What I’m reading and writing, June 14

• A friend of mine and a very talented writer visited South Africa a year ago to write about a soccer team that was getting headlines, but for all the wrong reasons. The story by John Turnbull of The Global Game about an openly lesbian side has resonated during the World Cup.

Turnbull, who prefers watching women play the game, was recently interviewed by the CBC and explained the reasons for his approach to following soccer from a cultural perspective, especially as it relates to gender:

“There always seems more at stake when women play. They are doing it for love. There isn’t much money for women’s players. It’s a journeyman existence, sometimes going against the wishes of your family and friends. A lot of things are pushing against you.

“It’s always interesting to look at culture in terms of gender and women’s access to sport is sometimes a good indicator of how much equality a society gives its women.”

Jason Fry of the National Sports Journalism Center (and an avid New York Mets fan and blogger) on the growth of the SB Nation conglomerate as  it launches blog networks in 20 cities and what it means for those sportswriters still working for newspapers:

“Much as I wish it were otherwise, these are anxious times — at best — to be a sportswriter for a newspaper, with SB Nation just the latest competitor to worry about. But if you’re a fan who likes to read, this is a golden age, marked by an explosion of compelling, entertaining stories from pressboxes and couches alike. And if there’s a limit to fans’ hunger for that content, we sure haven’t seen it yet. I worry about the future of newspapers, but I don’t worry about the future of sportswriting.”

•  More Intelligent Life, a culture magazine published by The Economist, with a long treatise on how global sports got so big, initially citing the spread of the British empire, and what has evolved since Brittainia no longer rules its own games:

“Big business used to have little to do with sport. Football clubs were owned by rich individuals who tended to be self-made men, from the world of property or used cars, rather than bosses of multinational companies. Rugby and cricket clubs, and German football clubs, were owned by their members and run by committees. Shirts carried no lettering apart from badges and a discreet manufacturer’s logo; business brands were confined to the hoardings round the side of the pitch.

“Within a generation, nearly all that has changed. Arsenal’s stadium is called the Emirates, after the airline that sponsors the team. Manchester United have just come to the end of a £56m four-year shirt-sponsorship deal with AIG; when AIG fell apart in 2008, United moved smoothly on to Aon, who will pay £80m for the next four years. The England cricket team’s shirts carry three lions and one mobile-phone company. National teams have their designated suppliers, their “official beer” and even ‘official cider.’ Tennis players and racing drivers have become human billboards, festooned with branding.”

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