Kevin Fixler
    Sport Matters

23 November 2015

How the Gatorade Shower was Born

He’d been coach Bill Parcells’ whipping boy in the media all week, so when his New York Giants were just two minutes from completing a 37-13 blowout of the rival Washington Redskins on Oct. 28, 1984, nose tackle Jim Burt decided it was time to get even. The 6-foot-1, 260-pound player grabbed one of the big orange Gatorade buckets from a sideline table, sneaked up behind Parcells and giddily dumped it over his head. The unsuspecting victim was soaked from headphones to toes, and Burt had unwittingly inaugurated a sports tradition: the game-ending Gatorade shower.


17 November 2015

The NFL Pioneers Who Kicked Off Their Cleats

The temperatures in Cleveland had dropped below freezing. Unlike the local children, who were bundled up, one young man dressed only in polyester and wearing a single shoe ran around in the cold. The Browns were ahead and gunning for just their second playoff win in nearly 20 years when Denver’s Rich Karlis stepped onto the field — with a bare right foot and only 5:32 remaining on the clock.


26 September 2015

The Olympic sprinter with an inner Greek god

Wearing gold track spikes and taking a deep breath, the 200-meter world record holder knelt into position, set his feet in the blocks and carefully placed his hands. Then, just as he had done before coasting to gold and an Olympic record in the 400-meter race three days earlier, he waited for the call and the starting gun’s bang.


28 August 2015

Erik Palmer-Brown: Soccer Phenom

The evening is mild, the pitch is pristine and the visiting forward sees only daylight between him and the goal. He is wrong. Behind him, quiet and quick, comes center defender Erik Palmer-Brown. The kid shoulders the evasive striker, slowing him down. His foot connects with the ball. Then comes the slide tackle that dislodges it definitively — and returns possession to the American all-star team.

That whole episode, in Denver last month, took 11 seconds; Palmer-Brown works fast.


20 June 2015

Boxing’s detested king

The tale of Charles “Sonny” Liston is far more complex than that of just an intimidating ex-con who broke legs for the mob on his way to seizing boxing’s heavyweight title. “His story,” says boxing writer and historian Springs Toledo, is “almost Shakespearean.”


2 May 2015

Jockey Bill Hartack’s Gritty Legacy Survives at Kentucky Derby

Jockey great Willie Shoemaker “has victory in his grasp,” the commentator declared as the thoroughbreds charged the finish line at the 83rd running of the Kentucky Derby, in 1957. As Shoemaker rose in his stirrups to embrace his win, the crowd of 90,000 no doubt agreed. But a photo finish would reveal that the famed Texan had lost by the slimmest of margins — to a relative unknown named Bill Hartack.


1 May 2015

The Atlanta Hawks’ Understated Superstar

Filed under: The Sports Fix — Tags: , , , , , , , , — kevinfixler @ 8:00 am

For Al Horford, the moment could have played out so differently. During what would become a double-overtime victory for his NBA team, the Atlanta Hawks, Horford stretched out his right arm to block a pass — then grabbed near his shoulder in obvious pain. With his pectoral muscle completely torn, he missed the rest of that game, two-thirds of last season and his team’s run in the playoffs. Worse yet: That wasn’t the first time he ripped a pec. “It’s only happened in pro basketball three times,” Horford tells OZY, “and it’s happened to me twice.”


10 March 2015

Scoring high with the Skyhook

There he stands — all 16 feet and 1,500 pounds of, well, not him, but a bronze replica of him, anyway: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. His likeness is a permanent fixture outside the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles where the Lakers play, depicting what he’s best remembered for: his storied skyhook.

Abdul-Jabbar — who entered the NBA in 1969 as Lew Alcindor, the much-heralded first overall pick out of UCLA — was a spindly, 7-foot-2 force at the center position who had led the Bruins to three straight national titles, as well as 88 victories in 90 games. And yet, for all his talent and natural gifts on the court, he also possessed a single tool — his trademark hook shot — so dominant that rivals simply prayed that he would miss.


21 February 2015

The Man with Olympic Doodads

Filed under: The Sports Fix — Tags: , , , , , , , , — kevinfixler @ 8:00 am

Much like the setting of Mounir Zok’s office, located in the newly renovated U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, his field of specialty remains largely a work in progress. But that isn’t stopping him in his quest to get more Americans on podiums, holding more medals, preferably gold.

His secret weapon? Well, we can’t say exactly what it is (that’s secret), but it’s about a host of cool little monitoring gadgets, some of which athletes are tucking in their shoes, wearing as bracelets or slipping into their shorts. It seemed like only a few Olympics ago that specialized training and nutrition were all the rage in gaining a competitive edge. But today, it’s all about these doodads that have become the magical third eye of coaching, little trackers on steroids for when, as Zok puts it, “the naked vision is not enough anymore.”


18 February 2015

When Perfection Happened

It’s one of those classic moments in sports that is universal for those of a certain age. Actually, it was more than a classic moment. It was a perfect moment.

It was 1976, at the Olympic Games in Montreal, and Cold War politics were being played out through sport every four years on the grandest of stages. There, vaulting onto the uneven bars was a tiny Romanian, Nadia Comaneci, with a ponytail in ribbons, dressed in a mostly white leotard with the number 73 pinned on the back. Flip after spin, she seemed to effortlessly fly through the air for 17 breathless seconds before dismounting in a swan dive. She landed expertly on her feet, and the crowd erupted.


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