PUBLISHED: May 16, 2013
LENGTH: 9 minutes (2332 words)
The writer visits the 2013 National School Scrabble Championship, a competition between children in the fourth through eighth grade:
"The two boys have a laugh at my complaints. Frankly, I'm in a no-win situation. If I lose, I'm a loser. If I win, I'm the heartless bastard who beat two middle schoolers. Sam's mother agrees with my assessment.
"'Oh, you have to lose,' she says, laughing.
"'I know, I know.'
"But then we draw tiles and I find that I have a bingo right at the start: FlOWERS. I put it down and suddenly I have an 82-0 lead. Then I draw the Q and the Z simultaneously and put down QUIZ to take a 124-24 lead. I'm crushing it. I'm killing it. I am killcrushslaying these kids. I have no interest in decorum anymore. The game has me. I want to win because I want to win.
PUBLISHED: May 13, 2013
LENGTH: 17 minutes (4258 words)
A college football star learns about the death of his grandmother and girlfriend on the same day and has inspirational stories written about him by major media outlets. But there's a problem: His girlfriend never existed:
"There was no Lennay Kekua. Lennay Kekua did not meet Manti Te'o after the Stanford game in 2009. Lennay Kekua did not attend Stanford. Lennay Kekua never visited Manti Te'o in Hawaii. Lennay Kekua was not in a car accident. Lennay Kekua did not talk to Manti Te'o every night on the telephone. She was not diagnosed with cancer, did not spend time in the hospital, did not engage in a lengthy battle with leukemia. She never had a bone marrow transplant. She was not released from the hospital on Sept. 10, nor did Brian Te'o congratulate her for this over the telephone. She did not insist that Manti Te'o play in the Michigan State or Michigan games, and did not request he send white flowers to her funeral. Her favorite color was not white. Her brother, Koa, did not inform Manti Te'o that she was dead. Koa did not exist. Her funeral did not take place in Carson, Calif., and her casket was not closed at 9 a.m. exactly. She was not laid to rest.
"Lennay Kekua's last words to Manti Te'o were not 'I love you.'"
PUBLISHED: Jan. 16, 2013
LENGTH: 15 minutes (3763 words)
A Wayne Gretzky fan grows up to be his hero's teammate on the New York Rangers:
"'Gretz, I'm hungover. Maybe even a little drunk still. Can you keep the puck away from me today?'
"I could not believe I was saying this even as the words were coming out of my mouth. Was I really telling the greatest player in the history of the game—not to mention the finest passer ever—to keep the puck away from me?
"I was. And the Great One was great about it. 'No problem, Prongs, I've been there myself.'
"Wait. Did he just call me Prongs? He knows my name? Somehow, that one line from Wayne put my mind at ease. Wayne knew my situation and he had my back. What a guy."
PUBLISHED: Jan. 10, 2013
LENGTH: 11 minutes (2890 words)
Cities are slashing school budgets to pay for professional sports stadiums, and the NFL is still a nonprofit. An argument for cutting off all public funding for professional sports across the U.S., which could save taxpayers billions:
"Consider stadium subsidies. When Kubla Khan built his stately pleasure dome above a sunless sea, he did not strong-arm the Xanadu County Board of Directors into funding the project by threatening to move to Los Angeles. His mistake. He wouldn’t last five minutes as an American sports owner. According to Harvard professor Judith Grant Long and economist Andrew Zimbalist, the average public contribution to the total capital and operating cost per sports stadium from 2000 to 2006 was between $249 and $280 million. A fantastic interactive map at Deadspin estimates that the total cost to the public of the 78 pro stadiums built or renovated between 1991 and 2004 was nearly $16 billion. That’s enough to build three Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. Or fund, in today’s dollars, 15 Saturn V moon rocket launches -- three more than the number of launches in the entire Apollo/Skylab program. It’s also more than what Chrysler received in the Great Recession-triggered auto industry bailout ($10.5 billion), and bigger than the 2010 GDP of 84 different nations. How does this happen? Simple. Team owners ask for public handouts and threaten to move elsewhere unless they get them, pitting cities against in each other in corporate welfare bidding wars -- wars rooted in the various publicly granted antitrust exemptions that effectively allow sports leagues to control and maintain a limited supply of teams to be leveraged against widespread demand."
PUBLISHED: Dec. 14, 2012
LENGTH: 18 minutes (4530 words)
A first-person account of an Olympic career, a violent attack, and what happened next:
"My coach calls me up and says, 'Listen, If you want to keep your scholarship'—by the way, he's totally devious here —he said, 'If you want your scholarship, all you have to do is show up for the meets. Don't do anything else. Just show up. You don't have to come to a single practice. You don't have to warm up. Just show up at the meet.'
"Well, I was unhappy with how the first warmup went. I didn't think I was in good enough shape for the first warmup, but I won all my events, OK? And so before the second time I thought, I'll just go to a few workouts, you know. And then slowly, but surely...
"He was just so spot on. So then, sure enough, I'm now going to two workouts a day. I'm lifting weights and I totally get the hunger in a big, big way and my time was the third-fastest in the country. It wasn't like the end-of-the-year time, which would be much faster, but I was really psyched that I could go that fast and do that well with just the amount of training that I had had."
PUBLISHED: July 31, 2012
LENGTH: 21 minutes (5369 words)
A sportswriter tries his hand at singing the national anthem at a baseball game:
"The anthem is designed to humble you. The anthem is designed to ruin your shit if you get too haughty, and that's a good thing. In fact, it's ready to challenge you from the very beginning:
"O say can you see …
"That 'see' is tricky. That's your first high note, and you have to sustain it for a second. You can tell whether or not an anthem is gonna suck usually by the time the singer has finished with just this line.
"By the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed …
"Again, we have another trap. That high note on 'proudly' sneaks up on you, forcing you to jump up higher than many people are comfortable with."
PUBLISHED: July 25, 2012
LENGTH: 11 minutes (2962 words)
The story of a mysterious sports writer, her business partners, and an alleged plot to co-opt an NBA fan's Facebook page:
"Phillips kept up her correspondence with Ben, the 19-year-old college student and creator of the NBA Memes Facebook page. She said he could make up to as much as $1,000 per post as a contributor to her new sports-comedy site. Within 15 minutes, she had another idea: 'Here's something I just thought of: Instead of becoming a contributor, would you like to join our team as an editor/creator for the memes section?'
"With this proposal, he could make even more money. She spelled out specifics for him: She told him that her 'initial goal' for the site would be 2.5 million pageviews per month, which would bring him $38,400 a year. By the fall, they'd have 7.5 million pageviews per month and he'd be making $102,000 per year. Big money for a 19-year-old college student."
PUBLISHED: May 1, 2012
LENGTH: 21 minutes (5445 words)
An anonymous personal account from a Marine Corp medic in Afghanistan:
"My corpsmen and I processed dozens of locals who'd been arrested for a countless acts of shadiness. We provided medical exams and documented any marks, scars, or injuries on them before and after questioning. They would arrive with a grape-juice-colored stain across their fingers and palms, from the test for chemical traces of homemade explosives. We wondered: Is this mouth I'm peering into breathing tuberculosis into me at this moment? Were these eyes viewing Marines throguh a Kalashnikov sight earlier? Will these hands make bombs tomorrow?"
PUBLISHED: April 19, 2012
LENGTH: 9 minutes (2433 words)