20 minutes of your life. You can spare it. You might even become a fan.

      (Go B’s!)

      • Fabian says:

        Hi, I’m Fabian, The Dust’s personal assistant. Thanks for your query, Sarah! Mr. Dust says:

        “I grew up wanting to be either Jim Rice or Ray Bourque.”

  5. jonathan evison says:

    . . . brilliant, as always, dust . . . just letting you know: if a certain personal assistant-slash-cabana boy should ever weary of his job, i’m your man! . . .i’ll screen your letters, do your shopping, iron your underthings, just to bask in your emersonian genius! . . . just say the word, dust (and don’t tell you-know-who) . . .xoxo

    • Fabian says:

      Hi, I’m Fabian, The Dust’s personal assistant. Thanks for your query, Jonathan Evison! Mr. Dust says:

      “To be called Emersonian by as august a personage as yourself has made my day. You have always been, and remain so, on the very short list of those who I would even consider as a replacement for Fabian, who, it must be said, is not the ironing professional that he could be.”

      Fabian’s Note: (Hi, Jonathan Evison, Even though you’re trying to steal my job, I still love you!)

  6. dwoz says:

    Dear Dust.

    “…and thus even the best Bruins/Habs nail-biter …”

    As a Bostonian by lifelong proximity and thus an automatic and unyielding Bruins fan, even I have to admit that this quote shows us a lot about what you know about hockey.

    I am not completely certain, but I think the last time there was a “Bruins/Habs nail-biter” the names Spiro Agnew, Gordie Howe, Phnom Penh, and Bobby Orr were on everybody’s lips.

    It does cause me vicarious surrogate personal anguish to admit this.

    as far as the rest…spot on.

    I do have to ask though:

    The sun will rise in the east,
    the monarchs will return to Mexico,
    death and taxes will have their pound,
    Ravel will have his nineteen rounds,
    and the pointy end of the stick will always find
    the pointy end of the wasp nest.

    Is this aspect of things for you a hobby, compulsion, or affliction?

    With much appreciation,

    • Becky Palapala says:

      My response makes me sound more agitated than I am. I admit to playing along, insofar as I can’t help but see these columns as a kind of game. Like, I assume the pointed stick is intentional, or at least a huge factor in The Dust’s hiring, and as part of the resident hornet’s nest, I’m doing my best to oblige.

      I don’t know how it can’t be a game when you’re dealing with an allegedly self-assured yet anonymous renaissance man and apparent near-expert-on-everything who aspires to open up channels of healing and allow us to talk about dangerous issues honestly.

      I assume the intent was to try to get people to make noise.

      So *rabble rabble rabble*

      • dwoz says:

        passion is good.

        I couldn’t imagine going through life letting my own ambivalence factor creep much above 35 percent.

        (of course, much below that and you’re worrying about staph a lot, correcting typos on youtube comments, and arranging the silverware in the drawer along three axis of attributes, each in descending order.)

        • Becky Palapala says:

          God as my witness, dwoz, per usual, I have no idea what this has to do with what I just said, but for once I don’t get the sense you’re fighting with me, so I’m just going to say thanks.

        • dwoz says:

          for any given post of mine, approximately 95 percent of the people reading will likely find it to be utter gibberish. Whether that perception is due to overtly narrow references or overtly poor writing isn’t necessarily important.

          You and I. Let’s just say that I occasionally gaze down at the bloody chicklets on the ice and my residual DNA embedded in the butt end of your hockey stick with a bit of dismay and chagrin, but that’s the nature of the game, eh. It’s only high-sticking if the ref sees it, eh.

          Truth be told, I’m fond of you as a writer and an intellect, and I am sure you’ll be a fiercely good mother too. You demonstrate passion. That’s what I truly think. So, thanks back.

        • Fabian says:

          Hi, I’m Fabian, The Dust’s personal assistant. Thanks for your query, dwoz! Mr. Dust says:

          “Just as The Bell Tolls, there are those for whom the imaginary stick always points for the(e)m. In reality, I need to produce 2,000 words a week, and am not paid enough to have an agenda. I am asked questions. I answer questions. Deadlines come and go.

          As to the matter of the Bruins, or hockey more specifically, it is true that there is much I do not know, although I do know enough to tongue my Habs nail biter in cheek.

          I appreciate your appreciation, Mr. Woz.”

  7. gloria says:

    Wow. I read an article about sports without losing interest. Of course, I’m unclear, but I think I may be one of the “pussies” that Tom was referring to. Since the Roethlisberger article about rape that he references was written by a woman and the majority of the comments on that article were by women, I was unsure whether Tom’s “pussies” were men whom he was hoping to emasculate due to their lack of manly attention to sports-details, or those of us who are card-carrying vagina owners (much like a concealed weapons permit must be carried.) Perhaps he meant all of us? I mean, Brad Listi, Reno Romero, Richard Cox, and Greg Olear appear to the uninitiated (like myself) to be no slouches when it comes to writing about sports, but perhaps my pussy-ness obscures my ability to do a quality assessment of those articles?

    Anyway, great analysis of the state of mind of a pro-sports player. Completely fascinating. And thanks for mentioning chronic traumatic encephalopathy. I’d never heard of this, but it seems incredibly tragic and just re-confirms my stance that I won’t get my boys into sports unless they really, really show an ongoing interest. Just another generation of pussies, they’ll be.

    • gloria says:

      And even though this is a bit of a non-sequitur, you might enjoy this fun little Youtube video about baseball legend Dock Ellis.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Well, you let them play baseball.

      No contact, and they don’t even have to be athletes to play it.

      • Becky Palapala says:

        You could. You could let them play baseball.

      • gloria says:

        They’ve been taking private skateboarding lessons. Mostly because I don’t want them learning from the ne’er do well skate crowd punks (like the ones I loved and grew up with), and because if they’re going to stand on a plank of wood on casters and go soaring down a concrete incline, I’d at least like them to know what the hell they’re doing.

        The other day, we were at our lesson and there was a little league game going on. Tolkien was enraptured. I told him that if he was still interested when it came time to sign up next spring, I would enroll him. But our Tae Kwon Do experience taught me that it’s prohibitively expensive to enroll my boys in a sport that they’re sorta kinda interested in.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          I’ve heard that about martial arts. That the belts and classes can be ridiculously expensive.

          But baseball seems like one of those sports that shouldn’t be too bad.

          You can probably buy a lot of the equipment (there isn’t much of it) 2nd hand and still in good condition. We didn’t have much money, and that’s how my folks got me my hockey equipment, skates and all, growing up. Hockey is one of those where the equipment costs alone can be prohibitive.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks for including me with the other TNBers who know a bit about sports. I’m not as obsessive as I used to be — I made a conscious decision to back away when Dominick was born, as there are better ways to use my free time — but I do enjoy reading about it. Bill Simmons and John Hollinger are two of my favorite writers going, writers of any kind, and I’ve been a fan of Wilbon and Kornheiser since they both wrote for WaPo in the early 90s.

  8. I always thought football is a brilliant and violent sport. It takes a lot of intelligence and strong will to improve running speed, strength, and other phyiscal trainings. I bet some of the coaches, the good ones would be skilled at other aspects of education like physics, military history, math, and biology. Most football fans are smart, especially those who could understand the game. As for me, it is over my head every time I try to watch football. Although it doesn’t stop me from thinking players are mostly douches anyway…

    • dwoz says:

      how does that old saying go?

      “…those who can’t do, teach. Those that can’t teach, teach gym.”

      or something like that…

  9. pixy says:

    #1 makes me want to go and join a softball team. or at least hit up the batting cages

    #2 makes me want to go to the NCAA and have them start requiring “finishing school” for athletes

    #3 makes me want to go hug a hockey player. although, it doesn’t take much for me to want to hug a hockey player

    • Fabian says:

      Hi, I’m Fabian, The Dust’s personal assistant. Thanks for your query, Pixy! Mr. Dust says:

      “Long ago, I had a batting cage installed in the former “interrogation rooms” of Castle Dust. I find it highly relaxing to run through a few buckets late at night, balls careening off the rusty chains that hang from the walls.”

  10. Darian Arky says:

    What exactly is a “base intellectual level” anyway? Is that the one where you smugly imagine yourself to be smarter than people who watch hockey? I think you might be a little more off-base than you imagine. (And I mean imagine.)

    Sixty thousand Finns who sang in Helsinki yesterday don’t see it your way, nor did 56.36% of television viewers in the Czech Republic on Friday.

    Whatever you think you know about what hockey means in this world because you’ve flipped past some NHL games while you were channel surfing, or read a Sports Illustrated article about Gary Bettman, you don’t know shit.

    Yeah, stay on your base. It’s safe there. You wouldn’t want to get smashed onto the boards of a whole new intellectual level, now would you?

    • Fabian says:

      Hi, I’m Fabian, The Dust’s personal assistant. Thanks for your query, Darian Arky! Mr. Dust says:

      “I suppose a ‘base intellectual level’ is that juncture where making a joke that seems to be obvious to the author is interpreted by the reader as something else entirely. Soon someone will invent a “wink, wink” widget and then they will be rich. In any case, I would like to be smashed into the boards of a whole new intellectual level. It’s one of the main reasons I took acid as a teenager. Didn’t work, but seemed worth a try. Finally, I would never read Sports Illustrated.”

  11. Matt says:

    There aren’t any orangutans living in the wilds of Madagascar.

  12. Joe Daly says:

    I’m amazed by the reactions to some of these letters, so I’m answering three first.

    Letter 3: Agree.
    First, is it me, or it pretty obvious that the Dust is kidding here? Not only did his comment about men on skates being feminine immediately strike me as a joke, but he then goes on to hammer the point home in his fourth point.

    Secondly, as a former hockey player, if the Dust ever said that about hockey to my face, I’d pull his cardigan over his head and punch seven shades of shit out of him in the corner of his drawing room. I’ll take the five minutes in the sin bin.

    Finally, the reason hockey isn’t more popular has more to do with family economics than tv deals. Hockey is an expensive sport. You need to buy pricey skates, sticks that break semi-regularly, pads, helmets, pucks, and special jerseys. Then you have to get to and from practice, which always occur either before 9 a.m. or after 9 p.m. because in the middle of the day the ice rinks are booked up because there are like a hundred teams vying for 4 hours of afternoon practice time.

    Of course, kids need someone to drive them to and from the rink, so parents have to buy in- not just the cost of the equipment and the league, but the time commitment of schlepping the kids around at ungodly hours.

    Or you could just buy a leather glove and play baseball.
    Or show up at a court and play hoops for free.
    Or buy a Nerf and play football.

    So most Americans end up playing sports that require less off-the-field spending and preparation. Therefore, most Americans don’t understand hockey, and hence no one gives a shit.

    Letter 1: Disagree.

    If anyone were to ask me to point out the quintessential Dust letter, it would be this one. A question about sports is answered with a response about orangutans. The letter’s author is sort of shamed for his loaded question and the Dust makes it all about human nature. Somewhere in between lies the death of possibility.

    Orangutans have nothing to do with it. The author seems to think that there is an integrity to sports that must be maintained off the field in order for him or her to enjoy the action on the field. I feel sorry for that person because they’re going to miss a lot of great games.

    Letter 2: Agree.

    Loved this: Which seems to me a small victory, because, if nothing else, I will never spend a single moment watching you watch football. Also, disagree with Dust’s generalization that most writers are rarely athletic. If I were a betting man, I’d say that most of the writers on TNB have had or currently enjoy some sort of sporting life.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Well, I guessed he was joshing to some degree or another.

      And I was, as a result, needling about him being an ignorant American, but apparently at some number of exponents of tongue-in-cheek, everyone suddenly gets very serious, unsure if they’re witnessing merriment or mocking. Double agents everywhere. Someone could shoot for real at any moment. One could be ridiculed and not even know it.

      I found the “writers are not athletic” sentiment odd, too, especially because it’s given as a reason that people at TNB don’t write about sports more.

      As if one has to be athletic or a player of a sport to enjoy and/or write about it.

      Even beyond the problem of generalization.

      • Joe Daly says:

        Double agents everywhere. Someone could shoot for real at any moment. One could be ridiculed and not even know it.


        Yeah, I think that in this day and age, saying that something like men skating is feminine is so absurd that no one could take it seriously. But as I think more, I think it has something to do with the Dust’s luxury of anonymity. If you or I said that, our intentions would certainly be more obvious. But with Dust, it’s more difficult because no one really knows much about about him (or her) and what Dust has offered in the way of biographical information is immediately suspect.

        I wonder if that’s ever worked against Dust- if Dust has meant one thing with a response to a letter, only to see the tide of Comments take it in a very different vein.

        As if one has to be athletic or a player of a sport to enjoy and/or write about it.

        One of the most annoying cliches spewed by athletes called out by sportswriters- “Coming from someone who’s never played the game, that’s bullshit.” We sports fans all understand that we DON’T understand what it’s like to live under the microscope as professional athletes do. We know what we don’t know. But that doesn’t mean that non-athletes are ill-equipped to comment on the sport. Hell, without non-athletes commenting on sports, there would be no sports sections, magazines, or ESPN. Maybe just one show full of highlight wheels with a faceless commentator cackling, “Wow! Look at that!” after each one.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          I think people at TNB don’t write more about sports because they think people at TNB don’t write about sports.

        • Joe Daly says:

          I think people at TNB don’t write more about sports because they think people at TNB don’t write about sports.

          I think there’s a good bit of weight to that. It made me recall the World Cup last summer. On Facebook, tons of TNB authors were debating soccer, claiming favorite teams and players, and generally displaying a healthy working knowledge of a sport that is generally ignored here in the US. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by presuming that if someone here knows something about soccer, they probably follow other sports too.

        • dwoz says:

          a good friend of mine who happens to be from England jokes that for Canadians, hockey is just practice for clubbing baby seals. And there’s also that “pouffy” element to his description of the game and it’s players.

          Mind you, he’s saying this in the context of a discussion about CRICKET.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          I think I wrote a piece about sports back on TNB 1.0 and indeed, it wasn’t super popular, but to be fair, there were only about 20 contributors at that time, each of us eager to appear properly writerly and intellectual, many of us feeling obligated to declare at random intervals that we didn’t believe in sports or TV or shopping malls or money or running water, and it was not only a piece about sports, it was a piece about hockey.

          I have no idea what our readership was like, but I can only presume there are more sportsfans out there now than there were 5 years ago, as a simple result of there being more people reading, period.

          There’s no real good reason people shouldn’t be writing about sports if they like them and if they have something interesting to say–or even just an interesting way of saying it.

        • Fabian says:

          Hi, I’m Fabian, The Dust’s personal assistant. Thanks for your query, Joe Daly! Mr. Dust says:

          “I’d happily say that about hockey to your face, if only because it appears that you would find it amusing and then perhaps buy me a slice of pizza. As to a possible on-ice fight, I feel compelled to mention that I am a lot more Zdeno Chara than Sydney Crosby. Height notwithstanding, were I called up to fit a role on any team it would almost certainly be that of a goon. I think one of the most interesting aspects of this discussion is that it has been assumed (through rampant generalization) that because I have somewhat negative opinions about aspects of professional sports, I am therefore anti-sport as well as non-athletic. One reason among many that I feel qualified to hold the opinions that I do, is because I spent many years in locker rooms, and it wasn’t while hiding in a laundry basket hoping for a glimpse of dangle. In fact, as a youth I trained hard for two different sports, and was recruited (by a Div. II school, but still) for one of them. I turned it down, as my girlfriend at the time was pregnant and I needed to grunt and sweat for a paycheck as opposed to glory. As to your final point, I agree entirely. You do not need to have injected deca durabolin in the stall next to Alex Rodriguez in order to justify an opinion about the legitimacy of his slugging percentage.”

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Okay, so you’re not jealous of athletic people, you’re just a frustrated athletic person. In net effect, they’re not all that different:

          Your competitive aspirations thwarted by a wayward sperm (rather than congenital clumsiness), you make sports small to convince yourself you’re not missing out on anything.

          Though the fact that you have participated in sports does explain your seeming contempt for spectators.

          See what I did there???

          The plot thickens, Dust! What new drama awaits??

        • Joe Daly says:


          It’s nice to see that your oft-arid sense of humor can translate so effectively to sports. I was particularly delighted to see you dust off one of the most overused and under-appreciated sporting cliches- the phantom recruitment boast.

          My alma mater looks for tackling dummies by sending out a letter each summer to all incoming male students, inviting them to walk on to the football team. Regardless of one’s experience or fitness, all males get this letter. My buddy cagily chose to view this unsolicited letter as prima facie evidence that he was actively recruited to play college football, and proceeded to use that line straight through grad school.

          I’m glad you made the right choice to support your nascent family. If you’ve seen Necessary Roughness then you know you can always go back and play.

        • dwoz says:

          That’s all well and good…as we are assuming that the sports for which the Dust was actively recruited were NOT Curling and/or Badminton.

          If you think the football cheerleaders are hot, you gotta see the curling cheerleaders. Burning churning heat and fire. Sizzle.

          In all seriousness though, the Dust has upthread staked out a claim to a bit of red earth and kentucky bluegrass under the Green Monster, and/or a bit of zamboni ice to the left of goal in the ghost of a landmark cavernous old building that is now a parking lot in Boston’s north end.

          I get the sense that he’s pulling our legs, and has loosened the seams on a few baseballs, and maybe beaten a few goalies to the glove side just under the crosspost.

    • dwoz says:

      Very nicely done, Joe.

      As a parent, I have a couple observations: When I was a kid, about 5 of us used to show up every day at the Powersbridge Road pond, and we skated until our ankles wouldn’t hold us up and our hands were too frozen to hold a stick. You had to be very careful not to clear the puck out too far, because there was some open water over there, and if the puck went in, you were going in to fetch it (unless it was your puck and you made the decision to get it in the spring). Later the town set up a rink at Adam’s field, and we were always out there playing no-equipment pickup games. No goalie equipment so no slapshots and no lifting the puck.

      Same with Baseball. We all sort of wandered down to the field at regular intervals, and a game commenced.

      Shit, someone always was missing a glove so we had to share them back and forth (granted that’s more than a little too far uphill both ways in the snow…but it’s damn true.)

      TODAY…We have to sign the kids up two months in advance, any coach or dad (or mom) has to have a police background check, we cannot show up with anything but the finest bag of kit. Cleats? can’t play without ’em. No, the soccer cleats won’t do. Oh, and it costs $80 bucks. To just go. Uniforms, all that crap.

      Today, the level of play is unbelievably bad, age-ability-wise, I imagine because the kids never just get together and hit a ball around, and figure shit out on their own. They only play in season, when the league is running, only when practice and games are scheduled.

      I, too, worry about the future of sports.

  13. “The NBA is a joke — players collude in the off season to determine what team to play for, demanding salaries that could relieve entire nations of health and medical problems.”

    The former half of this observation by ALL BLOWS is awash with an inaccurate generalization of the NBA: “players collude in the offseason to determine what team to play for…” That is, unless the only two teams ALL BLOWS followed in last year’s offseason were the Miami Heat and New York Knicks.

    There are 30 teams in the NBA and only two took part in this collusion he speaks of, and I wouldn’t even begin to say that any other players other than LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh did what he/she is speaking of.

    As for the latter half of his perspective, it’s not just the salaries of NBA players “that could relieve entire nations of health and medical problems.” If you want to delve back into the skyrocketing of salaries across American professional sports, look back first to Curt Flood of the St. Louis Cardinals, then to the mid 1970’s with the MLB arbitration ruling that allowed players to become free agents and thus spark competitive bids between teams to pay their salaries for the coming season.

    Would ALL BLOWS guess that the minimum salary an NHL hockey player can make is only $7,000 less than an NBA player: $450,000 as compared to $457,588. So why not bitch about toothless white guys? Not to mention, there are guys who actually put their money to building hospitals for the less fortunate, take Dikembe Mutombo for example or Manute Bol. Heck, Vince Carter as well. He put over $1.6 million of his money toward building a 100-bed addiction treatment center in Florida. (His brother Chris is a recovering cocaine addict). The Memphis Grizzlies franchise put forth $5 million toward a home for St. Jude patients and families, which gives free housing to families whose children are undergoing treatment and St. Jude.

    Before making such overwhelming generalizations, why not actually look into what you think you know you’re talking about?

    Should sports salaries be cut in half? Yeah, that’d be great. I’m all for it. But the players aren’t taking money away from the fans. They’re getting their percentage from the owners who, otherwise, would be making even more of a killing.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Well, I mean, not to speak for All Blows, but I suspect s/he won’t speak for him/herself:

      Pretty sure All Blows is not bitching about hockey because A) s/he doesn’t appear to follow it and B) the lowest salaries don’t seem to be the issue.

      My own objection is the assertion that it’s a race issue.

      That it’s the “toothless white guys” vs. the tattooed black guys or some other approximation of an NBA stereotype.

      As far as internationalism and global inclusiveness, let us not forget that hockey paved the way.

      Let’s just leave the “toothless white guys” out of it. They never did anything to you.

      • @Becky – The comment ALL BLOWS made regarding the NBA points to the exeption not the rule. There are over 430 players in the NBA. Three of them are guilty of said collusion ALL BLOWS references. Three. You can’t make (or try to make) a point such as what (s)he made (“The NBA is a joke…”) by pointing to the exception. By complaining about the salaries of professional athletes, (s)he fails to mention that, unlike the majority of the American working world, at least these guys do their bidding with the owners at the table represented by their unions, which is why the NFL lockout has begun and why a very similar lockout will hit the NBA as soon as the Finals are over.

        Mentioning “toothless white guys” was not meant to invoke race. Instead, dental work.

        Also, I wouldn’t say hockey paved the way for internationalism and global inclusiveness as a sport. Maybe in the Western world. Basketball, as an American export, has more of an international appeal than any other American sport and I would venture out to say is only second behind soccer the world over. I bet you there is no American sport with the same recognition across borders, touching every tip of the atlas, and with as many foreign players in various countries, as you see in the NBA:

        It’s not even close.

        The NBA also does far more within the community and in other countries than any other sport. ALL BLOWS seems to be complaining for the sake of complaining, not for the sake of knowing what (s)he is talking about. And that goes for the other sports (s)he brought up.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Jeffery, you’ll see if you read above in the comments that I already said, long before you said a word, that any bitching whatsoever about the amount of money circulating within sports stems from a false premise. I even explained exactly how this is true at the collegiate level.

          Which means I don’t agree with All Blows.

          But for all your insistence that All Blows is dismissible and just complaining to complain, you seem to be taking his remarks awfully seriously.

          I don’t care about basketball and never have, either way. I just don’t understand how hockey found its way into that discussion, and I don’t think it’s about dental work at all. Your tone said something completely different. But only you know the truth in that regard.

          I’m not going to get into a pissing contest with you about the alleged moral nobility of any professional sport. It’s ridiculous. They’re sports. ALL these players and teams are philanthropic, both domestically and internationally, and none of it makes them super special saints of some kind. Every major corporation is philanthropic, too, giving millions upon millions of dollars away every damn year. Wal-Mart is philanthropic. BP is philanthropic. Being philanthropic is like wearing underwear to any entity with more than 1 million dollars.

          But for sake of argument, I’m curious what kind of quantative measures you’re basing this statement on:

          The NBA also does far more within the community and in other countries than any other sport.

          I mean, without further elaboration, that’s a pretty bold assertion.

          It’s clear that you really love basketball and the NBA, and that’s great. I’m just wondering if you can make your points without superlatives, or if you’re really trying to craft an objective argument that “my sport and its athletes are better than other sports and their athletes.”

        • Becky Palapala says:

          And dude. At least 50 of those NBA guys were born in the U.S.?

          I’m reading the explanation of who’s included in the list, and it doesn’t seem like any of those guys should be there?

          I couldn’t find a list of foreign-born NHL players, but I did manage to discover that a little less than 20% of the NHL is American-born, meaning 80% of the league is made up of “foreigners.”

          Appx. 50% of the league is Canadian, so let’s go ahead and say that Canada doesn’t count as a foreign country, as is customary for American attitudes. So 30% of the NHL is not North American.

          If you take all the Canadians and American-born naturalized citizens of other countries out of the NBA count, is more than 30% of the NBA “foreign-born?”

          It’s tough to find a similar list for hockey, but I did find one source suggesting that as of 2007, the NHL had 20 or so countries represented in its ranks, with, I believe, every continent represented as one finds on NBA list.

          Indeed, many of the countries are “Western.” But if you’re going to say Western countries don’t count for the NHL, then they don’t count for the NBA, either. You lose Brazil, Argentina, Australia, and Eastern Europeans from your count.

          I don’t even know why you’d try to go down this road rhetorically.

          When I said “paved the way,” all I meant was that it was a pro sport with well-known international representation long before the others.

          Of course, if what you’re really trying to talk about is how much of the NBA is non-white, that’s a different conversation, and you’d win. Handily.

          But you’re not talking about race, you say, so I get to fight on.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Oh dude. I was limiting my counts to current NHL players. Your NBA list is all-time! There’s one guy on there who retired in the 50s.

          No way am I looking up all this stuff over again. But one quick search reveals that I could add Tanzania, Indonesia, S. Africa, and Taiwan to my NHL tally if I wanted to.

        • 80% of the NHL is made of up foreigners, most of which (I’ll bet) are from eastern Europe/Russia (and apparently four guys from Tanzania, Indonesia, South Africa, and Taiwan).

        • Here’s a more recent list of international NBA players:

          And by international, I mean more than a few countries. The NBA has all major American sports beat when it comes to diversity: east, west, north, south.

        • Since 2005, the NBA Cares program has donated over $105 million to charity, 950,000 hours of volunteer service, and built more than 415 schools, playgrounds, and hospitals. Six years. That’s not even including what individual players do, like, for example, Vince Carter who I mentioned building a 100-bedroom treatment addiction center.

          NFL Charities has given approximately $120 million since 1973. The NBA has just about matched that in 22 less years.

          I can’t find much of anything on the NHL or MLB — though, MLB should have everyone beat by a long shot given their length in history. Doesn’t seem to look that way though.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Most non-North American foreign-born NHL players are from, in order: Czech Republic, Sweden, Russia, Finland.

          Most non-North American foreign-born NBA players are from, in order: France, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain.

          How much would you say you know, exactly, about the NHL, or are you guilty of talking about the NHL from a position of abject ignorance, just like your nemesis up there is talking about the NBA?

          Now you’re talking about “diversity” though. Not foreign-born players.

          Though, most of Russia is in Asia, you know. Those people are Asians. They don’t consider themselves Western. Not sure why you do. The French and Spanish, on the other hand, ARE Western.

          Just admit you’re hung up on skin color and don’t consider NHL international because for some inexplicable reason, only colored-looking folk count as foreigners to you and let’s be done with this.

          I mean,

        • Becky Palapala says:


          Didn’t finish.

          That’s okay. I’m done, I think.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Countries of predominantly non-Caucasians with highest representation in NBA: Senegal & China. 3 guys a piece.

          Next highest: Congo & Turkey, 2 guys a piece.

          This is not blowing my socks of, diversity-wise.

          Of non-N.American countries, France had the most NBA players as of 2009, and that was 9 dudes. The rest are all Canadians and Americans, just like hockey. Or, I should say, even MORE SO than hockey.

          The net result is this: Indeed, the NBA is less white than the NHL, but that is all it is. It is unarguably more western, more North American, and more American than hockey on almost every account.

          I think it’s likely that diversity in both nationality and race in the NBA is on the rise while I know for a fact is it on the decline (nationality-wise, anyway) in hockey, but the narrative you’re advocating here about the NBA being some kind of inclusive globalist utopia just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

        • “The narrative you’re advocating here about the NBA being some kind of inclusive globalist utopia just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.”

          Inclusive globalist utopia? What hat are you pulling that out of? I don’t recall mentioning some basketball utopia that exists in the universe. My point is that the NBA has a greater reach and is more popular globally than any other major American sport. Basketball is huge in China now because of one guy making it big in the NBA: Yao Ming. One guy. Nobody gives a shit about Yi Jianlian. It’s all about Yao.

          “Most non-North American foreign-born NHL players are from, in order: Czech Republic, Sweden, Russia, Finland.

          Most non-North American foreign-born NBA players are from, in order: France, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain…..

          Countries of predominantly non-Caucasians with highest representation in NBA: Senegal & China. 3 guys a piece.

          Next highest: Congo & Turkey, 2 guys a piece.”

          Keep on mentioning the rest of the countries represented and compare that to the NHL or any other American sport. Only non-western countries. The NBA is over 20% foreign representing 38 countries plus. Throw Iran in there, Turkey, Haiti, Cameroon, Israel, Tanzania.

          If you think the NHL or NFL or MLB can compare then you’re just delusional. They don’t broadcast the NBA playoffs in the Middle East just to piss off the Ayatollah. The end.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          You’re basing your claims of international player representation on this 38 countries number you’re so proud of, but refuse to acknowledge that for all but about 5 of those countries, you’re talking about no more than one guy a piece. That although you say I can only mention “non-western” countries, among those 38 countries you’re including in your NBA count are France, Italy, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Spain, Canada, U.S., Australia, Germany, Great Britain/England, Greece, Ireland, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Switzerland, Venezuela, and Uraguay. These are all WESTERN COUNTRIES. And that’s not even all of them. That’s, what, 20 countries you’d have to strike from your list if forced to play by the same rules you’re trying to hold me to?

          Your non-North American 36 countries, western and all, are represented by, I’d wager, about 50 guys +/- altogether. Allow me to put this figure into perspective for you:

          About 50 guys (give or take 10) is how many players of African-American descent play at least one NHL game in any given year.

          What would you say to me if I tried to boast about THAT? I would never dare because as boasts go, it’s pathetic. 50 players is not significant.

          Likewise, 50 guys from 38 countries is not a meaningful, ongoing, and significant 38-country representation.

          I have never once denied that basketball is popular in a wider variety of countries than hockey. That’s a question about spectators, not players.

          I haven’t had to even address the issue because for some inexplicable reason, you chose to fight this losing battle about international player representation in the two leagues instead.

          Here is the truth, Jeffrey. See how it suits you:

          Basketball has spectators in more countries for the same reason soccer does: It is inexpensive to play. You need a ball. That’s it. A makeshift basket if you want to get fancy. This is the same reason why it is especially popular among inner-city and poorer Americans. It is not because basketball enjoys any kind of special moral virtue or because the athletes are better athletes or humans beings or because the sport is more entertaining. The sport does not, in its most downtrodden fans’ economic misfortune or racial mistreatment, somehow become inherently superior to other sports.

          It is cheap to play. Period.

          The NBA is popular internationally and yet enjoys extremely poor international player representation relative to its international popularity because despite relative ease of access to a basketball in all these far-flung broadcast places, access to the actual institutional and educational channels that funnel players into the NBA is absolutely abysmal. Its extreme popularity may even be, ironically, a direct result of its relative exclusivity. Here are all these people with the ability to play the sport, many probably well, and none of them with an outlet to make good on it in an official way.

          Hockey, on the other hand, is much more difficult and expensive to play in terms of environment, equipment necessary, etc. But, in countries with the weather necessary to support it without expensive facilities, intensive, well-organized collaborative leagues for youth, for young adults, for semi-pros and pros, have been operating and interacting for, in many cases, over 40 years, and as a result, hockey has a considerably more stable, functional, and robust international player pipeline and ongoing exchange, resulting in a long tradition of international (here I mean non-north american) player representation in the NHL beginning in the early 60s, which expanded significantly after the fall of the Soviet Union. The IIHF, the governing body for international ice hockey competitions, was founded in 1908. Not in Canada. In France. That’s 40 or so years before the NBA ever even existed.

          Hockey-friendly countries, rich and poor, almost all have some kind of stable youth programs in place to help open up to kids the possibility of playing in the NHL. A number of these programs, especially the ones in newer, financially-struggling former bloc countries, are funded and run by NHL players.

          That’s why there are so many foreigners in the NHL. Consistently. Because hockey has its international shit together and has had its international shit together since Larry Byrd was still wetting the bed. Not because “toothless white guys” just like to hang around each other. There aren’t more Africans, more SE Asians, more Bahamians in the NHL because there is no ice in those places. Not because hockey is some kind of racist, dentist-hating white-guy club.

          I said it once and I’ll say it again: As far as internationalism and global inclusiveness, let us not forget that hockey paved the way.

          If you want to make the argument that the internationalism in hockey doesn’t count because only colored, dusky, and/or olive-y folk are exotic enough to count as international (this does seem to be the argument you’re making, since you don’t really want to count out western countries, just white ones), be my guest, but I’m not sure I’d want to be the guy who said something like that.

        • If I took away Google search from you, handed you a pen and pad, and asked you to walk the planet over and ask every person in every country on every continent which professional American sport, hockey or basketball (or football or baseball for that matter), they know more about, watch on a regular basis (or would prefer to watch), you’re not coming back and telling me it’s the NHL. Or the NFL. Or MLB. You’re not. You can write as many paragraphs as you want saying otherwise and that won’t change a thing. Only you and a couple of guys in Winnipeg believe otherwise.

          And it’s Larry Bird. But you can just call him The Legend if you want.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          You can write as many paragraphs as you want saying otherwise

          Jeffrey, what the fuck are you talking about? I mean, did you even read my comment? It’s like you just walked in the middle of the conversation and have no idea what’s going on. Let’s try this again. Here is what I DID say. A whole comment ago, I know. Tough to keep up:

          I have never once denied that basketball is popular in a wider variety of countries than hockey. That’s a question about spectators, not players.

          I haven’t had to even address the issue because for some inexplicable reason, you chose to fight this losing battle about international player representation in the two leagues instead.

          If it is not clear to you, the meaning of this is that your accusations about what I believe and what I’m saying are completely baseless based on the very comment you were replying to.

          If you’re saying you’d like to abandon your old argument about NBA players, which in fairness was weak and deserving of abandonment, in favor of a new argument surrounding NBA spectators and tv viewers, that’s fine by me. I’ve already agreed with you on that account. But make no mistake, it’s a new argument.

          Up until the last 3 lines of your comment before this one, your argument was nothing to do with what the average Joe on the street in Cameroon was interested in. You were trying to tell me all about the impressive international representation and uncommon diversity among players in the NBA as opposed to the NHL’s “toothless white guy” club as evidence against my assertion that–I RE-reiterate: As far as internationalism and global inclusiveness, let us not forget that hockey paved the way.

          To this, you came with the bold, vague, and as yet unsubstantiated superlative assertion that:

          The NBA also does far more within the community and in other countries than any other sport.

          In fact, it was revealed, you know virtually nothing about the NHL’s and hockey’s considerable international history & involvement and potentially nothing about hockey at all. All this proud display of ignorance about a sport after you tried to tell someone else to keep his/her mouth shut for the same reason.

          Face it. If anyone’s a homer here, it’s you.

          Your solution to your own ignorance was to attempt to win by selectively redefining “international.” Excluding only Western countries that are predominantly white or blonde and even Asian countries that are predominantly white or blonde. In this way, you supposed, you could argue that the NBA is more international in terms of player representation. “Without all the northern countries that international ice hockey players come from, hockey is not international!” That was your argument. In a nutshell.

          This was the convoluted picture you tried to draw of a league whose player representation is a full 30% comprised of people who are not from this continent, 50% comprised of people who are not from Canada, and a full 80% comprised of people who are not from America. This is compared to the NBA’s scant 8% or so, including Canadians.

          That means the NBA is 92% American, Pillow. The players. How you going to sit there and look me in my gravatar and try to tell me that shit’s international? Compared to hockey? Pure fuckery.

          And then you have the nuts to try to tell me I am the one suffering under some kind of preferential delusion.

          Try again.

    • Richard Cox says:

      Anyone who tells me sports salaries should be lowered, and yet continues to watch the sport, is not arguing from a defensible position. This is a common theme among conservative folk in my part of the world, and it seems to me a childish sort of resentment.

      Athlete salaries are almost completely funded by broadcast rights and ticket sales. If you want to bitch about them “making too much money to play a game,” stop watching the fucking game.

      I think it’s stupid that NFL players and owners have to argue about splitting the overflowing pot, but why is the default position so often that the players are somehow too greedy? Why not the fucking billionaires?

    • gloria says:

      Apropos to nothing – is there a baby Pillow yet?

  14. I love football (soccer) but I do find it increasingly difficult to defend that fact against the numerous (mostly American) naysayers. Sports are a strange thing, but I think that like sex, booze, drugs and gambling, people get hooked.

    Never seen a game of hockey before but it does look like fun.

  15. Greg Olear says:

    I enjoyed this very much, Dust, as usual…always fun to read a great intellect ruminating about sports.

    My $.02:

    Baseball, my first love, is dead to me. The strike, and the steroids scandal, ruined a beautiful game forever. Until Bud Selig is replaced by someone competant, I shall continue tuning out.

    Basketball is great, but you’re right that there are too many stoppages at the end of games. And too many flops. And too many non-calls by officials when Lebron takes 5 steps en route to a dunk.

    98% of all action in football is duller than dull…however, there is nothing in sports more exciting than a good football game. Nothing.

    “Hockey is not a sport; it’s three activities taking place at the same time: skating, playing with the puck, and beating the shit out of each other. If these assholes had any sense, they’d do them one at a time! First, they’d go skating. Then, they’d play with the puck. Then, they’d go to the bar and beat the shit out of each other.”


    “Hockey’s not a sport, because it’s played with a puck. It can’t be a sport if the only other place I find your central object is the urinal in the men’s room.”

    –George Carlin

    • @Greg

      “Basketball is great, but you’re right that there are too many stoppages at the end of games. And too many flops. And too many non-calls by officials when Lebron takes 5 steps en route to a dunk.”

      Here’s my take on flops. The NBA reviews every game after it’s completed. Every single one. If a player flops and draws a foul on the opposing player, the flopper should be penalized monetarily, say $10,000 for the first, $20,000 for the second, and so on. That’ll curb the BS. They already do this with technicals and flagrants. Rescind, let stand, or fine.

      The NBA should also bring back hand-checking on the perimeter. I know that the idea is to open up the offense but the ticky-tack fouls they call these days is a real turnoff. Basketball is a physical sport. In the paint. On the perimeter. Up and down the hardwood.

      And double technicals. Get rid of double technicals. They are bologna.

      Here’s another of my dreams: get rid of the three-point line for five years. The mid-range jumper has all but disappeared. Guys would rather shoot 37% from the behind the arc than take a jumper at the top of the key and elbow.

    • dwoz says:

      I agree about the basketball, Greg…sometimes I want to just skip the nominations and voting, and just hand out the academy award right there on the court.

      Baseball, it’s a tough call. Unbeknownst to many, the rules are tweaked constantly, have been over the course of history. The pitching distance is changed slightly, the mound is raised, then lowered. The strike zone moves a bit.

      It’s ostensibly to even up the game, with the pendulum constantly swinging between pitching dominance vs batting prowess and more field action.

      But I agree completely about the recent changes…umpires told to change the strike zone because of television and how many commercials can be squeezed into a game. Pitchers told to keep it moving because they might have to pre-empt some other TV show.

      High crimes and misdemeanors.

      • Greg Olear says:

        Incremental changes — Bob Gibson’s pitcher’s paradise to later periods of more power — are one thing. But when you have guys cheating to the degree that they ALL have to cheat or get left behind, and the commish knows and doesn’t nothing, I’m out. Especially the way we’re now all against them, when it’s Selig’s fault. Screw the whole enterprise.

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