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Why We Play

Reconciling our love of sports with the risks associated with them:

When I graduated after four seasons of high school rugby, and prepared to head off for four more seasons in college, I felt transformed. I no longer called myself a tomboy, and rugby was no longer a crutch.

So much for the revenue side of the balance sheet. Rugby had, for a time, given me everything. But around the same time I'd begun to outgrow my need for it, I'd also begun to understand its potential cost. I racked up pulled muscles and strained ligaments, and chipped a bone in my ankle that still aches under pressure, more than 15 years later. I played with women sporting twin scars on their knees from ACL surgeries. I saw a man come off the pitch one afternoon with his ear torn half off. I helped concussed teammates stagger off the field, unable to remember their own names, and suffered one concussion myself — a minor one, but still an injury with the terrifying power to reach back in time and erase my memories from even before the hit. I had one friend, on my college's men's team, who swore he would quit after three concussions, but he only counted the big ones. Once, I saw him pick himself up after a collision and line up alongside the wrong team. And then, finally, I watched that young man break his neck under the floodlights on a cold night in northern England. I was haunted by the question of my own potential regrets.

PUBLISHED: June 25, 2014
LENGTH: 20 minutes (5110 words)

The $30 Million Clinkle Mystery

The story of a 21-year-old Stanford grad who wowed investors with a demo and raised $30 million for a mobile payments service. He soon lost scores of employees, and the company still hasn’t released a product:

Says one former growth team member, “I never saw a direct demonstration of the product.”

The growth teams met ambitious goals by targeting the most influential students on campus, such as group presidents and fraternity and sorority leaders. The leaders were shown some images from the website, and the deal was sealed with a compelling prize: If the entire organization signed up for Clinkle’s waitlist, then all of them downloaded the app on the day it became available, the group could win a $500 party, spa visit or stereo-system package. None of the pitches included a demo of the actual app.

After July, Duplan had dictated that no one — including potential hires and even some employees — would be shown the app anymore.

PUBLISHED: April 15, 2014
LENGTH: 19 minutes (4944 words)

Can't A Guy Just Make Some Friends Around Here? Maybe.

The difficulties of making friends in a city with few singles. The writer attempts to find some using Craiglist:

"I chatted with a divorced businessman who wanted a lunch-break buddy, and with a perfectly normal-sounding guy who wanted somebody to go with him to a nudist camp. And I met up with a friendly bouncer and UMKC student named George, who hung out with his buddies regularly but had trouble convincing any of them to come smoke shisha. We went to Jaskki's, in the West Bottoms, and puffed on a hookah.

"Then I met up with a woman, an introvert named Audrey, whose ad said she'd moved to Kansas City around a year ago but couldn't remember the last time she'd gone out socially with anyone. We hung out for a while in the fiction section of Barnes & Noble and talked about our favorite writers.

"But I saw neither George nor Audrey again. Maybe because of the way we'd arranged our meetings, the energy in them was too low to demand follow-up. Or maybe because I hadn't been serious enough about doing it. Making friends cold turkey turns out to be oddly like dating — sometimes you're more into somebody than that person is into you, and the doubt and anxiety that come with that imbalance don't feel good. And sometimes a response I sent to an interesting Craigslist ad was met with silence, as though we'd already broken up."
SOURCE:The Pitch
PUBLISHED: Nov. 6, 2012
LENGTH: 13 minutes (3356 words)

Wall of Sound: How the iPod Changed Music

Two years ago, at the nadir of the financial crisis, the urban sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh wondered aloud in the New York Times why no mass protests had arisen against what was clearly a criminal coup by the banks. Where were the pitchforks, the tar, the feathers? Where, more importantly, were the crowds? Venkatesh's answer was the iPod: "In public spaces, serendipitous interaction is needed to create the 'mob mentality.' Most iPod-like devices separate citizens from one another; you can't join someone in a movement if you can't hear the participants. Congrats Mr. Jobs for impeding social change." Venkatesh's suggestion was glib, tossed off—yet it was also a rare reminder, from the quasi-left, of how urban life has been changed by recording technologies.
PUBLISHED: March 28, 2011
LENGTH: 14 minutes (3586 words)

The Tortured Life of Eric Show

Pitcher who gave up Pete Rose's record hit lived, and died, with heavy burden
AUTHOR:Tom Friend
PUBLISHED: Sept. 11, 2010
LENGTH: 35 minutes (8993 words)

The Feel of Nothing

Steve Salerno writing for the Missouri Review on baseball, manhood and, most of all, a life lived in America's batting cages:

It is the mark of my absorption that I know the pitching machines in American cities large and small, their habits and quirks, as well as I know their physical locations and the best way to reach them from their respective local airports. I can drive the various routes as if on autopilot, making the turns unthinkingly, in much the same way that I can take my batting stance in any given cage, in any given city, and orient myself in the batter’s box within a fractional inch of where I stand in any other given cage, in any other city, at any other time.

PUBLISHED: Jan. 1, 2004
LENGTH: 24 minutes (6016 words)