My latest piece for Ralph Lauren Magazine is on the shawl-collared cardigan, which was the favored warm-up gear for baseball players from about 1900-1930. Origins of exactly how and why the shawl cardigan became associated with baseball are murky, and very few of the sweaters survive outside of photographs. I was able to talk to several baseball historians, including MLB’s official, in an effort to shed some light on the handsome sweaters, which were eventually supplanted by woolen varsity-type jackets. (Continue)
To counter the over-the-top commercialization of the Super Bowl, I thought we’d take a look at football from an angle more related to culture than commerce.
By now you’re all familiar with my learning golf on Brooks Brothers’s simulator. In fact, when comment-leaver “woofboxer” was visiting New York recently, he knew right where to find me.
Apparently I’m one of a diminishing number of adults inclined to take up the sport later in life. Golf has lost 5 million players over the past decade, especially among young people, and the industry is seriously concerned. So last week new initiative called Hack Golf was launched. Its founders are asking the golfing public how to make the sport more fun.
“More fun?” I respond in a piece that runs on the op-ed pages of today’s Wall Street Journal. “Whoever said golf was supposed to be fun?”
Is learning the violin fun? Is becoming a competitive chess player fun? Minigolf, with its colored balls and Ferris wheels, is fun. But the satisfaction derived from real golf is much more profound than the word “fun” would suggest. Golf is something like rock climbing, except the risk is not a shattered back but a bruised ego.
It’s for those who, however laid back they might otherwise be, have an alpha streak that keeps them impervious to the ritual humiliation the sport inflicts. Golf is beyond fun: It is the ultimate sporting test of physical coordination, mental focus, strategy and nerves. “It takes a special kind of person to play golf,” an instructor at Golf Manhattan once told me, since for those who take it up later in life, “it’s just too hard.”
Update: In case you encounter a pay wall using the link above, here’s the text of the piece:
Whoever Said Golf Was Supposed To Be Fun?
Gimmicks to appeal to young people send the wrong message. Face it, the sport is cruel.
By CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD
On Monday night I was invited by the brand Boast to spectate at the squash Tournament of Champions, currently underway in Vanderbilt Hall at Grand Central Terminal.
Coming from a Cali-plebian background, I’d never seen the sport played before. I was very intrigued, though, as for a few years I nursed an intense badminton obsession, playing up to five days per week at a full-time club and training under a coach from the Chinese national team. Badminton is little understood and derided here in the US (the “Official Preppy Handbook” extolls squash as the preppiest of sports while taking a crack at badminton) and of course carries no social prestige. I ended up writing a piece for the LA Times Magazine that tried to correct some of the misconceptions, and if you’ve never seen it played at an elite level before, have a look.
I’d heard that squash and badminton were similar, not only for the intensity, but also the footwork and all the lunging. Boast had a box in the front row, and after a couple of hours, with help from company president John Dowling, I went from being totally bewildered by what was happening to the ball to following every shot with anticipation. It was fascinating and the athletes are absolute ironmen.
The sport is not just preppy by chance. It was actually invented at the English boarding school Harrow and first appeared in the US in 1884 at St. Paul’s in New Hampshire. (Continue)
Twenty-seven months and 20,000 balls after hitting my first, I finally made a swing on the third floor of Brooks Brothers (in my socks, no less) that the instructor said “could be on television.” Though it happened about six weeks ago, I just now got the video clip, from which these screenshots were taken.
Since then I’ve been unable to duplicate this miracle on 44th Street. (Continue)