Early on in Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth, the boxer pointedly reminds us exactly what he is: “I’m that guy who used to knock motherfuckers out in 30 seconds,” he tells the crowd. The crowd, dutifully, erupts in raucous cheers.
It’s not like anyone coming to the 90-minute HBO movie based on a Broadway show doesn’t know who Mike Tyson is, but the fact that he needs to remind us at the outset feels pretty indicative of the strange path he’s found himself on since those more consistently violent days. Despite putting on a performance about his own life and times, those of a notoriously unhinged boxer, the Tyson we see on stage is an altogether different beast. After that knockout comment, he calls himself “domesticated now”; a better word might be stage-managed, in ways that resonate far beyond his actual stripped-down show.
This was my grandma’s house. The last of the old people, like the 70 year olds next door, Gino remembers me when I was a little boy. They’re hanging on. My wife was telling me how when we first moved in here, the neighbours weren’t really sure what I do. Because I don’t “go to work.” I think some of the neighbours thought I was on disability or something, and then Gino saw me on TV. He was like, “Oh, okay!” And then his son, who is kind of urbane, explained my work to him. Later, we were having a problem in the front garden, digging up some roots. Gino—he’s a strong old Italian guy—comes over with a pickaxe, and he’s digging the roots out, hacking at them with this pickaxe. And he’s sweating through his undershirt. And he says to me, he says “When you write a book, you kill me. When I do this, I kill you.” We’re killing each other. It’s hilarious.
How does an average-sized white guy from a country not known for its basketball prowess become one of the game’s biggest stars and most valuable leaders? A new book charts the unlikely course, but Jack McCallum has some theories of his own.
Pro wrestlers wreck their bodies, ruin their careers, die far ahead of schedule, and David Shoemaker draws from a rich well of their stories in his new book, The Squared Circle. Here are some, however, who improbably, defiantly made it out alive.
Basically, see this pull-out over here? That’s my bookshelf. This is our home away from—you know what I mean? It’s all we have. Most guys use it for storing other stuff, odds and ends, or extra gauze, or whatever.
These on the bottom shelf are the ones that I’ve read or am reading, and these up here are the ones that are gifts that I’m getting to. I’ve got to have ‘em separated. Every year I try to re-read a classic. This year it’s Anna Karenina. I read it first in college, so I’m getting reacquainted with it. I saw the movie recently—did you see the movie when it came out? You’ll love the book. It’s a love story. But anyway.
If you’re a woman and you don’t want to wait in line for a public washroom, just go to a live UFC fight.
Saturday night, Toronto hosted its third UFC pay-per-view. Mixed martial arts fighting had been illegal in Ontario up until three years ago, but those three fight-nights have been enough to prove its staying power, and at UFC 165, there were just a handful of unfilled seats in the Air Canada Centre (approximate capacity: 19,000). The light-heavyweight title fight of champion Jon Jones versus Alexander Gustafsson was the main event, but anyone can watch that at any bar with a few televisions. Half the fun of seeing a live UFC event is watching everyone in the stands, people suffering meltdowns over punches not landed and failed choke-holds.
Against Saul “Canelo” Alvarez on Saturday night, as happens in most every Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight, the fans started berating the challenger. It usually occurs during the middle rounds, after the initial nervous energy from the boxers has burned off and the fight has settled into a slow and predictable rhythm. Mayweather stands in front of his frustrated opponent, his hands poised to strike, while the man across from him seems frozen, his gloves fastened to the side of his head, unwilling to throw a punch at Floyd and unable to avoid the punches coming at him. It’s as if the matter has been settled despite half the contest remaining, as though there is an understanding between the fighters that Floyd won’t hurt them too badly and they won’t do anything crazy like actually try to beat the unbeatable champion.
“Do something!” is the most common advice frustrated fans give when watching someone they’ve invested in fight Floyd. Either that, or the slightly more refined, “I’d just throw a bunch of punches. He doesn’t hit that hard and you’re going to lose anyway.”
On the list of opinions that are actually basement furniture—old, tired bits you don’t have the heart to eliminate but to which you only resort when you’ve run out of other options—the most prominent sports-related one is that baseball is boring. To sate the 14,000 blazer-wearers whose sphincters just instinctually opened their Twitter apps: I think that’s untrue, not to mention worn out. The sport that really is boring, of course, is football.
For two years, I’ve been looking for a Toronto Blue Jays shirt. I don’t need anything fancy: Just a tank top with the logo on it, something in breathable fabric because I sweat like an elderly rugby player when I’m in the sun, and preferably something that fits me.
And yet, for two years and over the 25 or 30 games I’ve seen, I can’t find it. I can find shirts in sheer fabric, shirts with bedazzled logos or cutesy sayings, and a plethora of things in pink which, by the by, is not the team’s colour.
Wayne Gretzky wasn’t the first athlete to agree to play in a warmer climate in front of less demanding fans, and he won’t be the last. That doesn’t mean his trade from Edmonton to L.A. wasn’t an affront to the gods.
The issues around the use of performance-enhancing drugs in sports can be hopelessly complex, so it’s best to start with basic facts we can agree on: Ryan Braun is an asshole.
That much should not be in dispute. This week the Milwaukee Brewer and former National League MVP was suspended for the remainder of the 2013 season, becoming the first casualty of a wide-ranging investigation into the Biogenesis clinic that will likely claim many more.
“As I have acknowledged in the past, I am not perfect,” Braun’s apology began—a sneering, provocatively half-hearted opening under any circumstances, but especially when your last words on the subject were brazen lies aimed at destroying the reputation of the employee in charge of testing you.
When things stick around long enough, you stop seeing them. They fade into the background, staying unnoticed, until one day you walk into your house, do a double-take, and realize you’ve had the same crappy Montreal concert poster on your wall since 2007 and don’t remember the band or even the year all that well and, plus, how come you never noticed there’s tiny a piece of egg (or is that cheese?) stuck there near the bottom? These moments of clarity are inevitably a bit embarrassing, but they are necessary.
This same process explains how, every few years, people idly flipping through the sports section become newly startled by the fact that, in 2013, the National Football League has a team called the Redskins. Wait a minute, they think, the Redskins? With a weird drawing of a Native American in feathers as the logo? And this team plays on television in a professional football league and not, I don’t know, in some dusty Southern prison yard for the amusement of the cruel, John-Wayne-obsessed Warden? Seriously, the Red Skins?
The story of disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong isn’t just about the greatest doping conspiracy in sports history—it's about the nature of corruption. In this excerpt from Braking Bad: Chasing Lance Armstrong and the Cancer of Corruption, author Richard Poplak asks what kind of man is best fit to excel at the Tour de France.
They booed Melky Cabrera in San Francisco this week. They booed him when he came to bat in the first inning, and booed him harder when he hit a leadoff single. By the time the Blue Jays left fielder came to the plate in the ninth inning this past Tuesday, with a runner on base and the chance to tie the game, the stadium was jeering Cabrera with the special passion of fans who have seen more than their fair share of lies, cheats, and hormone-powered home runs. He flied out.
Just a year earlier, Cabrera had been a San Francisco favourite, finishing an historic May with a record-breaking 51 hits and inducing fans—grown adults—to dress up as old-fashioned milk men and brand themselves the “Melkmen” in honour of the Dominican-born outfielder’s offensive prowess. Then came August, when Cabrera tested positive to performance-enhancing drugs, got a fifty game suspension, and was unceremoniously dropped by the team on their way to the World Series.
Does anyone else miss Steph Curry? No disrespect to LeBron James or the venerable Tim Duncan—who, at this point, all basketball fans are legally required to acknowledge as the greatest player of his generation and a true professional and not boring at all, seriously, why would you even say that?—but the playoffs haven’t been the same without him.
Golden State’s skinny little basketball elf kept East Coast NBA lovers up late early on, sinking improbably deep three-pointers, dancing and gliding in and out of the lane, whipping left-handed passes to his teammates as he led the Warriors through two rounds of the NBA playoffs. There were outlandish stats I can no longer remember. There were absurd shooting percentages. Mostly, though, Curry was creating moments of genuine beauty.
For the longtime Communist leader, sports were as much a hallmark of his legacy as they were a tool to trumpet the revolution’s triumphs. As a writer, though, he wasn’t always as different from your average sports columnist as you might expect.
Over the last decade, the Yukon's Pinoy community has grown from 150 people to more than 2,000. Things are changing up north, and the region's Filipinos—and one particular basketball league—are a part of it.
Bruce Herman, the man who writes the text for more or less every trading card printed and sold by Topps, lives in Blacksburg, Va., with his wife, children, massive record collection (very heavy on pop-punk) and massive dossiers of quotes from and factoids about the various players he’s paid to write about. For a while, I edited what he wrote when I worked at Topps; for a longer while, I wrote those cards myself—mostly basketball, some baseball, and the occasional card for Susan B. Anthony or an astronaut for one of Topps’ historic sets—for him as an independent contractor.
As much as I enjoyed writing the cards I wrote—I almost got the words “a screaming comes across the sky” onto the back of a Renaldo Balkman card, and generally enjoyed the opportunity to spend what was either just enough or actually too much time reading up on random NBA players—I was never nearly as good at it as Bruce. I was never less than in awe of his work. He had long ago shed the Master Prosesmith vanity that led me to write too many/too much about, like, Speedy Claxton and then grump over the self-edits I needed to make to get my card-backs down to character count; he swapped my flopsweaty adjectives for something smoother and more economical and more reliably on-point. Where I might fuss over finding the right 200-character sentence for a Shaquille O’Neal card—Just one sentence to describe Shaq? Why must “Fu-Schnickens” contain so many letters!—Bruce just reached back into his dossier and pulled up a quote from Jason Collins. This would have been on Shaq’s Topps card around the middle of the last decade. Playing against Shaq, Collins said, “feels like you’re lifting weights.” And then Bruce was on to the next card, after writing what was both the perfect card-back for Shaq and, in recent retrospect, also the perfect card for Jason Collins.
Even for die-hards and true believers, the baseball season can be a slog. Luckily, this year's Toronto Blue Jays roster—the most hope-inducing in decades—boasts such a rich collection of literary-style backstories and archetypes, you can be sure the narratives will be compelling, even if the numbers aren't.