GQ, Nathaniel Freedman
The problem with witnessing history is that you’re always doing it, but also that you’re never quite sure when you are. After all, what’s happening at any given moment will soon be part of the past, either to be forgotten or to be studied, remembered, and revisited long after the present point in time. The problem is the “or.” You’re not quite sure if you should pay attention, whether you or anyone else will care about the things you’re seeing later on. Giannis Antetokounmpo does not present this problem. Every time he takes the court, it seems as if Giannis isn’t so much making a name for himself as he is reminding you how dumb it was that you ever didn’t know who he was.
Still, we don’t as much know how history will judge Giannis, just that it will. With this essay, Freedman both profiles Antetokounmpo as the player he is now and as what we might remember him by. It’s too soon to tell, he says, and he’s right about that, but it’s not too soon to say that he’ll be something special. This piece doesn’t try to avoid the inevitable; it’s impossible to write about the Greek Freak without at least mentioning MJ and LeBron, and so Freedman does. There’s no way of knowing what we will think of Giannis in five, or even 10 years, but I am sure that this piece will be just as fun to revisit as the star’s highlights.
Victory Journal, Emmett Rensin
Any connection that can be found between the NBA and nineteenth-century German philosophers is, at the very least, worth a glance, and Rensin’s dismal essay on his Los Angeles Clippers fandom is worth even more than that. Rensin is not a sportswriter, and in an age when one can find any analysis imaginable on NBA Reddit, an essay written by a fan about fanhood is a breath of fresh air. When Rensin describes the actions of the Clippers, with whom he has no real role in the front office or the roster, as “we,” he is establishing his ethos of fanhood in a way that no stat ever could. After all, is there anything more absurd than a fan who uses the first person to describe their favorite team? Is there any fan who doesn’t do this? If you don’t share at least a slight sense of membership with the team, what good are the jerseys, the tickets, and the hours spent watching anyway?
The article is titled “To Lose is to Love,” but the piece really argues the reverse. The author loves the Clippers, and so he wants them to lose. Not really lose, but he certainly doesn’t want them to win either. The Clippers currently sit in a Conference that holds two of the greatest offensive players of all time, both of them on the same team, and so maybe Rensin won’t have to worry about that second part anytime soon. Or maybe he will. After all, it’s the possibility that keeps us coming back.
The Guardian, David Roth
As I read this article, I had just finished watching the Houston Astros win their first World Series game in the team’s history, and it was hard not to feel optimistic about the future of the sport. Sure, the game lasted over four hours, but does anyone really care about these things? Aside from the obvious fact that the game went into 11 innings, I couldn’t quite figure out why it was that the game felt so special. David Roth’s piece, written before the series even started, helped me figure out just why. What is happening to baseball right now, Roth argues, is the story of what is happening to America. As the faces and names that populate MLB rosters begin to vary in ways they never have before, the game which is always too slow to change is doing just that. And with this World Series, Roth says, we will watch it happen. Aside from showing a skill for words I could only dream of, Roth perhaps perfectly summarizes a game he hadn’t even seen yet when he wrote that in this series, “America’s erstwhile pastime will offer a window onto a possible American future.” With Yasiel Puig and Jose Altuve each engaging in late-inning magic, Roth’s words, and his vision, came to life.
The Ringer, Claire McNear
I hate the Nationals. I really do, and I have for their entire existence. I was glad when they lost to the Cubs this year, and I was glad when they lost to the Cubs last year, and I’ve been pissed every time they’ve beaten the Phillies in the last five years. And there have been a lot of those times. And still, McNear’s piece managed to make me feel bad for the old coach, who never could quite get it done in baseball’s weakest division with one of the sport’s greatest rosters. When I first read the news that Baker would not be returning to DC, my thoughts were simple. “I could probably manage that team to win that division, so no one should be all that impressed.”
I probably could manage the Nats to a win or two (a player by the name of Rhys Hoskins is now blocking the division), and I understand that it’s now or never for the Nationals’ success. Still, McNear’s piece was powerful enough that I couldn’t help but already miss a coach who led both Barry Bonds and the Washington Nationals, and has only been gone for a week.
Deadspin, Drew Magary
If the last few weeks have not caused men in this country to have honest conversations with themselves about what they do and what they say, and what they don’t do and don’t say, then perhaps nothing ever will. With the introduction to his weekly NFL column, Deadspin’s Drew Magary does just this, and he certainly pulls no punches. This is a brutal, open, and refreshingly clear essay that I can only imagine was not easy to write. Magary doesn’t seek to justify his actions, instead simply listing his transgressions and saying that he was wrong. As simple as it is uncommon in a time when the public has had to reckon with far too many public apologies.
And still, Magary doesn’t use the piece to pontificate, and in the end of the story he doesn’t come off as the hero, ready to shine his light of wokeness on to the people. He says he was wrong. He points out why this is so dangerous, and he challenges us all to do better. A needed message indeed.