6-8 Pages. 12 point font. MLA How is sport like religion? What are the key differences and similarities? Please use references using the attached articles with citations.
6-8 Pages. 12 point font. MLA How is sport like religion? What are the key differences and similarities? Please use references using the attached articles with citations.
12/16/2015 Ed Smith: Sport is more about philosophy than we might think | Cricket | ESPN Cricinfo http://www.espncricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/952127.html 1/5 December 15, 2015 S p o r t  i s  m o r e  a b o u t  p h i l o s o p h y  t h a n  w e m i g h t  t h i n k T he greatest com petitive advantage, in cricket and other gam es, is the ability to use existing inform ation better than the opposition ­ i.e. critical thinking ED SM ITH A rguing that sport can learn from  philosophy sounds im probable. Superficially, sport and philosophy have little in com m on: one is allegedly purely physical, the Yes, sport is about scorelines, but we overestimate the extent to which the score reflects performance © Hardy’s 12/16/2015 Ed Smith: Sport is more about philosophy than we might think | Cricket | ESPN Cricinfo http://www.espncricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/952127.html 2/5 other (according to cliché) a m atter of thinking about thinking. B ut professional sport, casting its net ever w ider in the search for com petitive advantage, has em braced m any new  disciplines. Several sciences ­ and quite a few quasi­sciences ­ find them selves contributing not only ideas but also em ployees to professional sport. M athem atics, statistics, physiology, nutrition and psychology have all influenced sport. A lm ost every top professional side has access to data analysts, physiotherapists, strength and conditioning coaches, nutritionists and psychologists. Step forw ard the philosophers? A fter all, sport’s new  vogue disciplines do not alw ays rely on proof and practicality. The greatest beneficiary of all has been the least scientifically tested: m anagerialism . The biggest grow th industry inside sport is the m anagem ent class and the language it invented for its ow n purposes. W ords and phrases that never used to im pinge on sport at all are now  com m onplace: “reporting to”, “m ission statem ents”, “line m anagers”, “accountability”, “job descriptions”, “clearly defined roles”. W e forget that these things are relatively new  and that leaders used to exercise pow er w ithout them . Instead, w e got by w ith decisions, judgem ents and authority. I realised that professional sport w as being sw am ped w ith m anagerial jargon w hen I w itnessed a hard­living, straight­talking and usually no­nonsense team ­m ate com plain after being fired out by a bad lbw  decision. B ack in the dressing room , he started throw ing his kit around. B ut his rant w as phrased in a peculiar w ay: “N o ******* accountability, these um pires!” W ith such unhelpful concepts buzzing around inside his m ind, no w onder he got hit on the front pad. It sounds pretentious, alm ost preposterous, to argue that sport’s m anagem ent class w ould be better off to ditch the m ission statem ents and corporate jargon, and to read som e (select) philosophy instead ­ but I think it’s true. Sport is alw ays desperate to em pow er people w ho can give them  inform ation ­ statistics, diet sheets or training program m es ­ as though inform ation is the only form  of advantage. B ut it isn’t. The greatest com petitive advantage is the ability to use existing inform ation better than the opposition, to be trained in critical thinking. This, of course, belongs to a m uch longer­standing tradition: philosophy. 12/16/2015 Ed Smith: Sport is more about philosophy than we might think | Cricket | ESPN Cricinfo http://www.espncricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/952127.html 3/5 I o fte n  w is h  th a t th e  e n e rg y  a n d d e b a te  d e v o te d  to  o b s e s s in g  a b o u t ” w in n in g ”  c o u ld  b e  re c o n fig u re d a s  in te re s t in  im p ro v in g p e rfo rm a n c e . I th in k  p la y e rs  w o u ld p la y  a  lo t b e tte r a s  a  re s u lt TS E liot’s classic lines ­ “W here is the w isdom  w e have lost in know ledge? W here is the know ledge w e have lost in inform ation?” ­ is even m ore relevant in the internet age. E veryone has got opinions; anyone can gather facts. It’s using them  better that’s the real opportunity. A t a tim e w hen inform ation is so vastly available and cheap to gather, the long­term  advantage derives not only from  how  m uch coaches “know “, but how  w ell they can “read” sport. A nd it’s not only the coaches. R eading the gam e is also at the heart of playing sport and central to experiencing a fuller enjoym ent as a spectator. So here goes, the case for using thinking to rethink sport. O ne of the things that led m e to think about this subject is A  Philosophy of Sport, a superb book by the C am bridge academ ic Steven C onnor that deserves to be far better know n by serious sports fans and practitioners. First, w e should be cautious about believing that sport delivers justice, that the “right” team  or player w ins. Yes, sport is structured to deliver a final judgem ent. Like a trial (or the trial’s m edieval precursor, the “ordeal”) sport ends in an answ er ­ yes or no, w in or lose. The scoreboard, w e m ight say, is the jury. A  decision m ust be reached, and sport’s dram a derives from  artificially orchestrating a situation (the clock) w here tim e is alw ays running out. B ut that doesn’t m ean that w e ­ as players, fans or coaches ­ m ust accept the infallibility of the decision reached. Sport’s default position is to overestim ate the extent to w hich the score reflects perform ance. H ere is a trivial exam ple draw n from  life as a spectator rather than a player. The other day, as I w atched A rsenal play football w ith a friend (w e are both fans, though he is an instinctive pessim ist) he suggested that A rsenal ought to change tactics because they w ere totally dom inant yet still hadn’t scored. M y reply: “G iven that they are obviously trying to score, can you think of a better w ay of 12/16/2015 Ed Smith: Sport is more about philosophy than we might think | Cricket | ESPN Cricinfo http://www.espncricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/952127.html 4/5 achieving it than being totally dom inant? H ow  about m ore of the sam e?” H ow  m any good plans are abandoned before they com e good because the score does not reflect underlying reality? A nd how  m any bad plans survive too long because the scoreline is m isleadingly positive? The sam e point applies in retrospect. First­level thinking is: “W e w on ­ w e w ere better” and “W e lost ­ w e w ere w orse.” Second­level thinking is: “W e w on ­ perhaps w e w ere better” and “W e lost ­ perhaps w e w ere w orse.” W inning and losing are certainly evidence; but they are not the only evidence. People w ho think that w inning is the only thing are less likely to help team s to w in m ore often. O bviously you have to play to w in at the tim e; that is a sim ple function of necessary com petitiveness. Yet I often w ish that as if by m agic, the energy and debate devoted to obsessing about “w inning” could be reconfigured as interest in im proving perform ance. W hat w ould happen? I think players w ould play a lot better. A  connected idea (and I w ould agree w ith this, w ouldn’t I?) is that believing in luck is not unscientific, or slack or, as m any people think, an “excuse.” Luck is sim ply a fact of sport, built into its hardw are, an inevitably huge factor over the short term . Sport m isleads us doubly on the question of luck. First, because sport delivers a final judgem ent, acknow ledging luck seem s to underm ine the w hole spectacle from an em otional point of view . Secondly, the final result, after the fact, takes on the aura of being predestined ­ so w e tend to forget how  explicitly uncertain it w as all along. Think carefully the next tim e you say: it w as alw ays going to end that w ay. A re you sure it couldn’t have ended the opposite w ay just as easily, had the bounce of the ball been different? In sport, w e exercise and train the body to m ake it m ore flexible and adaptive, so it is able to do w hat it could not do previously. The aim  is to increase and im prove capacity, opening up the possibility of solving problem s that haven’t yet m aterialised. N ow  substitute the m ind for the body: w e “exercise” the m ind, training ourselves to think better, by w ay of philosophy. M any of the best sportsm en, of course, do this naturally, w ithout ever thinking of them selves as “intellectual”, still less “philosophical” ­ though they are, in fact, both. B ut they have 12/16/2015 Ed Smith: Sport is more about philosophy than we might think | Cricket | ESPN Cricinfo http://www.espncricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/952127.html 5/5 to get there on their ow n, w ithout m uch outside encouragem ent. The idea that sportsm en should try to becom e better at thinking and decision­m aking, every bit as m uch as they do in m ovem ent or strength, has alm ost never been part of m ainstream  sporting education. Finally ­ for the purposes of the colum n, though certainly not the subject ­ w e have sport in the w rong category. In particular, w e m isread sport’s relationship w ith “real life” (shorthand: serious, grow n­up living). “R eal life” is cast as som ething sturdy, solid and verifiable, w hereas sport is assum ed to be ephem eral and lightw eight, only useful as a sym bol or an allegory for som ething m ore real and determ inate in the real w orld. This m ay be the w rong w ay around. Sports m ay not “m atter”, in the sense of life and death, but they are unusually and explicitly real. E vents in sport definitely happened. U nlike real life, w hich, as C onnor puts it, “despite its upright reputation, is plainly a treacherous fogbank of delusions and deceptions”. W hen I w rote editorials (that’s the serious bits, not the sporty bits) for a new spaper, I som etim es w ondered if papers should experim ent w ith putting the back pages at the front and the front pages at the back. Typical back­page story: “H e shoots, he scores.” Typical front­page story: “A n anonym ous source close to the prim e m inister confirm s… ” N ow  tell m e, w hich one is hard new s? Sport is both m ore serious and less serious than you thought, a subject deserving of m ore philosophical attention and a discipline that w ould benefit from  it. © ESPN SPORTS M EDIA LTD.
6-8 Pages. 12 point font. MLA How is sport like religion? What are the key differences and similarities? Please use references using the attached articles with citations.
The Joy of Sports, Michael Novak Chapter 2 Sport as Religion The main thesis: sport is to be considered as a religion. Novak, “I am saying that sports flow outward into action from a deep natural impulse that is radically religious’ (19). Why? What features of sport are like a religion? Depends on what we mean by ‘religion’… Religion is often equated with an all-powerful creator deity, who is responsible for the creation of the world and has power over it and over humans. Christianity and Islam are two such religions. Clearly sport is not like religion in this sense. But note that there other belief systems typically identified as religions that are not like this – Buddhism, for example. Buddhism does not posit the existence of a transcendental God who exists outside of the world he created. But sport does display other features of religion. What are these other features? Novak: ‘an impulse of freedom, respect for ritual limits, a zest for symbolic meaning, and a longing for perfection.’ (19) What might these mean? Some possible interpretations: Sport as Freedom. An escape from the mundane routine of everyday life — something which is not enjoyable. In contrast, sport allows an individual escape, at least temporarily, from the rules demands that exist in the realms of work, family and so on. Symbolic meaning. Most people seek meaning in their own lives, and some objects and actions are seen as more than just objects or actions – they ‘point to’ or ‘hint at’ something greater than the bare object or action itself. For example, a signed baseball is just a baseball with some writing on it, but it doesn’t appear like that. It links its possessor to the career of a great player, to the history of a club, and of the game. In this way, the scared object links sports fans to something greater, and possibly even something more meaningful than his or her individual life. This is also a feature of religions – the creation of a link between the individual and something greater, such as a realm of eternal life or deathless heroes and saviours. Perfection. Perfection is an unnatural state – most things in the world are flawed or imperfect in some way. But there are moments in life when what happens seems perfect – things go especially well; or, in sporting terms, a play or rally or move is executed unusually well (See JS chapter 1 and the story of George Blanda’s winning drives). Similarly, some religion is based around the idea of perfection. God, for example, is understood as the perfect being – capable of creating the perfect world, which humanity has somehow degraded. The appeal of what is perfect is a thus a feature of sport and religion. Other senses of religion found in sport Asceticism and discipline. Compare the training regime of a top athlete with a period of fasting and abstinence that precede the celebration of some religious festivals. Respect for the limits of human control. In spite of careful preparation, sporting contests are sometimes decided by matters of luck or fate. Athletes are injured at inopportune moments, make unexpected and basic mistakes; the weather may intervene; the coin toss can influence the result. This echoes the idea that humans cannot understand the actions of a divine being, and nor can they explain or control certain events in the world – such as natural disasters. Destiny. Sometimes players believe they were destined to win or lose, just as people believe their lives have been determined by an outside force such as a deity. Reverence. In the sporting world, reverence is a common feature. Fans revere players, sporting greats are revered for their contribution to the game. In more familiar religious contexts, reverence is also common – for the power of God, for the sanctity of human life, etc. Ritual. Sporting life is often sustained by ritual. The national anthem is sung before games; teams have a mascot; individual fans have a gameday ritual. This emphasis on ritual – and how it creates the symbolic meaning noted above – mirrors religion. One classic example of ritual in religion is the Catholic mass, featuring hymns, prayers, the consecration of hosts, etc. Other points to note: Religion as a something that provides a focus for motivation, intellect and passion (Novak 20). Certain things (issues, ideals, practices) strongly motivate people; they are prepared to act for these things, to discuss them, to defend them when attacked (verbally or otherwise). Sport is one such thing, as are more formal religions. More importantly, people are prepared for the sake of these things to put their physical body in danger, or even to risk death. The ideal or the value appears to the individual to be more important that their own body. Sport can have this on people’s behavior – think of the sacrifice required of athletes for their team – risking injury, playing with injury, etc. Compare with formal religions: risking persecution for one’s beliefs, etc. Chapter 3 The Metaphysics of Sport The place of work in American life. Novak: the influence of Protestant culture within American society has led to a great emphasis on hard work and personal responsibility. This, in turn, serves the aim of making the world better (through working hard). However, Novak believes we should be more critical of the ubiquitous call to work and the elevated status assigned to it in everyday life. It is one possible value, but not the only or supreme one. Novak claims that play is a more natural state. However, we have been conditioned or socialised to look upon play as a dirty word, a triviality vastly inferior to the virtue of hard work. Novak further defends the value of play by suggesting that the call to work hard is based on a false justification – that doing so will make the world better. He suggests that, while the world is certainly changing and new forms of good appear, there is little evidence that humanity is really getting better. Instead, he believes that new forms of good are accompanied by new problems or evils, and that the underlying human condition remains unchanged. We still love, act cruelly, generously, indifferently, honestly, dishonestly, etc, just as in earlier times. This being so, the huge emphasis placed on work, as a means to improve the world, is misguided. We should pay more attention to the value of play, including sports. Sport and the virtues Consider the common virtues that we hope most people will come to exhibit: honesty, courage, a concern for those around one. Take courage as an example. Novak’s idea is that sport is perhaps the primary, or at least the most instructive way, young people can learn courage. Taking part in physical exercise, including both physical contact and physical exertion (such as having to run fast, where the risk of injury is greater), is a key way in which people become brave or courageous. Can you think of some examples that illustrate the point? In what other ways do the young learn to be courageous? Other virtues or values learned through sport are, according to Novak, authenticity (learning to use one’s own distinctive skills and trusting one’s judgment in sport), perseverance, the ability to cope with failure and defeat. Note in general how Novak makes a strong connection between engagement in sport and character development. This delivers a strong judgment about those who have no interest in sport… Gender issues in JS Novak repeatedly makes a distinction between male and female in the texts. For example, in the introduction he praises his wife for accepting his love of sports while not herself being a fan; in chapter 3, he talks about a male bonding that sports make possible and which is not so readily available among women. How would you assess Novak’s treatment of or sensitivity to gender in the book? Is he right that men and women might experience and value sports differently? For example, do you think that men and women have different views of the value of competition – with, for example, men more incline to compete but women more wary of the consequences of it?
6-8 Pages. 12 point font. MLA How is sport like religion? What are the key differences and similarities? Please use references using the attached articles with citations.
5/14/2014 Roger Federer as Religious Experience – Tennis – NYTimes.com http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/20/sports/playmagazine/20federer.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0&pagewanted=print 1/13 August 20, 2006 F e d e r e r a s R e l i g i o u s E x p e r i e n c e By DAVID FOSTER W ALLACE A lm ost anyone w ho loves tennis and follow s the m en’s tour on television has, over the last few years, had w hat m ight be term ed Federer M om ents. T hese are tim es, as you w atch the young Sw iss play, w hen the jaw drops and eyes protrude and sounds are m ade that bring spouses in from other room s to see if you’re O .K . T he M om ents are m ore intense if you’ve played enough tennis to understand the im possibility of w hat you just saw him do. W e’ve all got our exam ples. H ere is one. It’s the finals of the 2005 U .S. O pen, Federer serving to A ndre A gassi early in the fourth set. T here’s a m edium -long exchange of groundstrokes, one w ith the distinctive butterfly shape of today’s pow er-baseline gam e, Federer and A gassi yanking each other from side to side, each trying to set up the baseline w inner…until suddenly A gassi hits a hard heavy cross-court backhand that pulls Federer w ay out w ide to his ad (=left) side, and Federer gets to it but slices the stretch backhand short, a couple feet past the service line, w hich of course is the sort of thing A gassi dines out on, and as Federer’s scram bling to reverse and get back to center, A gassi’s m oving in to take the short ball on the rise, and he sm acks it hard right back into the sam e ad corner, trying to w rong-foot Federer, w hich in fact he does — Federer’s still near the corner but running tow ard the centerline, and the ball’s heading to a point behind him now , w here he just w as, and there’s no tim e to turn his body around, and A gassi’s follow ing the shot in to the net at an angle from the backhand side…and w hat Federer now does is som ehow instantly reverse thrust and sort of skip backw ard three or four steps, im possibly fast, to hit a forehand out of his backhand corner, all his w eight m oving backw ard, and the forehand is a topspin scream er dow n the line past A gassi at net, w ho lunges for it but the ball’s past him , and it flies straight dow n the sideline and lands exactly in the deuce corner of A gassi’s side, a w inner — Federer’s still dancing backw ard as it lands. A nd there’s that fam iliar little second of shocked silence from the N ew Y ork crow d before it erupts, and John M cEnroe w ith his color m an’s headset on T V says (m ostly to him self, it sounds like), “H ow do you hit a w inner from that position?” A nd he’s right: given A gassi’s position and w orld-class quickness, Federer had to send that ball dow n a tw o- inch pipe of space in order to pass him , w hich he did, m oving backw ards, w ith no setup tim e and none of his w eight behind the shot. It w as im possible. It w as like som ething out of “T he M atrix.” I don’t know w hat-all sounds w ere involved, but m y spouse says she hurried in and there w as popcorn all over the couch and I w as dow n on one knee and m y eyeballs looked like novelty-shop eyeballs. 5/14/2014 Roger Federer as Religious Experience – Tennis – NYTimes.com http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/20/sports/playmagazine/20federer.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0&pagewanted=print 2/13 A nyw ay, that’s one exam ple of a Federer M om ent, and that w as m erely on T V — and the truth is that T V tennis is to live tennis pretty m uch as video porn is to the felt reality of hum an love. Jou rn alistically sp eakin g, there is no hot new s to offer you about R oger Federer. H e is, at 25, the best tennis player currently alive. M aybe the best ever. Bios and profiles abound. “60 M inutes” did a feature on him just last year. A nything you w ant to know about M r. R oger N .M .I. Federer — his background, his hom e tow n of Basel, Sw itzerland, his parents’ sane and unexploitative support of his talent, his junior tennis career, his early problem s w ith fragility and tem per, his beloved junior coach, how that coach’s accidental death in 2002 both shattered and annealed Federer and helped m ake him w hat he now is, Federer’s 39 career singles titles, his eight G rand Slam s, his unusually steady and m ature com m itm ent to the girlfriend w ho travels w ith him (w hich on the m en’s tour is rare) and handles his affairs (w hich on the m en’s tour is unheard of), his old-school stoicism and m ental toughness and good sportsm anship and evident overall decency and thoughtfulness and charitable largess — it’s all just a G oogle search aw ay. K nock yourself out. T his present article is m ore about a spectator’s experience of Federer, and its context. T he specific thesis here is that if you’ve never seen the young m an play live, and then do, in person, on the sacred grass of W im bledon, through the literally w ithering heat and then w ind and rain of the ’06 fortnight, then you are apt to have w hat one of the tournam ent’s press bus drivers describes as a “bloody near-religious experience.” It m ay be tem pting, at first, to hear a phrase like this as just one m ore of the overheated tropes that people resort to to describe the feeling of Federer M om ents. But the driver’s phrase turns out to be true — literally, for an instant ecstatically — though it takes som e tim e and serious w atching to see this truth em erge. B eau ty is n ot th e goal of com petitive sports, but high-level sports are a prim e venue for the expression of hum an beauty. T he relation is roughly that of courage to w ar. T he hum an beauty w e’re talking about here is beauty of a particular type; it m ight be called kinetic beauty. Its pow er and appeal are universal. It has nothing to do w ith sex or cultural norm s. W hat it seem s to have to do w ith, really, is hum an beings’ reconciliation w ith the fact of having a body.(1) O f course, in m en’s sports no one ever talks about beauty or grace or the body. M en m ay profess their “love” of sports, but that love m ust alw ays be cast and enacted in the sym bology of w ar: elim ination vs. advance, hierarchy of rank and standing, obsessive statistics, technical analysis, tribal and/or nationalist fervor, uniform s, m ass noise, banners, chest-thum ping, face- painting, etc. For reasons that are not w ell understood, w ar’s codes are safer for m ost of us than love’s. Y ou too m ay find them so, in w hich case Spain’s m esom orphic and totally m artial R afael 5/14/2014 Roger Federer as Religious Experience – Tennis – NYTimes.com http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/20/sports/playmagazine/20federer.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0&pagewanted=print 3/13 N adal is the m an’s m an for you — he of the unsleeved biceps and K abuki self-exhortations. Plus N adal is also Federer’s nem esis and the big surprise of this year’s W im bledon, since he’s a clay- court specialist and no one expected him to m ake it past the first few rounds here. W hereas Federer, through the sem ifinals, has provided no surprise or com petitive dram a at all. H e’s outplayed each opponent so com pletely that the T V and print press are w orried his m atches are dull and can’t com pete effectively w ith the nationalist fervor of the W orld Cup.(2) Ju ly 9’s m en ’s fin al, though, is everyone’s dream . N adal vs. Federer is a replay of last m onth’s French O pen final, w hich N adal w on. Federer has so far lost only four m atches all year, but they’ve all been to N adal. Still, m ost of these m atches have been on slow clay, N adal’s best surface. G rass is Federer’s best. O n the other hand, the first w eek’s heat has baked out som e of the W im bledon courts’ slickness and m ade them slow er. T here’s also the fact that N adal has adjusted his clay-based gam e to grass — m oving in closer to the baseline on his groundstrokes, am ping up his serve, overcom ing his allergy to the net. H e just about disem bow eled A gassi in the third round. T he netw orks are in ecstasies. Before the m atch, on Centre Court, behind the glass slits above the south backstop, as the linesm en are com ing out on court in their new R alph Lauren uniform s that look so m uch like children’s navalw ear, the broadcast com m entators can be seen practically bouncing up and dow n in their chairs. T his W im bledon final’s got the revenge narrative, the king-versus-regicide dynam ic, the stark character contrasts. It’s the passionate m achism o of southern Europe versus the intricate clinical artistry of the north. A pollo and D ionysus. Scalpel and cleaver. R ighty and southpaw . N os. 1 and 2 in the w orld. N adal, the m an w ho’s taken the m odern pow er-baseline gam e just as far as it goes, versus a m an w ho’s transfigured that m odern gam e, w hose precision and variety are as big a deal as his pace and foot-speed, but w ho m ay be peculiarly vulnerable to, or psyched out by, that first m an. A British sportsw riter, exulting w ith his m ates in the press section, says, tw ice, “It’s going to be a w ar.” Plus it’s in the cathedral of Centre Court. A nd the m en’s final is alw ays on the fortnight’s second Sunday, the sym bolism of w hich W im bledon em phasizes by alw ays om itting play on the first Sunday. A nd the spattery gale that has knocked over parking signs and everted um brellas all m orning suddenly quits an hour before m atch tim e, the sun em erging just as Centre Court’s tarp is rolled back and the net posts driven hom e. Federer and N adal com e out to applause, m ake their ritual bow s to the nobles’ box. T he Sw iss is in the butterm ilk-colored sport coat that N ike’s gotten him to w ear for W im bledon this year. O n Federer, and perhaps on him alone, it doesn’t look absurd w ith shorts and sneakers. T he Spaniard eschew s all w arm -up clothing, so you have to look at his m uscles right aw ay. H e and the Sw iss are both in all-N ike, up to the very sam e kind of tied w hite N ike hankie w ith the M ORE ON THE HOM E PAGE 2 4 5 D e a d a n d 2 0 0 M issin g in T u rk ish M in e D isa ste r R ead M ore » 5/14/2014 Roger Federer as Religious Experience – Tennis – NYTimes.com http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/20/sports/playmagazine/20federer.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0&pagewanted=print 4/13 sw oosh positioned above the third eye. N adal tucks his hair under his hankie, but Federer doesn’t, and sm oothing and fussing w ith the bits of hair that fall over the hankie is the m ain Federer tic T V view ers get to see; likew ise N adal’s obsessive retreat to the ballboy’s tow el betw een points. T here happen to be other tics and habits, though, tiny perks of live view ing. T here’s the great care R oger Federer takes to hang the sport coat over his spare courtside chair’s back, just so, to keep it from w rinkling — he’s done this before each m atch here, and som ething about it seem s childlike and w eirdly sw eet. O r the w ay he inevitably changes out his racket som etim e in the second set, the new one alw ays in the sam e clear plastic bag closed w ith blue tape, w hich he takes off carefully and alw ays hands to a ballboy to dispose of. T here’s N adal’s habit of constantly picking his long shorts out of his bottom as he bounces the ball before serving, his w ay of alw ays cutting his eyes w arily from side to side as he w alks the baseline, like a convict expecting to be shanked. A nd som ething odd on the Sw iss’s serve, if you look very closely. H olding ball and racket out in front, just before starting the m otion, Federer alw ays places the ball precisely in the V -shaped gap of the racket’s throat, just below the head, just for an instant. If the fit isn’t perfect, he adjusts the ball until it is. It happens very fast, but also every tim e, on both first serves and second. N adal and Federer now w arm each other up for precisely five m inutes; the um pire keeps tim e. T here’s a very definite order and etiquette to these pro w arm -ups, w hich is som ething that television has decided you’re not interested in seeing. Centre Court holds 13,000 and change. A nother several thousand have done w hat people here do w illingly every year, w hich is to pay a stiff general adm ission at the gate and then gather, w ith ham pers and m osquito spray, to w atch the m atch on an enorm ous T V screen outside Court 1. Y our guess here is probably as good as anyone’s. R ight before play, up at the net, there’s a cerem onial coin-toss to see w ho’ll serve first. It’s another W im bledon ritual. T he honorary coin-tosser this year is W illiam Caines, assisted by the um pire and tournam ent referee. W illiam Caines is a 7-year-old from K ent w ho contracted liver cancer at age 2 and som ehow survived after surgery and horrific chem o. H e’s here representing Cancer R esearch U K . H e’s blond and pink-cheeked and com es up to about Federer’s w aist. T he crow d roars its approval of the re-enacted toss. Federer sm iles distantly the w hole tim e. N adal, just across the net, keeps dancing in place like a boxer, sw inging his arm s from side to side. I’m not sure w hether the U .S. netw orks show the coin-toss or not, w hether this cerem ony’s part of their contractual obligation or w hether they get to cut to com m ercial. A s W illiam ’s ushered off, there’s m ore cheering, but it’s scattered and disorganized; m ost of the crow d can’t quite tell w hat to do. It’s like once the ritual’s over, the reality of w hy this child w as part of it sinks in. T here’s a feeling of som ething im portant, som ething both uncom fortable and not, about a child w ith cancer tossing this dream -final’s coin. T he feeling, w hat-all it m ight m ean, has a tip-of-the- 5/14/2014 Roger Federer as Religious Experience – Tennis – NYTimes.com http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/20/sports/playmagazine/20federer.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0&pagewanted=print 5/13 tongue-type quality that rem ains elusive for at least the first tw o sets.(3) A top ath lete’s beau ty is next to im possible to describe directly. O r to evoke. Federer’s forehand is a great liquid w hip, his backhand a one-hander that he can drive flat, load w ith topspin, or slice — the slice w ith such snap that the ball turns shapes in the air and skids on the grass to m aybe ankle height. H is serve has w orld-class pace and a degree of placem ent and variety no one else com es close to; the service m otion is lithe and uneccentric, distinctive (on T V ) only in a certain eel-like all-body snap at the m om ent of im pact. H is anticipation and court sense are otherw orldly, and his footw ork is the best in the gam e — as a child, he w as also a soccer prodigy. A ll this is true, and yet none of it really explains anything or evokes the experience of w atching this m an play. O f w itnessing, firsthand, the beauty and genius of his gam e. Y ou m ore have to com e at the aesthetic stuff obliquely, to talk around it, or — as A quinas did w ith his ow n ineffable subject — to try to define it in term s of w hat it is not. O ne thing it is not is televisable. A t least not entirely. T V tennis has its advantages, but these advantages have disadvantages, and chief am ong them is a certain illusion of intim acy. T elevision’s slow -m o replays, its close-ups and graphics, all so privilege view ers that w e’re not even aw are of how m uch is lost in broadcast. A nd a large part of w hat’s lost is the sheer physicality of top tennis, a sense of the speeds at w hich the ball is m oving and the players are reacting. T his loss is sim ple to explain. T V ’s priority, during a point, is coverage of the w hole court, a com prehensive view , so that view ers can see both players and the overall geom etry of the exchange. T elevision therefore chooses a specular vantage that is overhead and behind one baseline. Y ou, the view er, are above and looking dow n from behind the court. T his perspective, as any art student w ill tell you, “foreshortens” the court. R eal tennis, after all, is three- dim ensional, but a T V screen’s im age is only 2-D . T he dim ension that’s lost (or rather distorted) on the screen is the real court’s length, the 78 feet betw een baselines; and the speed w ith w hich the ball traverses this length is a shot’s pace, w hich on T V is obscured, and in person is fearsom e to behold. T hat m ay sound abstract or overblow n, in w hich case by all m eans go in person to som e professional tournam ent — especially to the outer courts in early rounds, w here you can sit 20 feet from the sideline — and sam ple the difference for yourself. If you’ve w atched tennis only on television, you sim ply have no idea how hard these pros are hitting the ball, how fast the ball is m oving,(4) how little tim e the players have to get to it, and how quickly they’re able to m ove and rotate and strike and recover. A nd none are faster, or m ore deceptively effortless about it, than R oger Federer. Interestingly, w hat is less obscured in T V coverage is Federer’s intelligence, since this intelligence often m anifests as angle. Federer is able to see, or create, gaps and angles for w inners that no one else can envision, and television’s perspective is perfect for view ing and 5/14/2014 Roger Federer as Religious Experience – Tennis – NYTimes.com http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/20/sports/playmagazine/20federer.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0&pagewanted=print 6/13 review ing these Federer M om ents. W hat’s harder to appreciate on T V is that these spectacular-looking angles and w inners are not com ing from now here — they’re often set up several shots ahead, and depend as m uch on Federer’s m anipulation of opponents’ positions as they do on the pace or placem ent of the coup de grâce. A nd understanding how and w hy Federer is able to m ove other w orld-class athletes around this w ay requires, in turn, a better technical understanding of the m odern pow er-baseline gam e than T V — again — is set up to provide. W im bled on is stran ge. V erily it is the gam e’s M ecca, the cathedral of tennis; but it w ould be easier to sustain the appropriate level of on-site veneration if the tournam ent w eren’t so intent on rem inding you over and over that it’s the cathedral of tennis. T here’s a peculiar m ix of stodgy self-satisfaction and relentless self-prom otion and -branding. It’s a bit like the sort of authority figure w hose office w all has every last plaque, diplom a, and aw ard he’s ever gotten, and every tim e you com e into the office you’re forced to look at the w all and say som ething to indicate that you’re im pressed. W im bledon’s ow n w alls, along nearly every significant corridor and passage, are lined w ith posters and signs featuring shots of past cham pions, lists of W im bledon facts and trivia, historic lore, and so on. Som e of this stuff is interesting; som e is just odd. T he W im bledon Law n T ennis M useum , for instance, has a collection of all the various kinds of rackets used here through the decades, and one of the m any signs along the Level 2 passage of the M illennium Building(5) prom otes this exhibition w ith both photos and didactic text, a kind of H istory of the R acket. H ere, sic, is the clim actic end of this text: T oday’s lightw eight fram es m ade of space-age m aterials like graphite, boron, titanium and ceram ics, w ith larger heads — m id-size (90-95 square inches) and over-size (110 square inches) — have totally transform ed the character of the gam e. N ow adays it is the pow erful hitters w ho dom inate w ith heavy topspin. Serve-and-volley players and those w ho rely on subtlety and touch have virtually disappeared. It seem s odd, to say the least, that such a diagnosis continues to hang here so prom inently in the fourth year of Federer’s reign over W im bledon, since the Sw iss has brought to m en’s tennis degrees of touch and subtlety unseen since (at least) the days of M cEnroe’s prim e. But the sign’s really just a testam ent to the pow er of dogm a. For alm ost tw o decades, the party line’s been that certain advances in racket technology, conditioning, and w eight training have transform ed pro tennis from a gam e of quickness and finesse into one of athleticism and brute pow er. A nd as an etiology of today’s pow er-baseline gam e, this party line is broadly accurate. T oday’s pros truly are m easurably bigger, stronger, and better conditioned,(6) and high-tech com posite rackets really have increased their capacities for pace and spin. H ow , then, som eone of Federer’s consum m ate finesse has com e to dom inate the m en’s tour is a source of w ide and 5/14/2014 Roger Federer as Religious Experience – Tennis – NYTimes.com http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/20/sports/playmagazine/20federer.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0&pagewanted=print 7/13 dogm atic confusion. T here are three kinds of valid explanation for Federer’s ascendancy. O ne kind involves m ystery and m etaphysics and is, I think, closest to the real truth. T he others are m ore technical and m ake for better journalism . T he m etaphysical explanation is that R oger Federer is one of those rare, preternatural athletes w ho appear to be exem pt, at least in part, from certain physical law s. G ood analogues here include M ichael Jordan,(7) w ho could not only jum p inhum anly high but actually hang there a beat or tw o longer than gravity allow s, and M uham m ad A li, w ho really could “float” across the canvas and land tw o or three jabs in the clock-tim e required for one. T here are probably a half- dozen other exam ples since 1960. A nd Federer is of this type — a type that one could call genius, or m utant, or avatar. H e is never hurried or off-balance. T he approaching ball hangs, for him , a split-second longer than it ought to. H is m ovem ents are lithe rather than athletic. Like A li, Jordan, M aradona, and G retzky, he seem s both less and m ore substantial than the m en he faces. Particularly in the all-w hite that W im bledon enjoys getting aw ay w ith still requiring, he looks like w hat he m ay w ell (I think) be: a creature w hose body is both flesh and, som ehow , light. T his thing about the ball cooperatively hanging there, slow ing dow n, as if susceptible to the Sw iss’s w ill — there’s real m etaphysical truth here. A nd in the follow ing anecdote. A fter a July 7 sem ifinal in w hich Federer destroyed Jonas Bjorkm an — not just beat him , destroyed him — and just before a requisite post-m atch new s conference in w hich Bjorkm an, w ho’s friendly w ith Federer, says he w as pleased to “have the best seat in the house” to w atch the Sw iss “play the nearest to perfection you can play tennis,” Federer and Bjorkm an are chatting and joking around, and Bjorkm an asks him just how unnaturally big the ball w as looking to him out there, and Federer confirm s that it w as “like a bow ling ball or basketball.” H e m eans it just as a bantery, m odest w ay to m ake Bjorkm an feel better, to confirm that he’s surprised by how unusually w ell he played today; but he’s also revealing som ething about w hat tennis is like for him . Im agine that you’re a person w ith preternaturally good reflexes and coordination and speed, and that you’re playing high-level tennis. Y our experience, in play, w ill not be that you possess phenom enal reflexes and speed; rather, it w ill seem to you that the tennis ball is quite large and slow -m oving, and that you alw ays have plenty of tim e to hit it. T hat is, you w on’t experience anything like the (em pirically real) quickness and skill that the live audience, w atching tennis balls m ove so fast they hiss and blur, w ill attribute to you.(8) V elocity’s just one part of it. N ow w e’re getting technical. T ennis is often called a “gam e of inches,” but the cliché is m ostly referring to w here a shot lands. In term s of a player’s hitting an incom ing ball, tennis is actually m ore a gam e of m icrom eters: vanishingly tiny changes around 5/14/2014 Roger Federer as Religious Experience – Tennis – NYTimes.com http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/20/sports/playmagazine/20federer.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0&pagewanted=print 8/13 the m om ent of im pact w ill have large effects on how and w here the ball travels. T he sam e principle explains w hy even the sm allest im precision in aim ing a rifle w ill still cause a m iss if the target’s far enough aw ay. By w ay of illustration, let’s slow things w ay dow n. Im agine that you, a tennis player, are standing just behind your deuce corner’s baseline. A ball is served to your forehand — you pivot (or rotate) so that your side is to the ball’s incom ing path and start to take your racket back for the forehand return. K eep visualizing up to w here you’re about halfw ay into the stroke’s forw ard m otion; the incom ing ball is now just off your front hip, m aybe six inches from point of im pact. Consider som e of the variables involved here. O n the vertical plane, angling your racket face just a couple degrees forw ard or back w ill create topspin or slice, respectively; keeping it perpendicular w ill produce a flat, spinless drive. H orizontally, adjusting the racket face ever so slightly to the left or right, and hitting the ball m aybe a m illisecond early or late, w ill result in a cross-court versus dow n-the-line return. Further slight changes in the curves of your groundstroke’s m otion and follow -through w ill help determ ine how high your return passes over the net, w hich, together w ith the speed at w hich you’re sw inging (along w ith certain characteristics of the spin you im part), w ill affect how deep or shallow in the opponent’s court your return lands, how high it bounces, etc. T hese are just the broadest distinctions, of course — like, there’s heavy topspin vs. light topspin, or sharply cross-court vs. only slightly cross-court, etc. T here are also the issues of how close you’re allow ing the ball to get to your body, w hat grip you’re using, the extent to w hich your knees are bent and/or w eight’s m oving forw ard, and w hether you’re able sim ultaneously to w atch the ball and to see w hat your opponent’s doing after he serves. T hese all m atter, too. Plus there’s the fact that you’re not putting a static object into m otion here but rather reversing the flight and (to a varying extent) spin of a projectile com ing tow ard you — com ing, in the case of pro tennis, at speeds that m ake conscious thought im possible. M ario A ncic’s first serve, for instance, often com es in around 130 m .p.h. Since it’s 78 feet from A ncic’s baseline to yours, that m eans it takes 0.41 seconds for his serve to reach you. (9) T his is less than the tim e it takes to blink quickly, tw ice. T he upshot is that pro tennis involves intervals of tim e too brief for deliberate action. T em porally, w e’re m ore in the operative range of reflexes, purely physical reactions that bypass conscious thought. A nd yet an effective return of serve depends on a large set of decisions and physical adjustm ents that are a w hole lot m ore involved and intentional than blinking, jum ping w hen startled, etc. Successfully returning a hard-served tennis ball requires w hat’s som etim es called “the kinesthetic sense,” m eaning the ability to control the body and its artificial extensions through com plex and very quick system s of tasks. English has a w hole cloud of term s for various parts 5/14/2014 Roger Federer as Religious Experience – Tennis – NYTimes.com http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/20/sports/playmagazine/20federer.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0&pagewanted=print 9/13 of this ability: feel, touch, form , proprioception, coordination, hand-eye coordination, kinesthesia, grace, control, reflexes, and so on. For prom ising junior players, refining the kinesthetic sense is the m ain goal of the extrem e daily practice regim ens w e often hear about. (10) T he training here is both m uscular and neurological. H itting thousands of strokes, day after day, develops the ability to do by “feel” w hat cannot be done by regular conscious thought. R epetitive practice like this often looks tedious or even cruel to an outsider, but the outsider can’t feel w hat’s going on inside the player — tiny adjustm ents, over and over, and a sense of each change’s effects that gets m ore and m ore acute even as it recedes from norm al consciousness.(11) T he tim e and discipline required for serious kinesthetic training are one reason w hy top pros are usually people w ho’ve devoted m ost of their w aking lives to tennis, starting (at the very latest) in their early teens. It w as, for exam ple, at age 13 that R oger Federer finally gave up soccer, and a recognizable childhood, and entered Sw itzerland’s national tennis training center in Ecublens. A t 16, he dropped out of classroom studies and started serious international com petition. It w as only w eeks after quitting school that Federer w on Junior W im bledon. O bviously, this is som ething that not every junior w ho devotes him self to tennis can do. Just as obviously, then, there is m ore than tim e and training involved — there is also sheer talent, and degrees of it. Extraordinary kinesthetic ability m ust be present (and m easurable) in a kid just to m ake the years of practice and training w orthw hile…but from there, over tim e, the cream starts to rise and separate. So one type of technical explanation for Federer’s dom inion is that he’s just a bit m ore kinesthetically talented than the other m ale pros. O nly a little bit, since everyone in the T op 100 is him self kinesthetically gifted — but then, tennis is a gam e of inches. T his answ er is plausible but incom plete. It w ould probably not have been incom plete in 1980. In 2006, though, it’s fair to ask w hy this kind of talent still m atters so m uch. R ecall w hat is true about dogm a and W im bledon’s sign. K inesthetic virtuoso or no, R oger Federer is now dom inating the largest, strongest, fittest, best-trained and -coached field of m ale pros w ho’ve ever existed, w ith everyone using a kind of nuclear racket that’s said to have m ade the finer calibrations of kinesthetic sense irrelevant, like trying to w histle M ozart during a M etallica concert. A ccord in g to reliable sou rces, honorary coin-tosser W illiam Caines’s backstory is that one day, w hen he w as 2½ , his m other found a lum p in his tum m y, and took him to the doctor, and the lum p w as diagnosed as a m alignant liver tum or. A t w hich point one cannot, of course, im agine…a tiny child undergoing chem o, serious chem o, his m other having to w atch, carry him hom e, nurse him , then bring him back to that place for m ore chem o. H ow did she answ er her 5/14/2014 Roger Federer as Religious Experience – Tennis – NYTimes.com http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/20/sports/playmagazine/20federer.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0&pagewanted=print 10/13 child’s question — the big one, the obvious one? A nd w ho could answ er hers? W hat could any priest or pastor say that w ouldn’t be grotesque? It’s 2-1 N ad al in the final’s second set, and he’s serving. Federer w on the first set at love but then flagged a bit, as he som etim es does, and is quickly dow n a break. N ow , on N adal’s ad, there’s a 16-stroke point. N adal is serving a lot faster than he did in Paris, and this one’s dow n the center. Federer floats a soft forehand high over the net, w hich he can get aw ay w ith because N adal never com es in behind his serve. T he Spaniard now hits a characteristically heavy topspin forehand deep to Federer’s backhand; Federer com es back w ith an even heavier topspin backhand, alm ost a clay-court shot. It’s unexpected and backs N adal up, slightly, and his response is a low hard short ball that lands just past the service line’s T on Federer’s forehand side. A gainst m ost other opponents, Federer could sim ply end the point on a ball like this, but one reason N adal gives him trouble is that he’s faster than the others, can get to stuff they can’t; and so Federer here just hits a flat, m edium -hard cross-court forehand, going not for a w inner but for a low , shallow ly angled ball that forces N adal up and out to the deuce side, his backhand. N adal, on the run, backhands it hard dow n the line to Federer’s backhand; Federer slices it right back dow n the sam e line, slow and floaty w ith backspin, m aking N adal com e back to the sam e spot. N adal slices the ball right back — three shots now all dow n the sam e line — and Federer slices the ball back to the sam e spot yet again, this one even slow er and floatier, and N adal gets planted and hits a big tw o-hander back dow n the sam e line — it’s like N adal’s cam ped out now on his deuce side; he’s no longer m oving all the w ay back to the baseline’s center betw een shots; Federer’s hypnotized him a little. Federer now hits a very hard, deep topspin backhand, the kind that hisses, to a point just slightly on the ad side of N adal’s baseline, w hich N adal gets to and forehands cross-court; and Federer responds w ith an even harder, heavier cross-court backhand, baseline-deep and m oving so fast that N adal has to hit the forehand off his back foot and then scram ble to get back to center as the shot lands m aybe tw o feet short on Federer’s backhand side again. Federer steps to this ball and now hits a totally different cross-court backhand, this one m uch shorter and sharper-angled, an angle no one w ould anticipate, and so heavy and blurred w ith topspin that it lands shallow and just inside the sideline and takes off hard after the bounce, and N adal can’t m ove in to cut it off and can’t get to it laterally along the baseline, because of all the angle and topspin — end of point. It’s a spectacular w inner, a Federer M om ent; but w atching it live, you can see that it’s also a w inner that Federer started setting up four or even five shots earlier. Everything after that first dow n- the-line slice w as designed by the Sw iss to m aneuver N adal and lull him and then disrupt his rhythm and balance and open up that last, unim aginable angle — an angle that w ould have been im possible w ithout extrem e topspin. E xtrem e top sp in is the hallm ark of today’s pow er-baseline gam e. T his is som ething that 5/14/2014 Roger Federer as Religious Experience – Tennis – NYTimes.com http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/20/sports/playmagazine/20federer.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0&pagewanted=print 11/13 W im bledon’s sign gets right.(12) W hy topspin is so key, though, is not com m only understood. W hat’s com m only understood is that high-tech com posite rackets im part m uch m ore pace to the ball, rather like alum inum baseball bats as opposed to good old lum ber. But that dogm a is false. T he truth is that, at the sam e tensile strength, carbon-based com posites are lighter than w ood, and this allow s m odern rackets to be a couple ounces lighter and at least an inch w ider across the face than the vintage K ram er and M axply. It’s the w idth of the face that’s vital. A w ider face m eans there’s m ore total string area, w hich m eans the sw eet spot’s bigger. W ith a com posite racket, you don’t have to m eet the ball in the precise geom etric center of the strings in order to generate good pace. N or m ust you be spot-on to generate topspin, a spin that (recall) requires a tilted face and upw ardly curved stroke, brushing over the ball rather than hitting flat through it — this w as quite hard to do w ith w ood rackets, because of their sm aller face and niggardly sw eet spot. Com posites’ lighter, w ider heads and m ore generous centers let players sw ing faster and put w ay m ore topspin on the ball…and, in turn, the m ore topspin you put on the ball, the harder you can hit it, because there’s m ore m argin for error. T opspin causes the ball to pass high over the net, describe a sharp arc, and com e dow n fast into the opponent’s court (instead of m aybe soaring out). So the basic form ula here is that com posite rackets enable topspin, w hich in turn enables groundstrokes vastly faster and harder than 20 years ago — it’s com m on now to see m ale pros pulled up off the ground and halfw ay around in the air by the force of their strokes, w hich in the old days w as som ething one saw only in Jim m y Connors. Connors w as not, by the w ay, the father of the pow er-baseline gam e. H e w haled m ightily from the baseline, true, but his groundstrokes w ere flat and spinless and had to pass very low over the net. N or w as Bjorn Borg a true pow er-baseliner. Both Borg and Connors played specialized versions of the classic baseline gam e, w hich had evolved as a counterforce to the even m ore classic serve-and-volley gam e, w hich w as itself the dom inant form of m en’s pow er tennis for decades, and of w hich John M cEnroe w as the greatest m odern exponent. Y ou probably know all this, and m ay also know that M cEnroe toppled Borg and then m ore or less ruled the m en’s gam e until the appearance, around the m id-1980’s, of (a) m odern com posite rackets(13) and (b) Ivan Lendl, w ho played w ith an early form of com posite and w as the true progenitor of pow er- baseline tennis.(14) Ivan Lendl w as the first top pro w hose strokes and tactics appeared to be designed around the special capacities of the com posite racket. H is goal w as to w in points from the baseline, via either passing shots or outright w inners. H is w eapon w as his groundstrokes, especially his forehand, w hich he could hit w ith overw helm ing pace because of the am ount of topspin he put on the ball. T he blend of pace and topspin also allow ed Lendl to do som ething that proved 5/14/2014 Roger Federer as Religious Experience – Tennis – NYTimes.com http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/20/sports/playmagazine/20federer.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0&pagewanted=print 12/13 crucial to the advent of the pow er-baseline gam e. H e could pull off radical, extraordinary angles on hard-hit groundstrokes, m ainly because of the speed w ith w hich heavy topspin m akes the ball dip and land w ithout going w ide. In retrospect, this changed the w hole physics of aggressive tennis. For decades, it had been angle that m ade the serve-and-volley gam e so lethal. T he closer one is to the net, the m ore of the opponent’s court is open — the classic advantage of volleying w as that you could hit angles that w ould go w ay w ide if attem pted from the baseline or m idcourt. But topspin on a groundstroke, if it’s really extrem e, can bring the ball dow n fast and shallow enough to exploit m any of these sam e angles. Especially if the groundstroke you’re hitting is off a som ew hat short ball — the shorter the ball, the m ore angles are possible. Pace, topspin, and aggressive baseline angles: and lo, it’s the pow er-baseline gam e. It w asn’t that Ivan Lendl w as an im m ortally great tennis player. H e w as sim ply the first top pro to dem onstrate w hat heavy topspin and raw pow er could achieve from the baseline. A nd, m ost im portant, the achievem ent w as replicable, just like the com posite racket. Past a certain threshold of physical talent and training, the m ain requirem ents w ere athleticism , aggression, and superior strength and conditioning. T he result (om itting various com plications and subspecialties(15)) has been m en’s pro tennis for the last 20 years: ever bigger, stronger, fitter players generating unprecedented pace and topspin off the ground, trying to force the short or w eak ball that they can put aw ay. Illustrative stat: W hen Lleyton H ew itt defeated D avid N albandian in the 2002 W im bledon m en’s final, there w as not one single serve-and-volley point.(16) T he generic pow er-baseline gam e is not boring — certainly not com pared w ith the tw o-second points of old-tim e serve-and-volley or the m oon-ball tedium of classic baseline attrition. But it is som ew hat static and lim ited; it is not, as pundits have publicly feared for years, the evolutionary endpoint of tennis. T he player w ho’s show n this to be true is R oger Federer. A nd he’s show n it from w ithin the m odern gam e. T his w ithin is w hat’s im portant here; this is w hat a purely neural account leaves out. A nd it is w hy sexy attributions like touch and subtlety m ust not be m isunderstood. W ith Federer, it’s not either/or. T he Sw iss has every bit of Lendl and A gassi’s pace on his groundstrokes, and leaves the ground w hen he sw ings, and can out-hit even N adal from the backcourt.(17) W hat’s strange and w rong about W im bledon’s sign, really, is its overall dolorous tone. Subtlety, touch, and finesse are not dead in the pow er-baseline era. For it is, still, in 2006, very m uch the pow er-baseline era: R oger Federer is a first-rate, kick-ass pow er-baseliner. It’s just that that’s not all he is. T here’s also his intelligence, his occult anticipation, his court sense, his ability to read and m anipulate opponents, to m ix spins and speeds, to m isdirect and disguise, to use 5/14/2014 Roger Federer as Religious Experience – Tennis – NYTimes.com http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/20/sports/playmagazine/20federer.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0&pagewanted=print 13/13 tactical foresight and peripheral vision and kinesthetic range instead of just rote pace — all this has exposed the lim its, and possibilities, of m en’s tennis as it’s now played. W hich sounds very high-flow n and nice, of course, but please understand that w ith this guy it’s not high-flow n or abstract. O r nice. In the sam e em phatic, em pirical, dom inating w ay that Lendl drove hom e his ow n lesson, R oger Federer is show ing that the speed and strength of today’s pro gam e are m erely its skeleton, not its flesh. H e has, figuratively and literally, re-em bodied m en’s tennis, and for the first tim e in years the gam e’s future is unpredictable. Y ou should have seen, on the grounds’ outside courts, the variegated ballet that w as this year’s Junior W im bledon. D rop volleys and m ixed spins, off-speed serves, gam bits planned three shots ahead — all as w ell as the standard-issue grunts and boom ing balls. W hether anything like a nascent Federer w as here am ong these juniors can’t be know n, of course. G enius is not replicable. Inspiration, though, is contagious, and m ultiform — and even just to see, close up, pow er and aggression m ade vulnerable to beauty is to feel inspired and (in a fleeting, m ortal w ay) reconciled. David Foster W allace is the author of “Infinite Jest,” “Consider the Lobster” and several other books.
6-8 Pages. 12 point font. MLA How is sport like religion? What are the key differences and similarities? Please use references using the attached articles with citations.
9/27/13 What is religion?, part 2: why football doesn’t measure up | Andrew Brown | Comment is free | theguardian.com www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/02/why-football-doesnt-measure-up/print 1/4 ‘For a lot of people the fate of their football team does affect them the way that God’s good opinion is supposed to do.’ Photograph: Carl Recine/Action Im ages A perfectly reasonable question to ask of people like m e, w ho define “religion” in a w ay Sign into the Guardian using your Facebook account W h a t is r e lig io n ? , p a r t 2 : w h y f o o t b a ll d o e s n ‘t m e a s u r e u p T h e m o s t b lin d in g a n d o b v io u s d e fic ie n c y o f fo o tb a ll a s a re lig io n is th a t it la c ks a n y kin d o f th e o lo g y – a n d e xc lu d e s m a n y w o m e n Andrew Brown theguardian.com , M onday 2 Septem ber 2013 04.02 EDT 9/27/13 What is religion?, part 2: why football doesn’t measure up | Andrew Brown | Comment is free | theguardian.com www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/02/why-football-doesnt-measure-up/print 2/4 that plays dow n theology, is w hy som ething like football should not be a religion. A fter all, it involves collective em otion, quasi-m ystical experiences of loss of selfhood in a higher purpose, even if that is only to crush those bastards from the visiting team . If N ick H ornby’s Fever Pitch is to be believed, it is also a w ay of com ing to term s w ith the disappointm ents and tragedies of life. G oing to a m atch w ith your estranged father has som ething of the effect that taking com m union together is m eant to have for Christians. If you do a G oogle new s search, in the m onths of an English w inter, for term s like “m iracle”, or “m essiah” m any results w ill turn out to be about football m atches. For a lot of people the fate of their football team does affect them the w ay that G od’s good opinion is supposed to do. A ll kinds of m ental illness and unhappiness dim inish w hen their team does w ell, and increase w hen it does badly. A nd then there is the Bill Shankly quote, that football isn’t a m atter of life or death, it’s m uch m ore im portant than that: this, in itself, is a w onderful definition of the am bitions of religious truth – that it should be m ore im portant than life or death. A nd yet football very clearly isn’t a proper religion. A nd the reasons w hy cast som e light on w hat religions are, or m ust be. I should perhaps add here that I am com pletely unsym pathetic to the gam e. I have only been to one serious football m atch (a north London derby) in m y life, w hen I w as accom panying a police patrol. W e sat on the touchline, and cam e aw ay w ith our shoulders coated w ith spittle because the people behind us w ere how ling out their feelings w ithout any inhibitions. I w ill w atch football som etim es on screens because the m ovem ent is so com pletely m eaningless. I suppose this is a vague equivalent to the hom oerotic pleasures of liturgical traditionalists. But I absolutely lack som ething w hich is obviously a deep part of the engagem ent of real football fans – the ability to suspend disbelief so that I feel I am in som e w ay present on the pitch m yself. T he sale of replica shirts that is such an im portant part of the econom ics of m odern football clearly depends on the idea that you take on som e of the virtue of the player w hose num ber you w ear. T hat’s clearly one of the m echanism s that m akes up religions. But it’s not enough on its ow n. A nd this is im portant. R eligions aren’t m ade from specially “religious” behaviour or thoughts, but from ordinary patterns of thought and behaviour w hich are assem bled in particular w ays. T he m ost blinding and obvious deficiency of football as a religion is that it lacks any kind of theology. T here is in fact an absurd public rhetoric em braced by Fifa about 9/27/13 What is religion?, part 2: why football doesn’t measure up | Andrew Brown | Comment is free | theguardian.com www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/02/why-football-doesnt-measure-up/print 3/4 W hat’s this? M o re fro m th e G u a rd ia n Ted Cruz: the GOP’s self-m ade m onster 26 Sep 2013 Film today: Daniel Radcliffe denies M ercury rum ours 25 Sep 2013 Som e sentences have no earthly place in a story about football 26 Sep 2013 Revealed: Qatar’s W orld Cup ‘slaves’ 25 Sep 2013 There is no population explosion on this planet 22 Sep 2013 W hat’s this? M o re fro m a ro u n d th e w eb Five High-Paying, Low-Stress Jobs (M onster) 8 Com m on Gram m ar M istakes You Should Never M ake Again (OPEN Forum ) 22 Things You Should Never Do Again After 50 (AARP) You Can M ove to Am erica’s 5 M ost Saintly Cities (M ainstreet) Top 10 Fittest Fem ales on HBO (Shape) brotherhood but no one takes it seriously. A lthough theology is the least im portant part of any religious system , and the one w hich alters m ost in response to changes either in public ritual or in private em otion, it is needed as a w ay to m ake sense – to the participants – of w hat is going on. I’m inclined to think that it is a further disadvantage that football m atches have results. It really doesn’t m atter w hat football m anagers say in public com pared to w hat their players do. Com pare this to A m erican civil religion, w hich could be identified, and analysed by R obert Bellah because he had texts to w ork w ith. H e w as able to point out, and to analyse, the im plicit theologies of A m erican public rhetoric, and the kinds of things that presidents said w hen they w anted to unite their country around a com m on purpose. If you w ere to do that to the speeches m ade by football m anagers, the results w ould be less rew arding. T he G ettysburg A ddress w as rather m ore than a half-tim e pep talk in the A m erican civil w ar. But all this is really rather theoretical. T he real reason w hy football could never function as a religion is blindingly obvious – w hich is w hy w e are blind to it. M any w om en find it boring and incom prehensible. For the m ost part “serious” m en’s football is an escape from all the problem s entailed by the existence of another sex. T his has its charm s, but it w on’t do at all for a religion, w hich has to offer sense and m eaning and hope to the w hole of life. If religions w ere only expressions of w illed stupidity, w illed escapism , and orgies of com m unal feeling, then, yes, football m ight be a religion. But since it isn’t, there m ust be m ore to religions than that. 9/27/13 What is religion?, part 2: why football doesn’t measure up | Andrew Brown | Comment is free | theguardian.com www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/02/why-football-doesnt-measure-up/print 4/4 ; © 2013 Guardian News and Media Lim ited or its affiliated com panies. All rights reserved.

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