The latest issue of More Than Sports Talk finds many fans between sports seasons. Where I write this from in Tuscaloosa, the town is in its post-football dormancy, recovering from a long, albeit successful, championship campaign. Where just a couple months ago Saturday streets and lawns were filled with cars, tents, and cookouts, they now feature an occasional dog-walker, an almost-eerie quiet. There are a few odd weeks post-college football season in a college football town where everyone seems to wake up on Saturday mornings and feel like they’ve misplaced something or forgotten something important, where they must transition into a new lifestyle until college football begins again. My season-ending bewilderment, regardless of the season’s outcome, is usually abated by another sport—when baseball ends, hockey is always there to catch me; when hockey ends there waits baseball with open arms. Here in early February, we find ourselves post Super Bowl and pre Baseball, but still midseason in a historic NBA season, in the playoff push in the NHL, where injuries accumulate and bodies push harder to claim a playoff position. This issue of More Than Sports Talk finds the NBA raging on, football fueling relationships, and baseball and March Madness just around the corner. As seasons transition, so do the people in these stories, poems, and essays—in familial relationships, in retirement, in finding a new chapter of life.

In Lareign Ward’s essay “Greeting Cards for Cowboys Fans,” she illustrates her trying to build and maintain an relationship with her father through the Dallas Cowboys: “I knew I loved him, too, even when he didn’t deserve it. More than once, I tried to pretend I didn’t have a father, or that any father I might have had died a long time ago. But I knew that he was still alive somewhere. I knew that on Sundays, we were both parked in front of our respective TVs for the Cowboys game. The players and Jerry Jones’ face changed, but the routine never did.”

Danny Caine returns with another installment of Dispatches from the Factory of Sadness with two Cleveland Cavaliers poems. In “If the Cavs Win the NBA Title,” he imagines a new Cleveland: “Paris will rename itself “New Cleveland.’ Idealistic/southern kids will run away from home hitchhiking/with a sign that says ‘Cleveland or bust.’ The city/will shine and the buildings will sing and the sun/will never set.” In “The Day After the Cavs Fired David Blatt,” readers see a freshly unemployed coach reacquainting himself with life at home: “He orders a pizza./He flips to channel five to watch the beginning/of the game. The Cavs go up 14-8 with 6:56/ left in the first. He turns off the TV and sleeps/the sleep of peace for the first time since college.”

In “The G—-n St— Warr—s & Other NBA Stories” Matt Paul returns to give a thorough rundown of NBA season highlights at NBA all-star break, featuring stories on Kobe’s final season, the malfunctioning Houston Rockets, and a team so filthy (bet you can guess who) they must not be named. Matt begins: “Over the course of the fifty-ish games played, patterns and trends have merged. Heroes bask in the blinding flashbulb sun, and villains surface like an Orc from primordial ooze…Life might be like a box of chocolates but so is the NBA. You just never, ever know. Ain’t it beautiful?”

From his manuscript-in-progress about hyperemesis gravidarum, Michael Levan’s two pieces, “Game” and “Small World,” illustrate the intersection of basketball, marriage, and the complications of pregnancy. In “Game,” only the husband notices himself on the kiss cam: “He nudges her arm, tries to get her attention so he might / enjoy her lips, but she stays buried in her task. / He tries again before the crowd turns / against her, hisses circling the arena until the camera cuts / to another couple who obliges quickly, / who wants no part of the same admonition. She asks why there was such noise, and as he explains, / it’s as if she wants to curl herself / back into her own mother’s womb.”

Letitia Moffitt is back with “Beginning in the Middle,” a thoughtful essay on age, injury, and ultramarathons: “Distance favors discipline. Even if you aren’t one to party all night (as I never have been), it’s a rare 20-something who willingly gets up early to run all morning. Moreover, in truth many people ‘discover’ ultras when they realize that their days of getting PRs for shorter distances are almost certainly over. When you can’t go fast, you can always go farther.”

As always, I am so proud to present these authors’ work to you. I hope you enjoy each beautiful, human morsel these pieces offer. Thank you, dear reader, for reading More Than Sports Talk.


Photo: First Base View by Edward Conde