Debating William & Mary, sports and culture since 2011. Updated every Wednesday.

Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Seeing Red

In Baseball, Culture on June 12, 2013 at 10:45 am

The Cincinnati Reds and the St. Louis Cardinals are battling atop the National League Central division for another trip to the postseason. CDH’s Ian Brickey takes a look at the deeper meaning behind the Cardinals-Reds rivalry.

Matt Holliday ruined Curtis Partch’s Sunday night. It had been a good weekend so far — a great one, in fact. Louisville Bats manager Jim Riggleman had delivered the news that every AAA player greets with a mixture of joy, relief and terror — Partch was going to the show. He made the short two-hour drive to Cincinnati later that day, been fitted for his uniform at Great American Ballpark and was ready to dress for his first major league game Sunday night. And then Matt Holliday had to beat it all to hell by doing what Matt Holliday is paid to do. With the bases loaded in the top of the 10th inning, the St. Louis Cardinals left fielder belted Partch’s 2-2 pitch into the upper deck of Great American Ballpark, capping a  seven run inning for the Cardinals and extending their division lead over the Reds to four games.

There’s a concept in the field of aesthetics known as the “uncanny valley.” It holds that, when human features resemble and move almost, but not quite perfectly, like natural human images, it can create a feeling of revulsion in observers. While it’s primarily a scientific term, since 2009, the uncanny valley might have a baseball application: the rivalry between the Cincinnati Reds and the St. Louis Cardinals. Read the rest of this entry »


Abraham, Jackie and Branch

In Baseball, Culture on April 11, 2013 at 7:56 pm

CDH’s Becky Koenig reviews the Jackie Robinson biopic 42, in theaters this Friday, and examines its connections with another recent film about breaking racial barriers.

Who broke baseball’s color barrier?

As any casual fan can tell you, the simple answer is Jackie Robinson. In 1947, the speedy infielder joined the Brooklyn Dodgers, becoming the first African American to play in the major leagues. But the Robinson biopic 42, debuting tomorrow, calls into question just who truly was responsible for integrating America’s pastime.

Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) shares the screen with Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford), the cigar-smoking Dodgers executive determined to get him on the field. Rickey got his start playing professional football and baseball, and then managed the St. Louis Browns before serving in World War I. He returned to St. Louis as a manager and executive for the Cardinals and developed the modern minor league system. The Dodgers hired Rickey away in the early 1940s. His star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame refers to him as “the greatest front-office strategist in baseball history,” who, by signing Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, “simultaneously broke baseball’s color line and built the great Dodger teams of the 1940s and 1950s.”

This contrasts with the Robinson estate’s official website. The site asserts that “Jackie Robinson engineered the integration of professional sports in America by breaking the color barrier in baseball.” That’s the version most people have heard. In paying equal attention to the black ballplayer and the white team executive, 42 tries to resolve this tension, challenging audiences to reevaluate their assumptions about how the color barrier was broken. Read the rest of this entry »

The Semantics of Steubenville

In Culture, Football on March 19, 2013 at 5:40 pm

The Steubenville rape case has received national attention and significant media coverage as an example of the cult of high school sports. But have we missed the real narrative?

Two teenage boys in Steubenville, Ohio were convicted Sunday of raping a teenage girl.

You’ve heard this story already? I’ll bet it was introduced to you a little differently:

Washington Post: “Two members of Steubenville’s celebrated high school football team were found guilty Sunday of raping a drunken 16-year-old girl…”  

Ohio Plain Dealer: “On trial in Jefferson County Juvenile Court are two Steubenville High School football players accused of raping a 16-year girl…”

NBC: “Two Ohio high school football players have been found guilty of raping a drunken 16-year-old girl…”

CNN: “Two star football players in Steubenville, Ohio, have been found guilty of raping a West Virginia teenager.”

You see, it wasn’t just any pair of young men found guilty of rape. It was a pair of football players. Star football players. Promising young athletes. Hometown heroes.

If you’re wondering why that’s relevant, why media coverage is being framed in that context, you’re not the only one. Why on earth does it matter what extracurricular activity the perpetrators preferred? Read the rest of this entry »


In Culture on July 6, 2012 at 12:09 pm

We tend to be critical of sports on this site. But the Fourth of July reminds us that we, as Americans, have so much to be thankful for. There are so many reasons to be grateful as an American sports fan in 2012. Here are some of ours:

-Because the United States has a player in Clint Dempsey that can do stuff like this, or this. Every so often, an angry voice from the archaic past will try to restart the argument that soccer will never catch on in this country. Dempsey’s poetic fury on the international stage proves soccer is already here. And that Americans are not only industrious — they can also be beautiful.

– Because sites like Deadspin and KSK and writers like Spencer Hall and, God help me, Bill Simmons prove that there is no one way to write about sports. Not every game is a tragedy; not every opinion has to be a “take.” American sports writing is wittier and sharper than it was when we were kids, and that is a good thing. Read the rest of this entry »

Faulkner profiles Deron Williams

In Basketball, Culture, Long form on March 29, 2012 at 10:42 am

A few months ago, our writer in Baltimore wrote an excellent piece based on an Oscar Wilde-style imagining of Denver’s quarterback situation. I’m one-upping him.

There was a time and a place for that, and he knew it was neither here nor now. The cobalt skies over Utah ripped open and bled as they had in The Colony, and after that, Champaign — places where clearly defined horizons rested along deserts or prairies or meandering rivers. Places that mattered only to those who occupied them, to those cradled by their avenues and withered by their gazes, ashing and fading with time as their streets emptied into the cool matrices of Dallas and Chicago. And he was here again, steps away from the train that could take him. The island, where the inextinguishable lights would shine upon grainy vistas of dockyards and steeples, condominiums and tenements filled with those who wanted him to stay. Read the rest of this entry »

A Fresh Start

In Culture on January 27, 2012 at 3:02 pm

A lot has happened in the the realm of pop culture since our last post here at Crim Del Harris: Penn State turned into Salem, Massachusetts circa 1692, the NBA lockout ended, and Katy Perry got divorced (and you still don’t have a chance).

We were ready to write brilliant, thoughtful articles on literally all of these things, but then we started watching Downton Abbey, and we just lost track of time.

But it’s a new year and a fresh start at Crim Del Harris. Look for exciting new posts every Wednesday. And to make up for lost time, he’s a collaboration with Billy Joel covering what we missed.

Read the rest of this entry »

Rally ’round

In Culture, William & Mary on October 24, 2011 at 7:31 pm

I was wearing my William and Mary sweatshirt on a plane the other day, and when I stood up to grab my bag from the overhead bin, the older man sitting behind me asked, “Did you win this weekend?”

Excuse me? Win what? Wracking my brain, I realized he was probably referencing the football game the Tribe played two days before. I wiped the clueless look off my face.

“I don’t know, sir,” I said cheerfully, “I was out of town!”

He looked stunned.

“You don’t know?”

“Uh, no, I was gone –”

“Well who were you playing?” he asked impatiently.

Shoot. I knew this. What were the initials? Please stop looking at me like that, sir, um, it was N and H, but it wasn’t New Hampshire….

“New Haven?” I squeaked.

He smiled smugly. “You mean Yale? It certainly wasn’t Yale.”

“No, no, um, I don’t, no…” I trailed off, mortified. Read the rest of this entry »


In Culture, Long form on September 13, 2011 at 12:18 pm

New York City on the tenth anniversary of 9/11

Really, it was just another day.

I woke up around noon hungover. Too lazy to cook but too antsy to wait for takeout, I showered, put on sweats and went for a walk, planning to hit the Shake Shack on 86th Street. I didn’t have anywhere I needed to be until late that afternoon, to catch a softball game in Hell’s Kitchen.

There was a street fair on 3rd Avenue, with stands offering barbecued corn on the cob and fried calamari, which, given the state of my stomach, didn’t sit right. The clouds overhead promised rain, but failed to deliver, and the wind whipped down the avenues in bold gusts, scattering tossed wrappers and enveloping the neighborhood with a distinctly Upper East Side aroma of fresh air and dog shit.

The bars were flooded with people wearing NFL jerseys, though it wasn’t all Jets and Giants fans. The 9/11-sports angle is so played out I don’t even want to try to chase it down, though I suppose it is interesting that the first Sunday of the 2011 NFL season coincided with the tenth anniversary of the attacks.

It was slow going to the restaurant. My legs were stiff from softball practice and dancing. I had slipped and fallen in front of the bar the night before, and everything I wore reeked of stale liquor and cheap beer. When I woke up, my pockets were stuffed with crumpled dollar bills and leaflets from the concert hall. I was also a little deaf; I’d been too close to the speakers. Read the rest of this entry »

Midnight in America

In Culture on July 31, 2011 at 5:38 pm

There’s a point during the recently opened Woody Allen extravaganza Midnight In Paris when Owen Wilson, embodying the idealistic protagonist, expels a brief, but passionate rant against the low brow of American culture. In a highly effective 15 seconds, he manages to harangue the cliched, mass-produced Hollywood movie climate, avaricious Wall Street corporations, George W. Bush, and the spread of the Tea Party all in an involuntarily-emitted discharge that laments the downfall of romance and nostalgia in our society in a clear us versus them dichotomy. The rant is not so much aggressive as entirely natural; it’s clear the lines come straight from the mouth (or pen) of Woody Allen and it’s as if he cannot even imagine a world in which he could hold back that opinion. With emotions spurred by the interwoven scenes of an idealized contemporary Paris, it’s likely that 90% of Allen’s audience(i) would be ready to join in those sentiments with a kind of culturalistic fervor.

Upon exiting the theater, I really had one and only thought to share with my companions: “Woody Allen really is turning into the new Michael Bay.” Read the rest of this entry »

%d bloggers like this: