Every week, Syracuse University professor Aileen Gallagher helps Longreads highlight the best of college journalism. This week's pick comes from Isabelle Khurshudyan, a student from the University of South Carolina who wrote this story as an intern for ESPN.
: Chris Jones on the unique culture of Japanese baseball and 16-year-old pitching phenom Tomohiro Anraku, seen as "a real-life Sidd Finch, his story so impossible that he's been spoken about only in whispers or exclamations":
"There has been talk in America that Anraku's arm had been destroyed weeks earlier, in April, stripped of its powers at Koshien -- a high school tournament that happens twice a year in Japan, in spring and in summer. Robert Whiting, author of You Gotta Have Wa and one of the West's principal translators of Japanese culture, has a hard time capturing the meaning of Koshien, first held in 1915. 'It's like the Super Bowl and the World Series rolled into one,' he says. 'It's the closest thing Japan has to a national festival.' In the spring, 32 teams from across the country arrive at Koshien, the name of a beautiful stadium near Kobe but also the de facto title of the tournament that's played there. (In the summer, 49 teams participate, one from each of Japan's 47 diverse prefectures, plus an additional team from Tokyo and Hokkaido.) They meet in a frantic series of single-elimination games until a champion emerges. At any one time, 60% of Japan's TV sets will be tuned in to the drama. More than 45,000 fans will be packed into the stadium, and if the games are especially good, many of those fans will be weeping.
"'It's not just baseball,' says Masato Yoshii, who pitched in two Koshiens long before he joined the New York Mets. 'It's something else. It's something more.'"
PUBLISHED: July 24, 2013
LENGTH: 23 minutes (5986 words)
Our picks this week include The Washington Post, American Prospect, ESPN, Tampa Bay Times, Wired, and a guest pick by Todd Olmstead
The writer travels to Verona, Italy to examine why racism is so prevalent in soccer:
"It was a little stadium, and Boateng could see their faces. Fifty or so people called him an animal. He locked eyes with them and could see the hate. He pointed to his head, to say, 'You're an idiot.' The chants went on for 20 minutes: Oo -- oo -- oo -- oo.
"Boateng had been abused before and had ignored it. This time, he kicked the ball at the fans, took off his jersey and walked to the locker room. His teammates followed. Something important happened at this moment, which didn't get reported much in the frenzy that followed: Most of the stadium stood and applauded him. Only the small group of fans screamed and whistled. Some laughed."
PUBLISHED: June 5, 2013
LENGTH: 39 minutes (9793 words)
Former Minnesota State-Mankato head football coach Todd Hoffner's career ended after being accused of producing and possessing child pornography. He's fighting to get his reputation back:
"Hoffner and his lawyer held a news conference to address the judge's decision. He wore a purple tie, the university color, and read a prepared statement about waking from a nightmare. But as he looked around the room, he was thinking more about all the things he might never get back:
"His team, which had gone 13–1 without him, earning Keen an award as regional coach of the year.
"His reputation, because a Google search for his name brought up images of him in an orange jumpsuit.
"His job, because the university said he was still under internal investigation and showed no signs of returning him to coaching."
PUBLISHED: May 25, 2013
LENGTH: 16 minutes (4065 words)
The former basketball star, at 50 and not ready to retire:
"Once, the whole world watched him compete and win -- Game 6, the Delta Center -- and now it's a small group of friends in a hotel room playing a silly kid's game. The desire remains the same, but the venues, and the stakes, keep shrinking. For years he was beloved for his urges when they manifested on the basketball court, and now he's ridiculed when they show up in a speech."
"His self-esteem has always been, as he says, 'tied directly to the game.' Without it, he feels adrift. Who am I? What am I doing? For the past 10 years, since retiring for the third time, he has been running, moving as fast as he could, creating distractions, distance. When the schedule clears, he'll call his office and tell them not to bother him for a month, to let him relax and play golf. Three days later they'll get another call, asking if the plane can pick him up and take him someplace. He's restless. So he owns the Bobcats, does his endorsements, plays hours of golf, hoping to block out thoughts of 218. But then he gets off a boat, comes home to a struggling team. He feels his competitiveness kick in, almost a chemical thing, and he starts working out, and he wonders: Could he play at 50? What would he do against LeBron?"
PUBLISHED: Feb. 15, 2013
LENGTH: 31 minutes (7955 words)
George Visger played for the San Francisco 49ers in 1980. Now, he's diagnosed with chronic traumatic brain injury, frontal and temporal lobe disorders, generalized seizure disorder and cognitive impairment—and he's trying to make sense of his life:
"On a postcard-perfect Southern California morning, George Visger is pissing blood. This comes as a relief. For me, mostly. But also for him. Things could be worse. He could be having a seizure. Or slipping into a coma. Which means I could be jamming a one-inch butterfly needle into a thumbnail-sized hole in the side of his skull, trying to siphon off excess spinal fluid while avoiding what Visger calls 'the white stuff.'
"The white stuff being brain tissue."
PUBLISHED: Feb. 9, 2013
LENGTH: 35 minutes (8849 words)
How late 49ers coach Bill Walsh wrote a 550-page book that became a bible for NFL coaches:
"So it was no surprise that Walsh instantly regretted retiring. Believing that he left at least one Super Bowl on the table, Walsh was 'melancholy and terrible,' according to Craig. That the 1989 49ers were more dominant in the playoffs under new coach George Seifert than they ever were under Walsh made it worse. Walsh hated that Seifert won a championship that year with his team, his West Coast offense, his philosophy; he so hated the ring that the team awarded him that he gave it away. 'He didn't want them to win,' Craig says. 'He couldn't hand over the team he had created to someone else, because he wasn't capable of it.'
"He tried broadcasting but quit in 1991. 'I'm not going to sit for three hours and let some 27-year-old f-- in my ear tell me about the game,' he told Brian Billick, former Ravens coach and one of his many protégés. In 1992 Walsh returned to Stanford, where he had coached in the '70s, but left after two losing seasons in three years, his magic gone. 'He needed to be Bill Walsh,' Billick says. 'He needed to be a genius.'
"So he decided to write a book."
PUBLISHED: Jan. 24, 2013
LENGTH: 20 minutes (5238 words)