Lapham’s Quarterly Spring 2010: Sports & Games, Pt. III of III

[CATEGORIES: Literature, Lapham’s Quarterly, Reading, Book Review, Sports]
[Click HERE to see my previous posts referencing Lapham’s Quarterly.]
[Some of LQ’s contents are available free.]
[L.Q. cover and art from L.Q. Spring 2010: Sports & Games.]
[Banner of rower from L.Q.’s beautiful web page on Sports & Games.]

A review concluded.

L.Q. Summer 2010: Sports and Games
L.Q. Summer 2010: Sports and Games

The Further Remarks section follows the Voices in Time main body.  It usually consists of 4-6 complete essays on topics relevant to the theme of the issue.  They speak for themselves.

The first essay is titled Skate Fever by Jay Griffiths

It’s about passion… for skating.  The first and last paragraphs summarize well:

“I suffer from a seasonal illness that was once very common in Britain but is now rare. It still afflicts the Dutch, though, in the thousands. It strikes me like delirium, when the lakes nearby freeze over and the ice issues an imperative: Carpe diem! Get your skates on! Love, yawns, and suicides, they say, are all infectious. So is play, and skate fever is a highly contagious form. The industrious, beware.” (p. 183)

“Of all my friends who skate, the one who knows better than any that life is short and skating days precious is the good doctor who understands that all things rare and lovely must be seized on the instant—that in a lifetime there are so few skating days, and each must be caught with glee.” (p. 188)

Rev. Robert Walker Skating on Duddington Loch by Sir Henry Raeburn, c. 1781 (p. 182)
Rev. Robert Walker Skating on Duddington Loch by Sir Henry Raeburn, c. 1781 (p. 182)

Short essay The Comeback Kid by Terry McDonell is about orchestrating comebacks for fallen-from-grace-but-still-wealthy sports celebrities.  It’s mostly about baseball player Alex Rodriguez (A-Rod).  The last paragraph summarizes:

“The story of Alex’s comeback was not a tale told by an idiot signifying nothing. The work was done by high-paid professionals, free agents dealing in the commodities of sound and fury. Alex telling his own story to a mirror.” (p. 192)

The next essay piqued my interest more than the first two.  The Great Game by Caroline Alexander delves into late nineteenth/early twentieth century atheleticism and gamesmanship and its relation to military endeavors.  (Not unlike Spartan Greeks one might presume.)

“Modern pentathlon is a composite competition, devised in 1912 by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics, to mirror the prestigious pentathlon centerpiece of the ancient games. The eccentric selection of modern events, however—show jumping, épée fencing, pistol shooting, swimming, and cross-country running—was predicated on the belief, already anachronistic in 1912, that these were the skills a good soldier should possess. In my day [1977], the majority of American male pentathletes, as well as a sprinkling of the inaugural group of women, held rank.” (p. 193)

“America’s most conspicuous modern pentathlete was the twenty-six-year-old West Point graduate George Patton, who came in fifth at the event’s premiere in 1912, having performed poorly in the shooting.” (p. 193-194)

” …Teddy Roosevelt, whose devotion to manly sporting activities is too well known to require much amplification. As a young boy suffering from myopia and asthma, “Teedie” heaved himself into a regime of weightlifting, mountain climbing, and boxing, the bloody details of which he reported proudly to his father. Blood was an important aspect of Rooseveltian sport, hence the organization he founded in 1887, the Boone and Crockett Club, whose membership was limited to men who, in his words, “had killed with the rifle in fair chase.” The club’s purpose was “to promote manly sport with the rifle.” The distance between “manly sport with the rifle” and the perceived sport of war was perilously short.” (p. 194)

“British and Rooseveltian sporting values were directed toward very different ideals of manhood. As befit the rough-riding frontier ethic, American athleticism was about being stronger, clobbering the competition, blood lust—in Roosevelt’s words, letting “the wolf rise in the heart.” The cult of British athleticism, on the other hand, was about playing games.” (p. 195)

“War was sport. Or so it must have seemed at first.” …

“Of the 1,200,000 British men who joined the Army in 1914 as volunteers, almost half a million had done so through the influence of popular soccer organizations. “Join and be in at the final,” one recruiting poster advertised, while a rugby poster exhorted men to “Play the Game!” And it was soccer that gave the war one of its most indelible and heartbreakingly pointless images: that of a soldier dribbling a soccer ball toward enemy lines.” …

“When the war ended, Britain had far fewer sporting men. Some 885,000 had been killed outright, and another 1,700,000 soldiers grievously maimed and wounded.” …

“The association of war with sport is not likely to disappear, given the physicality and competitiveness embedded in the practice of both.”
(p. 196-197)

Glory, Glory Hallelujah.

Four archery positions (p. 92)
Four archery positions (p. 92)

The Best Of It by Beth Raymer is an insightful and amusing factual account of a young woman stumbling into the bookmaking profession in 2001 Las Vegas.  I recommend it for the sheer insanity of sports betting.

Wordplay by Simon Maxwell Apter comments on our sports metaphor-ridden language.

“Even the most effete and non-sports-minded Washington policy wonk has referred to a certain political candidate as a “dark horse,” asked whether or not to “cut and run” from the Iraqi desert. An abusive, anachronistic husband doesn’t have to play cribbage to “take his wife down a peg,” and a cockamamie idea need not be born in a ballpark to come “straight out of left field.” Because we are always playing, competing, scorekeeping—a game always in progress somewhere, at the arena or onscreen, live-blogged or streamed to an iPhone—the turns of phrase come as confidently and fluently to mind as did the Latin tags and Biblical verses that once furnished the infield chatter of eighteenth-century statesmen and nineteenth-century preachers. We decide elections by means of a race, champion sexual conquests as scores, characterize self-inflicted blunders as fumbles. ”
(p. 206-207)

Blossom And Fade by John Crowley revisits The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse and is slightly more comprehensible, but only slightly.

I should note that the Johan Huizinga paragraph in Conversations (Bacchylides & Johan Huizinga, just before the Crowley essay) earned my extremely rare triple-asterisk annotation.  Find it and all the Further Remarks essays FREE online at if you can.

Picasso (p. 1480
Picasso (p. 148)

Lest I repeat myself, I repeat:

My meager, cut-and-paste, so-called ‘reviews’ of Lapham’s Quarterly can never do it justice. Each issue is only 221 pages including sidebars and beautiful artwork.  I feel a good analysis of these fine extracts deserves half that much again.  I keep trimming my content but there is still too much chaff, not enough wheat.

This is yet another superb issue.  I recommend it.

Keep reading.  (This means YOU.)

[The now-standard notes:
1. Since L.Q.’s inception with the Winter 2008 issue its size is always 7″ x 10″ x 1/2-17/32″. It is white-covered with very high quality paper throughout, richly printed reproductions of fine art from time immemorial, exactly 221 pages up to the Sources index at the back.
2. For more details see my previous-posts link or my Goodreads site for earlier reviews of the 25 (31 now?) issues I’ve read so far.  I have 3 archive issues remaining to have read them all once.]

P.S.  Those of you who want to ‘own knowledge’ might consider subscribing and buying back issues while they can still be obtained.

May you have many skating days.

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