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3:33 Sports Short #49 // Haunted by Anne Penfield

His body is shot through with tension. He trains his ears on the woods. I look through his ears, through the bare branches and staggered trunks to see what he is sensing. A squirrel darts along the snow. His ears flicker, head lowers, and his breath clouds out. My knees are snugged into the saddle knee rolls. I shake my shoulders. I murmur something to him; his ear twitches in response. He is bold. When I accept this motion as part of my own, I too am bold. I press my heels to his side and tip forward into a gallop. Snow crunches underfoot. We are a glimmer through the dark trunks of the forest.

3:33 Sports Short #48 // After Ballet by Zoë McLaughlin

I feel weak right now, flabby and fat, truly a sack of potatoes like Mr. B. always threatened.  I don’t dance anymore, and when I do it’s wrong: I give myself a short barre, stepping off my bad leg as soon as it starts to complain; I slip back into the easy, languid movements of Javanese dance, tricking my muscles into doing something, tricking my body into thinking it’s strong.  I never do center combinations.  Somehow I’ve become this person who doesn’t dance anymore.  If I sit too long, I feel it.  If I eat too much, I feel it.

3:33 Sports Short #47 // Sport? Living Sacrifice... by D. Thomas

Today's pair of Sports Shorts center on one of the most physically demanding endeavors of all: ballet. D. Thomas's piece below focuses on the physical and mental perfection that ballet demands of its practitioners, while Zoë McLaughlin's "After Ballet" contemplates what happens when you leave dancing behind.

Consider the power of the foot: pushing against the ground, elevating the heel, fourteen phlanges pressing up to pointes or propelling one hundred, two hundred pounds of flesh into flight—two feet, three feet; high jumpers might fly seven or eight feet up—. And landing: sink into the metatarsals, absorb the impact through the twenty-six foot bones, and plié when you land.

3:33 Sports Short #46 // After Work by Demetri Raftopoulos

This week's final Sports Short comes from Demetri Raftopoulos. It's about Greeks and Colombians finding shared community through soccer in Long Island. Hope you enjoy! And check back next week for more Sports Shorts.

I walked out of the catering hall holding a soccer ball. New Hyde Park Wildcat logos were printed around the white of the ball; the first team I had ever played for at five years old, when positions were irrelevant and every player attacked together. My coach in middle school called it herd-ball.

The other valets followed me to the parking lot, unbuttoning their white collared uniforms. Summer had yet to relinquish its hold on Long Island, now early in October. Waiters emerged from the back of the catering hall, as we appeared from the front, meeting in the middle of the long, wide, now empty, lot. They removed their black suit jackets and vests, fighting the unexpected humidity.

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?


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.

3:33 Sports Short #40 // Handful of Throttle by Jolene McIlwain

He didn’t just hit that jump fourth gear pinned, he sailed, bits of earth spinning off those knobbies.

I thought he’d plummet back down. That’s when the trees leaned in and the clouds fell from the sky a little, coming in closer to see how a man on a Yamaha could wing like a hawk. They tapped the top of his helmet with their storm-filled palms and then buoyed him milliseconds more.

And I waited there, ground-bound, knees wanting to give out, scared even to kick the starter of the bike beside me, scared even to lift my leg over the seat and mount something so wild, knowing I’d fall over at the first blush of crash.

When he landed it, he took off again, the motor yammering, hammering the turn, sinking the front tire into the loamy berm. He glanced back to see if I was still there, if I’d been struck by the roost of his trailing dirt. I hit the button and let the shutter open again. It’s all I could do.


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