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· All Eyes on Ronald Reagan, Ruth-Rockne-Lusetti-Hazlitt Style ·

Two days ago I read a bright piece of sports commentary. Bearing on concerns at · You Got Style ·, it came in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal (6/9/04) in a short review of Michael Mandelbaum's book, The Meaning of Sports (2004). A professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, Mandelbaum, Fred Barnes writes, embellishes his subject "with so many fresh ideas, clever insights and bits of anthropology that The Meaning . . . is not only fascinating but enormously entertaining."

I was of course impressed, but yesterday with C-SPAN in the background, I happily recalled Barnes's apt take on Mandelbaum's "brightest insight":

One of Mr. Mandelbaum's brighest insights [Barnes writes] is that Babe Ruth, Knute Rockne and Hank Lusetti turned their sports into national obsessions in a similar thrilling fashion — by making the ball easier for spectators to see. In baseball, Ruth did it with the home run in the 1920s. Rockne, the Notre Dame football coach, popularized the forward pass in 1913. In basketball, Lusetti, playing for Stanford in the 1930s, invented the jump shot.

While channel-surfing today over breakfast, I, too, had an insight — recalling, "in a similar thrilling fashion," the lesser-known invention of English sports writing itself, this by William Hazlitt. You might recall Hazlitt's The Fight (1822), a short, personal essay on the Neate-Hickman fight of 1821. Though without a ball, Hazlitt keeps his eye fixed there on a much deeper subject: nationalism and, as Scott Juengel aptly argues, macho conversational pugilism.

So today's post links such inventions (national and international) in the much-honored personage of America's fortieth president, Ronald Reagan, whose just-completed ride into the sunset you may have seen on TV. I did — and cannot help but recall The Announcer's, The Gipper's, The Californian's last thrilling flight into history.

Meanwhile, back in Washington remains archrival Hickman-Gorbachev (a bit bloodied about the head still) taking hits in re-runs while attentive sports scribes worldwide praise Neate-Reagan — The Cold Warrior — in Grand Presidential Death.

Real Grand Slams, Hail Marys, Jump Shots, and Knock Outs are, I suspect, being scripted still, and I think we have seen them all today.

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