Why You Should Be Reading ESPN the Magazine: Howard Bryant

Howard Bryant.

I’ve been a subscriber to ESPN: The Mag for oh . . . ten-plus years now?  I certainly subscribed within its first year because I wanted an itchy ill-fitting fleece for free.  And I got one.

Howard Bryant.

I watched the way cool things the magazine does with infographics and visualizing data and how this got more and more interesting.  And I watched the concept issues around “One Day in the Life of . . . ” where one issue covers an entire day in the happenings of the NBA or perhaps just a single college rivalry game, covering the event from a number of expected and peculiar angles all at once.

I’m certain if you dig in the Wicked Decent podcast archives (still available on iTunes) you’ll find numerous references to my love affair with the magazine and its applications to the classroom in terms of relevance to adolescents, fun with data and culture, and well-crafted class-period-digestable non-fiction.

And then we got rid of cable in my house and my passion for national sports dwindled without its regular presence.  My subscription continued though and stacks of them piled up.  I’ve considered canceling, but something . . . I just couldn’t do it.

Glad I didn’t.

Howard Bryant.

Over holiday break I dug into a pile flipped through the contents — the make it or break it — and read Howard Bryant’s columns.  And I found motivation to keep reading more and more, to make sure I could get into my Insider account and access these easily for my students to read because this . . . this is the non-fiction I want my high school students digging.

To close a Dec 22 piece on athletes’ responses to the Ferguson situation

The current awakening confronts the intersection of race and power, but if players successfully challenged power by toppling Donald Sterling, and if they now feel emboldened to protest police brutality, domestic violence is a reminder that the activist male player should not get too comfortable. Men must now confront another power, and that power is themselves. The next awakening will be in discovering just how many of these dots players choose to connect, for the trinity of class, race and gender is inseparable. The masculinity system, like the justice system and the racist and classist elements that fuel today’s protests, now requires reform. Players’ actions will tell us whether they are more than just a commercial. If so, maybe their awakening will be complete.

What an opportunity to discuss not only race, but power and masculinity and what it means to be a man in today’s society.

Or this excerpt from the Dec. 8th issue regarding forgotten-by-many baseball great, Dick Allen.

Ironically, it is the bloodlessness of the numbers that provides the greatest chance of enshrinement for a man best known for heart, blood, passion and power. There is something both beautiful and dreadful about this — beautiful because his achievements might withstand analysis, bigotry and grudge, but dreadful because anyone who saw the man in action would not immediately think about numbers to describe Allen. They would think about the memories he created, his presence, his power, his 42-ounce bat. In Philly, fans would think about the dreaded 1964 September collapse but also about how good he was, about how he represented them and was shoulder to shoulder with Aaron and Mantle.

What an opportunity to discuss word and deed and the relationship between identity and achievement, legacy and associations.

Or this excerpt from a less commentary-driven Sept 29 piece about a researcher who is struggling with the data he’s uncovered regarding high school football players and repetitive brain injury.

As he continues to study hits on the field, Powers knows there’s no escaping the collision between politics and science. “There are just so many agendas,” he says. “My research is about the effects of repetitive injury on the brain at the high school level. It doesn’t say a single thing about the NFL, but after every presentation, everyone wants to talk about the NFL. People have to take a step back, especially on concussions, especially on the NFL. It is orders of magnitude more important at the high school level. If we can make that safer, we can make the NFL safer.”

What an opportunity to talk about high school sports and safety, to talk about design thinking and empathy-fueled problem solving, and to discuss the challenges of protecting tradition while recognizing the reality of the present

A Howard Bryant column fills about two-thirds of the page.

It’s well worth the ticket price for both you and your students.

I just hope he starts using Twitter again soon.

About Dan Ryder

Dan Ryder & Jeff Bailey, co-founders of Wicked Decent Learning, a blog, podcast, Twitter feed and who-knows-what-all-else devoted to teaching and learning in Vacationland and beyond. Teachers, dads, actors, writers, geeks, buds.

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