It’s December. The NFL playoff picture is coming into focus, college football bowl season approaches, Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors continue their quest to break the NBA, and MLB Winter Meetings have just concluded. As school winds down, the holiday season marches forward, and for many that means convening and reconvening with family. It can be difficult to separate sports and family. Leagues are designed to offer dynamic sports backdrops to family gatherings, and even if the televised fireplace prevails on the main screen, there are always those of us furtively score checking in the bathroom or corner.
The work in this issue of More Than Sports Talk has me thinking a lot about the roles sports plays in family, how it can be a principle point of rally or rift—how athletics can create and perpetuate legacy or break it, physically or mentally. The pieces that follow aspire to examine these difficult, often generational dynamics, and do so through a variety of perspectives and forms.
In new fiction, Jonathan McGregor’s “Reckoning” navigates a young high school football player’s struggle with contributing to his team’s success and the nepotism that allows him to keep playing. In Zack O’Neill’s “Empathy Project,” a couple in marriage counseling considers each other’s perspective as they work through the husband’s obsession with Little League Baseball. With his column, Dispatches from the Factory of Sadness, Danny Caine is back with two Cleveland poems, considering the notions of home and perpetual sports letdown. In new nonfiction, Leesa Cross-Smith returns in creative collaboration with Matt Paul with stirring meditations on the NBA, family, and identity. Letitia Moffitt offers “Heartless Whispers,” a follow-up to her October essay that examines how returning to standard marathon running is not as easy as you might think. Finally, in “The Old Guys and the Young Guys,” Justin Brouckaert beautifully renders what physical limitations can mean in the dynamics of a pickup basketball game and beyond.
I am proud to present these authors’ work for the December issue of More Than Sports Talk. Thanks for reading and engaging, and if you find yourself with some sports literature of your own, please don’t be afraid to contribute to our discussion. Enjoy!
“The NBA is for Feelings” by Leesa Cross-Smith and Matt Paul: “On a school trip to France soon after, I spent my saved pocket money on a T-shirt emblazoned with the NBA logo and the image of a player dribbling down the court. It was months later that I discovered that player to be Charles Barkley wearing his brand new Phoenix uniform. ” / “What I liked the most was wearing my uniform to school on game days—the sweatshirt over my uniform, my skirt flipped out over my sweatpants.”
“The Old Guys and the Young Guys” by Justin Brouckaert: “For the past three years, I’ve played pickup basketball in a 45-year-old campus rec, an ugly brown building used by faculty, staff, grad students and the few undergrads who, for whatever reason, elect not to make the half-mile trek to the shiny new gym with the indoor rock wall and the outdoor pool. ”
“Reckoning” by Jonathan McGregor: “At the sink, he stood well back and leaned over, careful not to get his socks wet. His skin showed pale green in the mirror, shining with the day’s first sweat.”
“Heartless Whispers” by Letitia Moffitt: “People who run ultramarathons like to joke about how “cute” marathons are. Once they start gunning for fifty, sixty, a hundred miles or more, well, they like to sneer that 26.2 becomes a mere training run, a warmup, hardly worth the bother. Yeah, that’s crap. ”
Dispatches from the Factory of Sadness: “Lines Composed in a B-Dubs 839 Miles from Home” & “Another Cleveland Offseason: An Epic”: “A group of Chicago fans can yell and heckle because they / are not alone, but we geography orphans wear our livery”
“Empathy Project” by Zack O’Neill: “But we cheered for the little bastard, even as he cuntily clapped for himself while standing on the bag and pointed at the dugout with both hands. You have to cheer you know, it’s part of the game. ”
Photo: Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection