The Eclipse and Other Sports I Didn't Watch This Week

The Eclipse and Other Sports I Didn't Watch This Week
Image credits

I'm about two weeks out from my half marathon. My training is "peaking" – ostensibly. On Sunday, I'll do my longest and hardest long run before my race: 14 miles – two loops of Central Park. That's the course for the race, and if you know the park, you know that means two trips up Cat Hill, two trips up the Harlem Hills, and two trips up the Three Sisters. These aren't big hills, but they're hills nonetheless, and it's this elevation change that has me most nervous about setting and maintaining a strong pace.

Despite a rough training block, I'm feeling pretty good physically. No more knee pain, although my legs are pretty tired.

But mentally, damn, I don't know...

When I went to look at the links I'd gathered for this week's review of the health and fitness technology news, I realized I'd tracked very few articles – an indication, perhaps, that while my body's been busy running, my head's not been so adept at staying in the reading and writing game. I did note that Wired has profiled a former Thiel fellow whose new "fertility startup" promises genetic testing on embryos – something about alleviating suffering, supposedly; but the interview absolutely screams "eugenics" and let's be honest, Silicon Valley has always loved that shit. (Do read Malcolm Harris's book Palo Alto if you have any doubts about this.) I guess, if nothing else, that story made me less distressed about the ongoing buzz for continuous glucose monitors. Despite there being no solid research in support of people without diabetes using them, tons of venture capital is still flowing into companies building these gadgets.

In addition to not doing a very good job following the health/fitness technology news, two other things I didn't do this past week: I didn't watch the eclipse; and I didn't watch women's basketball. But even without my eyeballs, the NCAA title game was the most-watched basketball broadcast since 2019. Huge kudos to all the players, who no doubt will inspire so many girls. And shout out too to SC coach Dawn Staley, absolute legend. Elsewhere, Stanford's Tara VanDerveer, the NCAA's winningest basketball coach, announced her retirement. And in fairness, I guess there were some men's college basketball games too?

A few other stories about schools, sports, and reactionary fuckery: Marc Novicoff in The Atlantic on "The Logical End Point of College Sports." The Washington Post examines how COVID may be tied to a condition called POTS in young athletes. Via The Athletic: "The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) approved a transgender participation policy Monday that will only allow athletes to participate in NAIA-sponsored women’s sports if their biological sex assigned at birth is female and they have not begun hormone therapy" (making Staley's outspoken support for trans athletes all the more important). Media Matters reports on the 20+ Planet Fitness locations that have experienced bomb threats since right-wing influencer "Libs of TikTok" started a boycott campaign over the gym company's trans-inclusive locker room policy. An update from last week's news: New York Governor Kathy Hochul told the MTA to stop bullying NYRR into paying a $750,000 "toll" for closing the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge during the NYC Marathon.

I don't even know what to say about O.J. Simpson. Nor do I really know how to respond to this op-ed in The Guardian that fantasizes about The Rock running for President. I mean, my friend Mike and I talked about this years ago, and while the subject makes for a great discussion over a couple of beers, maybe a funny series of tweets, this is just not a great op-ed. Then again, as Hamilton Nolan wrote this week, that's the problem with being an opinion columnist: you gotta churn out The Content.

Most columnists are mediocre. This is not their fault. Almost no one on earth is capable of having two good ideas per week. (I say this as someone who writes at least twice a week.) Even the sharpest thinkers on matters of politics and policy and global news can have, at best, one or two good ideas a month, and by definition most of the population of columnists are not the sharpest thinkers in that same population. The best columnists lean into their good ideas and minimize their output the rest of the time. Most columnists sink into a comfortable bath of hackery, spitting out work that is acceptable enough to fill space on a page, yet rarely worth taking the time to read. Their careers are like room temperature bowls of cream of wheat left on a table, still edible but not appetizing. Other columnists are gifted with a fountain of ideas, but all of their ideas are bad. Thomas Friedman is the Platonic Ideal of this type: taken seriously by important people and utterly full of shit. Will smart phones change the Middle East? Thomas Friedman will most certainly coin a phrase to answer that question, and his answer will be wrong.

And honestly, bloggers are sort of like this too, I realize, although our reach – and the paycheck – is much, much smaller. Max Read has a recent piece on what he calls "Substackism," the ideology generated by the anti-woke wellness newsletter-writing crowd. There's more to be said here for sure, but I always like to stew on things for a while (or sometimes just shelve them forever, as I confessed to my therapist this week) and do some more reading and thinking before I toss my dumb ideas out into the wild. Of course, when you tell folks you're going to publish twice a week, sometimes you just gotta toss half-baked ideas out into the wild. Happens to the best of us, right?

Thanks for reading Second Breakfast. Please consider becoming a paid subscriber, which helps support my reading and research and not just my writing and emailing.