“There’s fans, then there’s Kansas fans, then there’s Josh,” says Daymion Mardel. He’s Josh Swade’s friend, according to his credit in There’s No Place Like Home, and his description frames the story of Josh’s efforts to bring James Naismith’s original “Rules of Basketball” to Kansas University. Because Naismith coached and taught at KU for 40 years, Josh reasons, the Allen Fieldhouse is the document’s rightful home.
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“When do you sleep? You know, who needs it?” Jon Gruden’s first words to Bryant Gumbel on this week’s Real Sports. advised that getting up at 3:15am every morning to look at game film and prepare for work, Gruden agrees. “Yeah, it’s probably not wise at times, probably not normal,” he says, looking serious for a moment before he smiles. “But it’s my rhythm, it’s the beat that I go to.”
“You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs.” Jesse Owens’ description of running is surely poetic. Yet even as he found in running a means to express himself, to assert his independence and brilliance, the world around him remained unjust and odious. Jesse Owens—premiering on PBS’ American Experience on 1 May—recalls that world, as well as the athlete’s singular resistance to such injustice. It’s helpful to recall this dynamic now, at a time when athletes typically don’t take on such responsibility. As Laurens Grant’s elegant documentary points out, the responsibility was tremendous, as he traveled with the US Olympic team to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. The bare bones of the outcome are well known now: Owens won four gold medals and Hitler refused to shake his hand. But the backstories to Owens’ triumphs on the track may be less familiar. And these stories, even those noted briefly here, demonstrate the complexity of the situations for Owens, the many “directions” he had to go, and the many winds he had to fight.
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In high school, Pau Gasol pursued “unathletic interests.” So reports the episode of Real Sports, premiering on HBO 17 April, interests that included reading “countless books” and learning “Tchaikovsky on the piano… all while starring in basketball and dreaming of life as a pro.” The clip here shows a very young and sweet-faced Gasol blowing out birthday cake candles, before it cuts to Magic Johnson, whose announcement that he was HIV positive deeply affected the boy in Spain. “I was in shock,” the now 31-year-old Gasol tells Jon Frankel, and so he imagined himself entering the medical profession (his mother was a doctor and his father a nurse). His choice is now something like history, as is his brother Marc’s. Both were drafted by the NBA, Marc by the Lakers and Pau by the Grizzlies, and then became the first (and only, so far) brothers traded for one another.
For years, Michael Strahan was one of the single most feared forces in the NFL; quite a feat for a guy known off the field as something of a big softy. In his fourteen year career as a defensive end for the New York Giants, Strahan was selected to seven Pro Bowls, named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2001, and captured the NFL single season sack record.
After a stellar career on the gridiron, Strahan seems set to be as dominant on TV as he was on the field. He’s a host for Pros vs Joes and the star of the new sitcom Brothers, where he plays a retired NFL star named Michael. It’s all a little bit postmodern, yes. And like any retired football player worth his salt, Strahan is offering his thoughts on the current NFL season on TV every Sunday.
I caught up with Michael Strahan earlier this week to talk about his Super Bowl picks, his former team, the business end of running an NFL franchise, whether or not getting hit in the head for a living can ever be a safe occupation and of course, how he stays pretty for his new career in TV land.
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