Barber: 10 sports pieces to help you get you through coronavirus
The forecast calls for rain most of the next week. So, just to recap this cute little pickle we have on our hands at the moment: We’re not supposed to join large gatherings, or perhaps even small ones. We aren’t supposed to get on an airplane or train. Malls are contraindicated. And now it appears we won’t be able to leave the house without getting soaked.
Oh, and did you hear there are no sporting events? Sorry, my emphasis may have been a little off. Let me say that again. THERE. ARE. NO. SPORTING. EVENTS.
If ever there was a week or a month (or a … no, let’s not go there) to nestle onto the couch and watch a little NBA basketball or Giants spring training, or even some SportsCenter highlights, this is it. But in one of the virus’ cruelest twists, there are no games to distract us.
Before you panic and do something extreme, like commit to spending quality time with your family, I would like to offer some suggestions for the sports-starved — a few movies, books, podcasts, etc. to scratch your sporty itch (well, that sounded gross) while the arena doors are shuttered.
Here are my 10 recreational recommendations. My rec recs.
WHEN WE WERE KINGS (documentary movie): This film, which chronicles the famed “Rumble in the Jungle” in 1974, is probably my favorite sports doc of all time. The setup scenes in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) are wild, from ecstatic topless dancers to the semi-coherent ramblings of special guest James Brown. The framing of the actual boxing match is fantastic, too, focusing on how Muhammad Ali was able to rise above a dire situation. Most interesting, though, is seeing pre-Lean Mean Fat-Reducing Grilling Machine George Foreman. He might be America’s cuddly uncle now. In 1974, Foreman hadn’t yet learned the fine arts of smiling and public speaking. The man was terrifying.
STEPHEN FLORIDA (book): Gabe Habash’s 2017 debut novel, like most literature, isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. It’s profane and has elements of fantasy, and the main character is a true weirdo. But this rich profile of a college wrestler in North Dakota is frequently hilarious and insightful. I read that Habash has no wrestling background. He must have done some serious research, because part of what appealed to me is the way he captured that sport’s obsessiveness and self-deprivation.
ALL THE SMOKE (podcast): An interview-style pod hosted by former NBA players Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes? Yes, please. I figured it would be frank and funny. All the Smoke is both of those things, but so much more. First of all, Barnes’ and Jackson’s combined 28 years in the league, and their reputation for, shall we say, keeping it real, give them incredible access. Just since the new year, their guests have included Kobe Bryant (seriously, on Jan. 9), Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Snoop Dogg. And the interviews are a blast. What impresses me most is how the hosts are able to vary their tone, keeping it clean with Curry and getting raunchy with DeMarcus Cousins, without seeming fake. Warning: Do not listen to this podcast if you don’t like hearing guys talk about getting high.
O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA (documentary series): This five-part, eight-hour series, produced by the “30 for 30” group at ESPN, blew me away. Like anyone who lived in LA in 1994-95, I have clear memories of the white Bronco chase, the “crime of the century” and the trial that riveted everyone for months. But this production explained so much to me — about both O.J. Simpson and the cultural context in which he was arrested and tried. Perplexed at how a majority-African-American jury could find Simpson not guilty on two murder counts despite overwhelming evidence? Watch this, and you will understand. Oh, and they got almost eeevvverybody to talk.