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Author Archive for David Gendelman

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Can the World Cup help elect controversial Mexico legend Cuauhtémoc Blanco?

Mexico’s love affair with football could help a politician with a dubious background become a very powerful manTwenty years ago at the World Cup in France, the Mexico striker Cuauhtémoc Blanco drew international acclaim when he introduced the world to …

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Size matters: the evolution of the NBA big man

A new generation of seven-footers has shifted the balance of power in the NBA from the shorter guys – but are these changes good for the game?

Last week, late in the first quarter of an NBA game in Detroit, Michigan, Myles Turner, the Indiana Pacers’s 20-year-old 6ft 11in center, popped out to the top of the three-point line and hit a 25ft jump shot with an arc so high the cameraman had to raise the viewing angle to follow it. Less than a minute later, he hit another one from the same spot. Both shots were so smooth that neither of them even skimmed the rim. The field goals were no anomaly. Turner is shooting 41% from the three-point line, well above the league average of 35%.

More than a thousand miles west in Denver, Colorado, Nikola Jokic, the Denver Nuggets’ 21-year-old 6ft 10in center, stood with his back to the basket, 15ft away, and threw a no-look, over-the-shoulder pass to a cutting team-mate for a wide-open lay-up. The pass, more common in a Harlem Globetrotters game than an NBA one, was nothing new for Jokic. A three-minute YouTube compilation posted to the site last month highlights dozens of them. “Jokic actually has some flair,” said former NBA coach George Karl, whose memoir about his life in basketball, Furious George, was published this week. “He throws some balls that only guards think about throwing.”

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Unpredictable and unmanly: baseball’s fear of the knuckleball

The knuckleball can be almost impossible to hit, and can extend a player’s career by years. So why do so many in the major and minor leagues distrust the pitch?

When Kevin Pucetas, a minor-league baseball player in the Texas Rangers organization, converted from a conventional pitcher into a knuckleballer, his biggest problem wasn’t one typically associated with the macho culture of professional sports: he needed to find a good manicurist. “I couldn’t keep nails on,” he said.

As Pucetas first began to throw the knuckleball, he developed a bad habit of splitting nails in the middle of games. Since a knuckleball pitcher’s grip is dependent upon the length and strength of his nails, this was no small matter. “It would hurt like hell,” Pucetas said. The day after it would happen, “I would have to go into nail salons and get acrylics, and it would always be a battle for me, especially on the road, because I would have to find a nail salon, and certain people do better stuff with nails.” But grooming is just one aspect of a pitch that in almost every way puts its practitioners at odds with baseball’s accepted conventions.

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Why Mexico, not USA, will enjoy home advantage at Copa América

El Tri plays more of its ‘home’ friendly matches in America than in Mexico, and its US fanbase is one of the most fanatical around

At the final whistle of Mexico’s 2-0 World Cup qualifying victory over Canada in Mexico City in March, home fans celebrated not by singing Cielito Lindo – the 19th century song often heard at Mexico’s soccer matches that has come to represent national pride – but instead by showering the national team with a chorus of boos and whistles. The Mexican players and coaching staff might have been surprised by the reaction. The win, after all, was the team’s fourth straight in qualifying. In those four games, Mexico had not given up a single goal, outscoring its opponents 10-0. The victory also marked Mexico’s eighth straight win in official international competitions (all of which were against its regional Concacaf opponents). Counting friendlies, including a 2-2 draw against Argentina in September in Arlington, Texas, it was Mexico’s 17th straight undefeated match.

But many of the 75,000 fans in attendance at Mexico City’s historic Estadio Azteca weren’t reacting to the positive result on top of the series of other positive results. They were responding to the Mexican team’s lackluster second-half performance, which began with Mexico ahead 2-0 and consisted largely of a routine execution of a harmless game of keep-away.

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The art of losing successfully: baseball and the minor league grind

As the new season approaches many players aren’t dreaming of a World Series victory – they’re just hoping to stay in the major leagues. Chris Bassitt is among their number

Chris Bassitt’s first Major League Baseball pitching start came for the Chicago White Sox in late August 2014. He was 25 years old, just slightly older than the average age for a pitcher’s debut in the league. He had gotten the phone call notifying him of the start only two days earlier, and it had taken him completely by surprise. He spent the next 48 hours in an emotional and logistical cyclone, traveling, fielding congratulatory phone calls from friends and family, and obtaining tickets for those same friends and family, about 70 of whom made it to the game.

“It’s such a whirlwind, that first game,” he said at spring training in Arizona earlier this month. “Everything is going a million miles an hour. Baseball was about one-tenth of what was actually going on.”

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Parma: the football club milked for all their worth | David Gendelman

It is incredible that a Serie A team could go bankrupt so spectacularly twice in a little over 10 years. But in Italy the incredible has become the commonplace

• Originally published in Howler Magazine

Roberto Donadoni, the coach of Parma, looked like he hadn’t slept in days. He had bags under his eyes, and his hair was a messy tangle of grey. He was sitting at a conference table beside Parma’s captain, Alessandro Lucarelli, who could not keep still, frowning and fidgeting when he paused between exasperated monologues. The men had held press conferences at the team’s headquarters in the Parma suburb of Collecchio before, but usually in front of no more than a dozen reporters. On this day in late February, the room was packed with far more than that.

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