Wim Hof climbed Mount Everest in shorts, can hold his breath for five minutes and can fight off disease with his mind. Now he wants to teach you. ... Hof is one of the world’s most recognized extremophiles. In 2007 he made headlines around the world when he attempted to summit Mount Everest wearing nothing but spandex shorts and hiking boots. He has run barefoot marathons in the arctic circle and submerged his entire body beneath the ice for almost two hours. Every feat defies the boundaries of what medical science says is possible. Hof believes he is much more than a stuntman performing tricks; he thinks he has stumbled on hidden evolutionary potential locked inside every human body. ... Participants have come from across Europe and America for this seven-day training program aimed at extending control over the body’s autonomic processes. The human body performs most of its daily functions on autopilot. Whether it’s regulating internal temperature, setting the steady pace of a heartbeat or rushing lymph and blood to a limb when it’s injured, the body, like a computer, uses preset responses for most external stimuli. Hof’s training aims to create a wedge between the body’s internal programming and external pressures in order to force the body to cede control to the conscious mind. He is a hacker, tweaking the body’s programming to expand its capabilities.
He was once a rich and famous sumo wreslter in Japan, now he's going for broke, trying to make it in the NFL ... Known as "Wakanoho Toshinori" in Japan, he was one of the youngest foreign-born wrestlers to advance to makuuchi, the highest of sumo's six divisions. There, he was revered as a celebrity until he was banned for alleged marijuana possession and retaliated by unloading everything he knew about the sport's rampant match fixing. ... Soslan has always been an athlete of extraordinary ability. At age 12, he made Russia's Junior Olympic wrestling team in the freestyle division. By 15, he was a monster in competition and in appearance, beating older wrestlers for gold medals and measuring 6'3, 300 pounds. Soslan's Olympic wrestling career essentially ended, though, the moment the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA) lowered his weight class to 264 pounds. Soslan tried everything to keep his weight down, and on more than one occasion, passed out during practice after skipping meals. ... At his father's request, Soslan visited a few Japanese sumo clubs that had been keeping tabs on both his success and weight predicament. Japan lured Soslan with the desires that run wild through the impressionable mind of a teenage boy: money, fame and girls. He received $15,000 from a club after his first tryout, and he knew two other Russians in the top division who owned brand new Hummers, Mercedes and Maseratis. He saw them partying with beautiful women and wanted what they had as soon as possible. ... By 17, Soslan was married and living the life of an elite sumo wrestler, earning over $40,000 a month and receiving lavish gifts from sponsors for top performances, including cars.
The XFL jumped off the top turnbuckle in 2001 and landed with a blow equal parts short-lived and long lasting. A merging of the schlocky promotions of Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Federation and the passion and violence of football, the league died after one season, its demise hastened more by a failure of an ill-advised and ultimately doomed business arrangement than a repudiation of the product on the field. ... The XFL's brief life has relegated it to a footnote in American sports history. Yet McMahon's sound-and-fury vision for football echoes in today's NFL, from super huge screens in every stadium to sleeker uniforms to the way networks broadcast the games on TV, with cameras zooming overhead and microphones creeping into every corner.
Cheap beer, affordable tickets, swanky surroundings -- what's not to like about minor and independent league baseball parks? … In the world of marketing minor league baseball, where coloring outside the lines is the norm, anything within the boundaries of good taste is fair game. … Everything is content, and content is everything. … Even a bunch of whimsical Heat fans who ditched their team and missed a historic comeback. … "When it comes to marketing and promotions, we always try to stay topical, have fun with topical stuff," Seymour said. "During the NBA Finals, nothing was more topical than Heat fans leaving their team before Game 6 was over." … And with that, "Big Three" night at the Miracle's Hammond Stadium was born on Thursday, June 20. … In honor of Miami's "Big Three" (Heat-speak for the trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh) and as a good-hearted poke at Heat "fans," all Miracle patrons wearing Heat gear would get into the game for the low, low price of $3 per ticket, under two conditions: First, they enter through the "Exit" gates and second, they stay for the entire game, which I would imagine was not very difficult for most of them to do, what with it being "Thirsty Thursday" (half priced domestic beers!) and all.
A Harvard English major wrote The Inner Game of Tennis in 1972. A million copies later, its ideas are still some of the most influential in sports — and beyond, taken seriously by actors, politicians, and even sex researchers. What’s its secret? Maybe that there is no secret.
Bison Dele, once known as Brian Williams, left the NBA behind to explore the world. His quest carried him to a mysterious end near Tahiti. More than a decade later, his spirit sails on. ... It has been 11 years since the NBA player’s catamaran went missing off the coast of Tahiti and the FBI descended upon this small island in the middle of the Pacific, flanked by journalists, asking questions about murder and love and fame. Eleven years since the TV reenactments and the breathless tabloid reports. Eleven years, and the mystery remains unsolved. ... Many on the island have forgotten. Others prefer not to speak about what occurred. “It has been so long,” they say, averting their eyes. “That has nothing to do with us.” Tahiti relies on tourism, on its reputation as a paradise on earth; why talk about death? ... Dig deeper, though, and you can find those who remember. Not just what happened, but what came before.
When energy-drink company Red Bull bought Ford’s Formula 1 team Jaguar Racing in 2004, the team was in a shambles. In the five years it was controlled by Ford, its drivers won not a single race. The closest it came to a championship was in 2004 when Jaguar placed seventh in the constructors standings. Out of 11 teams. … Renamed Infiniti Red Bull Racing, the team now dominates Formula 1 racing in much the same way Ferrari did during the glory years of Michael Schumacher in the early 2000s. It has won the double championship—when a team comes first in points both for an individual driver and for the team, or constructor of the car—every year since 2010 and is well on its way to winning its fourth. But advanced engineering accounts only for part of its astonishing success. As important is the way the team uses data.
Miguel Cabrera looked as if he were wearing pajamas, untucked and mismatched, as he lumbered around the Detroit Tigers’ clubhouse in a sweaty gray T-shirt and a pair of Nike shower shoes. Known to his teammates as Miggy, Cabrera wore his hair dense down the middle and bare on the sides — in what he called “a faux-hawk.” In an era in which even baseball players have come to resemble souped-up Eastern bloc Olympians, Miggy packs more of a stonemason physique: he is 6-foot-4 with massive arms and torso, but also a noticeable paunch of fluctuating size and, God bless him, well-articulated man-boobs. Yet he is the reigning American League M.V.P. and quite possibly the best hitter of his generation. (One of the fun parts about writing about baseball is inviting a “best of his generation” debate before the first paragraph is even over.)
A new book reveals the moment the NFL could no longer ignore concussion science … THERE HAS NEVER been anything like it in the history of modern sports: a public health crisis that emerged from the playing fields of our 21st-century pastime. A small group of research scientists put football under a microscope -- literally. What they found was not the obvious, as many people later would claim. We all knew that football was violent and dangerous, that one hit could break your neck or even kill you. No, what the researchers were saying was that the essence of football -- the unavoidable head banging that occurs on every play, like a woodpecker jackhammering at a tree -- can unleash a cascading series of neurological events that in the end strangles your brain, leaving you unrecognizable. … The researchers who made this discovery -- you could count them on one hand -- thought NFL executives would embrace their findings, if only to make their product safer. That is not what happened.
A football star, he is one of the best strikers in the world. In the past 12 seasons his teams have been champions of their respective countries 10 times. He has won titles in the Netherlands with Ajax, in Italy with Juventus, Inter and AC Milan, in Spain with Barcelona and, most recently, in France with his current team, Paris Saint-Germain (PSG). In clinching the French championship last year, he scored 30 goals in 34 games. His father came to Sweden from Bosnia; his mother from Croatia. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was born in Malmo and grew up in the city's tough Rosengard district. His autobiography, "I Am Zlatan Ibrahimovic," was released in June in English and on Oct. 1 in German translation by publisher Malik Verlag. Some 675,000 copies have already been sold in Sweden. Ibrahimovic is arrogant, eccentric and unwieldy.
Professional chess has a chequered history. Fans hope to revive it … IN LONDON in April, a 22-year-old Norwegian turned cartwheels by the Thames. Magnus Carlsen, the world’s top-ranked chess player (and a model for G-Star RAW, a fashion firm) had just earned the right to challenge for the World Chess Championship in India next month. His battle against Viswanathan Anand, a 43-year-old Indian and world champion since 2007, is a long-awaited spectacle. Match organisers see a chance to turn a struggling sport into a global brand.
I’d heard about a celebrity inmate on temporary time-out from addiction treatment making his way around the rotisserie. His name, I admit, meant nothing to me. I’m an import from England; we don’t swaddle ourselves in body armor prior to playing a game. American football, to me, is overly refereed rugby for the squeamish. Even real football, what you Colonials insist on calling soccer, means little to me any longer. I’ve grown too old and brittle for hooliganism, so there hardly seems any point. I am simply not a sports fan. ... This was to serve me well with Leaf. After a couple of days he crawled out of both his doldrums and his tiny, one-size-doesn’t-fit-all bed at about the same time. We began some stimulating conversations, on any topic other than football.
One of the most iconic careers in major league history is ending: Mariano Rivera, two months from turning 44, 23 years removed from his start in professional baseball, will throw his last pitch. Goodbye to the alltime leader in regular-season and postseason saves. Goodbye to his cut fastball, which belongs with Carl Hubbell's screwball, Sandy Koufax's curveball and Nolan Ryan's fastball on the Mount Rushmore of greatest pitches. And goodbye to that trim, tailored figure who could work the noisiest room the way Astaire or Sinatra could, with a preternatural, unhurried cool and a lightness of being that made the difficult look easy. Only the tuxedo was missing. ... The son of a Panamanian fisherman became baseball royalty, though it was a hegemony hard-earned, not given. Rivera signed with the Yankees in 1990 at age 20 for just $3,000 and promptly made the first airplane trip of his life to report to spring training in Tampa. He injured his elbow in '92 and had ligament-repair surgery. He was left unprotected by the Yankees in the expansion draft later that year but went unclaimed by the Rockies and the Marlins, nearly was traded to the Tigers in '95 for lefthander David Wells and in '96 to the Mariners for shortstop Felix Fermin, and washed out as a major league starting pitcher with a 5.94 ERA in 10 chances in '95. Only then and in the bullpen, especially in October, did Rivera make his indelible mark. ... The end to his career, however, is hardly the end of his imprint. Rivera's personage is so humble, godly even, that his legacy will go on. Few players in any sport have retired with more reverence from his peers. "Probably not since Koufax have we seen anyone leave the game with so much respect," says Joe Torre, Rivera's manager with the Yankees for four of his five World Series championships. ... Like Koufax, Rivera has become an enduring ideal, a template of what it means to be a pitcher, a teammate and a friend. But the oral history of Rivera has only begun. This is the story so far, from some of the lives he has touched.
E-sports are turning silly teenagers into disciplined professionals ... To get an insider’s perspective on the rigors and sacrifices demanded by a career in gaming, I spoke with two veterans of the trade: 22-year-old Peter “ppd” Dager and 25-year-old Saahil “UNiVeRsE” Arora from Evil Geniuses (EG). In spite of their young age, both have years of competitive experience and are the most senior members of a five-man squad that includes a pair of teenagers. They carry the EG banner into mythical battle in Valve’s massively popular Dota 2 multiplayer game, which today hosts the grand final of a $10 million tournament known as The International. Captained by ppd, EG came within just one win of reaching tonight's final against Team Newbee, but in the end had to settle for an honorable third place and a $1 million prize. ... The life of a pro gamer requires uncommon discipline and perseverance, because the obstacles to success are as numerous outside the game as they are fearsome inside it. Parents won’t respect what you do, fans won’t understand when you fail, and most of the money goes to only the very best. As tough as that is, passion, team camaraderie, and a growing acceptance of e-sports as a legitimate career path are making competitive gaming bigger than ever.
Inside Ted Ligety's masochistic plan to take over the ski universe, starting with the Sochi Olympics ... IT'S A JULY MORNING in Park City, Utah, and U.S. Ski Team star Ted Ligety, six of his teammates, and I are locked in an intense game of basketball. From the first inbound, Ligety, who is five foot eleven and 185 pounds of power, drives hard, tosses elbows, and blows through picks. Then—"Ahhhh!"—he comes down hard on his ankle, turning it over. It starts to swell, and Ligety limps around with clenched teeth, but after ten minutes he shakes off the pain. He has to: the Winter Games in Sochi are only seven months away, and Ligety is expected to contend for numerous medals. There's a lot of training to do. ... "Ted figured out a way to ski that nobody has duplicated"
When Ted Turner entered his yacht Tenacious in the famed Fastnet Race in 1979, he did not need to prove himself. Turner already had the following on his résumé: founder of a television network, owner of the Atlanta Hawks and Braves, and, most appropriate here, winner of the 1977 America’s Cup. Still, he loved to sail and loved to race with his crew of carefully selected mates. This race would prove to be like no other Turner had ever entered when a freak storm turned the Celtic Sea into chaos. When the winds stopped and the race was over, many of the 303 entrants hadn’t even finished and, tragically, 15 sailors had lost their lives. The victorious crew of the Tenacious relive the voyage, of which Turner famously said: “I was more afraid of losing than I was of dying.”
It's expensive, difficult, and demands the kind of time most people get only when they go on vacation — or retire. From the dried up fairways of Southern California to the vacant course-side condos on the Carolina coast, we survey the sport's demise — and the entrepreneurs hoping to reinvent it for a new, less patient generation. ... By any measure, participation in the game is way off, from a high of 30.6 million golfers in 2003 to 24.7 million in 2014, according to the National Golf Foundation (NGF). The long-term trends are also troubling, with the number of golfers ages 18 to 34 showing a 30 percent decline over the last 20 years. Nearly every metric — TV ratings, rounds played, golf-equipment sales, golf courses constructed — shows a drop-off. ... Golf's heyday coincided neatly with Tiger's run of 15 major golf championships between 1997 and 2008. If you listen to golf insiders, he's the individual most to blame for those thousands of Craigslist ads for used clubs. ... But you can't blame one man's wandering libido for the demise of an entire sport. The challenges golf faces are myriad, from millennials lacking the requisite attention span for a five-hour round, to an increasingly environmentally conscious public that's reluctant to take up a resource-intensive game played on nonnative grass requiring an almond farm's worth of water, to the recent economic crisis that curtailed discretionary spending. ... By now the various attempts to "save" golf by making the game faster, cheaper, and easier to play have all taken on an air of desperation. There have been a number of initiatives and innovations designed to lure younger players onto the course — most of them attempts to speed up the game.
He’s resting on a couch, but this discussion—explaining how his team will rebound from a moment that most Seattle fans still can’t bring themselves to watch again—is more interrogation than psychotherapy. “If you hope I’m going to cry over the deal, I’m not,” Carroll says. “I’ve moved past that.” ... Carroll believes he made the right call. He’s never wavered there. Where some people say “worst possible decision,” he says “worst possible outcome.” That’s his distinction, and he’s sticking to it. ... the same critics who panned Carroll for throwing late against the Pats lambasted him for the decisions he made against UT. He never ignored that moment or banished it from his memory or said it didn’t hurt like hell. He confronted it. And it has fueled him. Says Carroll, “It’s much easier for me [to move forward] than most people.” ... There’s a famous story about the epiphany Carroll had around this time. He was reading a book by John Wooden that described how it took the old UCLA coach 18 years to win his first national title. And then Carroll slammed the book shut, inspired. He took the USC job in December of that year and started to write down not only what he wanted to accomplish but how he would go about it. He filled legal pads and the outsides of manila folders with so many notes that he ran out of space to write. He dissected every aspect of performance. Details that seemed small—like having players preorder for the Trojans’ omelet station in order to save a few minutes at breakfast each morning—were implemented to improve efficiency. He asked his assistant coaches to explain their vision in 30 words or less ... To Carroll, it became less about the victories and more about the process.
Major League Baseball Advanced Media, or BAM for short. BAM began as the in-house IT department for the league’s 30 teams, a small handful of employees originally tasked with building websites for teams and clubs. But over the last 15 years, BAM has emerged as the most talented and reliable name in streaming video, a skill set suddenly in very high demand. ... BAM cemented its status as one of the most important players at the intersection of sports, media, and technology, announcing that it will be powering the mobile, web, and television offerings from the National Hockey League. It’s the first time BAM has been fully embraced by another major league. ... For years, BAM was a name known only to industry insiders, a sharpshooter organization called in to make sure the big game or series premiere streamed without fail. Over time, it forged long-term deals with clients like WWE and Sony Playstation’s Vue network. Now it’s moving from powering the platform to co-owning the content as well. ... Watching sports online has always had one major complication: regional blackouts prevent you from streaming a game in the same territory as a television broadcaster who owns local rights. That meant BAM had to figure out where a customer was and whether or not they could legally watch the stream. In fact, BAM’s very first post-season package wasn’t even broadcast live in the United States or Japan. Fox owned the national broadcast rights to the pennant race, so BAM’s first big broadcast took place in Europe. From the beginning, BAM had to perfect live video streaming on a global scale.
This is a story about the most magical, mystical sport on earth, and the Detroit lifer who improbably became its king. Also, it's about an art heist. ... Featherbowling was born from that medieval family of games that endure in no small part because they can be played with a beverage in the shooter's free hand. It's Belgian shuffleboard. It's horseshoes with a pigeon feather target. It's bocce, except you roll discs that have been slightly weighted to rotate unevenly across the earth, exposing the shooter's secret divine grace. It's pétanque, kubb, mölkky, curling, Cherokee marbles, Irish road bowls -- the variations are endless -- but none has the otherworldly mystery of this thing they play at the Cadieux Cafe on the east side of Detroit. That 60-foot downhill triple breaker Tiger Woods nailed on the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass in 2001, which sucked every last atom of karma out of the air around it -- that's every sixth shot in featherbowling. You shout op de pluim when your ball snakes through the gantlet of other fallen wheels, wobbling like a wounded buffalo nickel, before settling on the feather. ... Which is to say, it's a game in which tiny prayers are repeatedly answered, accumulating over time, until something is answered that nobody had even known to pray for.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt once told the head of the Office of Strategic Services (precursor to the CIA), “Give my regards to the catcher.” The catcher was Moe Berg, who spent 15 seasons in the majors before taking up espionage for the government. Spyball tells the extraordinary story of Berg, a linguist/Ivy-educated lawyer/.243 lifetime hitter whom manager Casey Stengel called “the strangest man to ever play the game of baseball.” Berg walked in eclectic circles, counting Babe Ruth, Albert Einstein, and the Marx Brothers among his friends, but it was his service to his country that truly distinguished him. His surreptitious filming of Tokyo during a 1934 baseball tour helped develop strategies for the eventual bombing of the city during World War II, and his cloak-and-dagger mind games involving a German scientist helped prove that the Nazis were failing in their attempts to develop an atomic bomb.
Perhaps the greatest polo player ever, Adolfo Cambiaso is planning to compete on a pony that died nearly a decade ago—a clone of his beloved stallion Aiken Cura. With more than 25 replicas of champion horses now in existence, Haley Cohen explores how the science came to polo. ... Aiken Cura is one of a number of horses that Cambiaso has duplicated. Through their company, Crestview Genetics, Cambiaso and two wealthy polo enthusiasts—the founder, Texan Alan Meeker, and Argentinean tycoon Ernesto Gutiérrez—have created more than 25 clones of Cambiaso’s champion polo horses and around 45 clones in total. Some are already breeding, and a few others began to play in top tournaments last year. Since the company’s establishment, in 2009, the partners have cloned not only for themselves but also for other international polo players who are willing to shell out around $120,000 per horse. Crestview is one of only two commercial groups in the world replicating polo horses, and it is the more prolific. ... Cloning began long before the world started paying attention to it, in 1996, when Dolly the Sheep, the first mammal successfully cloned from an adult cell, clomped into the world. One hundred years before, in 1885, Hans Driesch created two identical sea urchins by jiggling a two-celled urchin embryo until the cells separated and grew into their own creatures. Through much more sophisticated processes, scientists have since cloned pigs, cows, dogs, cats, ferrets, goats, and horses. (It is estimated that there are now around 300 cloned horses in the world, although no one has really kept track.) Now, with Crestview’s efforts, polo—the ancient “game of kings”—has found itself on the frontiers of cloning technology. ... “I did the math and realized it would take me $100 million and 50 years to get the quality of horses I wanted through conventional breeding,” he says. “I decided I didn’t want to spend either.” Instead, he turned to cloning.
Somewhere in your favorite sports franchise’s front office, a team of analysts is teasing the truth out of a mess of misleading statistics. Regardless of the sport or the data source — Corsi, SportVU, or Statcast — the analysts’ goals are the same: to capture contributions that standard statistics omit or misrepresent, and to find the positive indicators buried beneath superficial failures. The shot on goal that goes wide? In a sense, it’s a good sign, since it might mean more shots in the future, some of which will find the net. The line drive caught by a leaping outfielder playing out of position? A double would’ve been better, but even an almost-double tells us that the player who came close to extra bases has the skills to drive the baseball at a speed and trajectory that would typically lead to a hit. Not all outs are created equal. ... Whether they know it or not — and nowadays, most of them don’t — all of these quants are re-proving the principle at the core of a product developed two decades ago by a company called AVM Systems, a small outfit founded by Ken Mauriello and Jack Armbruster, two businessmen based in the Chicago suburb of Wheaton, Illinois. AVM’s central insight sounds hackneyed now, but it was — to borrow a latter-day business buzzword — disruptive at the time: Process is important, because results are sometimes deceiving.
Meet the branding geniuses behind some of minor league baseball’s craziest logos and mascots. ... The negative attention didn’t bother Brandiose, the San Diego-based sports marketing company that came up with Hartford’s logo, which consists of a horned, bearded goat gnawing on a baseball bat. The brainchild of longtime friends Jason Klein and Casey White, the firm specializes in developing unique team identities. By now, the duo has learned that pushback against a name as strange as Yard Goats isn’t a bad thing. “You want it to be polarizing,” Klein said, because it shows that the public is interested. ... Over the last decade, minor league franchises have hired Brandiose (pronounced like “grandiose”) to sculpt distinctive name and logo combinations seemingly out of thin air. But as goofy as Brandiose designs can be, the story behind them must be carefully crafted. After all, small clubs in small cities often need ways to hook fans—particularly families with young kids—who might be less interested in watching hotshot major league prospects than they are in partaking in an inspired promotion.
Their assuredness is as bold as the company behind the school: IMG, the global sports management conglomerate that has helped propel the competitive leap that high school football has made beyond traditional community teams. ... convention is being challenged by a more professional model at the highest levels as top players urgently pursue college scholarships, training becomes more specialized, big business opens its wallet, school choice expands, and schools seek to market themselves through sports, some for financial survival. ... IMG is at the forefront. It is trying to enhance its academy brand with football, perhaps the most visible sport. And it is applying a business model to the gridiron that has long been profitable for tennis and has expanded to golf, soccer, baseball, basketball, lacrosse, and track and field. The academy has nearly 1,000 students from more than 80 countries enrolled in prekindergarten through 12th grade and postgraduation. About half the students are international. ... The full cost of tuition and boarding for a year of football at IMG Academy is $70,800, although need-based financial assistance is available.