Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

August 2016

3:33 Sports Short #45 // The Physics of Fools by Neil Serven

It’s a sufferer’s game, designed for Protestants and folks who get buried by snowstorms, and I come back to it week after week.

I thread a beautiful ball into the 1-3 pocket and instead of exploding the rack like it should, the ball slices the head pin high, causing it to helicopter around the left side and ricochet off the sidewall taking out only the corner 7. Now I’m looking at the left diamond, 2-4-5-8, a common leave that, since the pins are in a cluster, should be an easily convertible spare, but which I will not convert because to do so I need to spray the 2-4-5 triangle just so while keeping the ball on line to take out the 8 pin in the back.

The game is candlepin bowling. It is what we play in New England because we like to torture our souls for fun.

3:33 Sports Short #44 // Geoffrey Crayon’s Reflections on the Puritanical Pleasures of Candlepin Bowling by E. Thomas Finan

Today we bring you two posts about a little-known variation on bowling... candlepin bowling! It's much more difficult to excel at than it's more popular cousin, with the highest recorded score being 245 out of a possible 300. E. Thomas Finan touches on this and more in his piece below, and Neil Serven waxes poetic on the maddening "physics" of the sport here. Enjoy!


The imposing outlines of Puritan divines can be seen in the oiled lanes of candlepin bowling—a sport of human frailty and the austere wonder of difficulty.  Candlepin began in Worcester, Massachusetts in the 1880s, and New England has served as a citadel for the sport ever since. 

3:33 Sports Short #43 // Playing the Sports Fan by Claire Polders

I know people who believe that painting their faces orange will influence the outcome of a match. Most of them have college degrees.

I also know people who believe that swallowing a wafer on Sunday will improve their lifestyles once they are dead. Some of them teach physics at schools.

Are their beliefs comparable?

A religious person might reply that sacred traditions are fundamentally different from superstitions. But tell that to Maradona, fretting his rosary beads at the sidelines.

Although I never cared much for sports, fans have always fascinated me. Their lucky underwear. Their gibberish slogans. Why do people who seem reasonable in day-to-day life champion magic when it comes to winning games?

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3:33 Sports Short #42 // Chief Wahoo by Pete Beatty

Today's Sports Shorts explore fandom in all its complexity. Pete Beatty's piece below interrogates what it means to be a fan of a team that has for its mascot an abhorrent and racist caricature. Claire Polders' "Playing the Sports Fan" (click here to read) explores the "seductive but necessary illusion" one must accept in order to enjoy participating in a sporting match as a fan.


A 28-foot-tall neon Native American baseball player greets visitors to the museum where my father works. Chief Wahoo wears pinstripes and bats left-handed. He is frozen mid-swing, lifting one of his size-48 cleats toward an incoming non-existent fastball.

3:33 Sports Short #41 // The Kindness of Heart by Mark Budman

After a break during the Summer (how did the Olympics in Rio treat everyone?) the final batch of Sports Shorts is on the way. Mark Budman's piece explores how the mental sport of chess now exists in the digital realm. Enjoy this, and stay tuned for more in the coming weeks!


Kindness of heart is little use in chess.
—Nicolas Chamfort

You don't imagine yourself a spider or vampire sitting in the dark cave in front of a game computer and catching the weak and naive to suck their blood and spit the cask out. You're above the melodrama. You're a grand master. Your chair is calf leather. Your pajamas are silk and your scarf is cashmere.  And your monitor, with its screen that you dimmed to the bare minimum—the bright light hurts your eyes—is the state of the art.