My Favourite Magazine Essay Nfl


Illustration by Oliver Munday  

One of the most quoted routines of the late George Carlin was his explication of the differences between football and baseball. “Football has hitting, clipping, spearing, piling on, personal fouls, late hitting, and unnecessary roughness. Baseball has the sacrifice.” I always think about that routine when each sport is beginning to stretch its legs to prepare for the start of a new season. Baseball’s spring training is all about the smell of freshly cut grass, about renewal, about being eternally young, about hope. Football’s training camp is about fighting for your right to exist, about weeding out the weak, about grueling two-a-days, about a boot camp where you’re expected to run until you puke and then get back up and run some more. It is about destroying yourself in order to live.

So much of the enjoyment of football is tied up in this notion of self-immolation: The sport doesn’t really work without it. The players, outside of the glamour positions on offense, are essentially anonymous and interchangeable. Player careers are so short—and NFL franchise rules make it so easy for them to be cut with no penalty—that most franchises don’t even have a signature star longer than a year or two. Fantasy football is so simple and easy to play that you can consider yourself a huge NFL fan but only know the names of about 8 percent of the players. Everyone covers their faces with masks, for crying out loud. The actual men who play the games are almost tangential to the experience: It is all about Team and Any Given Sunday and the National Football League. The NFL is about order, the organization over the individual. It is faux-military at its very essence.

We enjoy the NFL because we can forget what goes on behind the scenes, the brutal things these players do and put themselves through, the notion that they need to make themselves fatter and less healthy in order to better land on the quarterback with a crunch and put bounties on other teams’ stars. We enjoy the NFL because it looks so good on tele­vision that you can follow it linearly—just follow the ball—without having much idea of what’s actually going on. The NFL makes you believe you are an expert even though 99.999 percent of the millions who watch every Sunday couldn’t say the name of a single play.

The NFL wants you to think about what goes on behind the curtain as little as possible. I don’t blame them. There’s a lot to hide back there. I’m just not sure I can do it anymore.

Last May, Jets linebacker Bart Scott said something curious. “I don’t want my son to play football,” Scott said. “I play football so he won’t have to. With what is going on, I don’t know if it’s really worth it … I don’t want to have to deal with him getting a concussion and what it would be like later in life.” It is worth noting that Bart Scott is not some pearl-clutching punter sitting idly by as those big scary football players do brutal things to each other. He is one of the more powerful, violent linebackers in the NFL, famous for uttering WWE-esque screams during an ESPN inter­view after the Jets’ upset playoff win over the New England Patriots. (He would later appear in an actual WWE event.) He is no sensitive violet. And he’s talking about his job like an old coal miner with black lung who just doesn’t want his children to have the same horrible life he had.

Football is a violent sport, and always has been, but over the past few years, the increasing evidence of widespread concussion-related brain damage (and the suicides of several high-profile players, including Hall of Famer Junior Seau) is reaching a saturation point. Earlier this summer, Terry Bradshaw—who is paid handsomely to talk about football by one of the NFL’s major television partners—told Jay Leno that he believes football will be less popular than soccer in ten years because of worries about head injuries. Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner, who retired in part because of his own repeated concussions, said he wouldn’t allow his children to play football either. It has led some to wonder if the sport will eventually ­become a niche sport, like ultimate fighting (which, for what it’s worth, is awfully lucrative for a “niche” sport). Ask Penn State: Institutions can crumble frighteningly quickly. ­Earlier this year, two economists for Grantland war-gamed a scenario in which football could be eradicated in ten to fifteen years, mired in an unstoppable downward spiral of lawsuits, universities (starting with the Ivy League and spreading to the Berkeleys of the world) dropping the sport, and corporate sponsors (the real lifeblood of the NFL) finally realizing they can’t have their brand associated with what some would consider human cockfighting.

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  • Renegade

    What's the concept?
    Renegade sets out to give an honest impression of the world, to inspire people to travel, of course, but also to go back to the reason we travel in the first place – to attempt to understand a place by seeing it first hand. We also wanted to bring the traditional sense of literary travel writing to the fore, and bring it up to date.

    What motivated you to make it?
    We were seeing so much excellent work going unnoticed and we wanted Renegade to become a platform on which these stories could be published. We're also constantly inspired by the ever-growing market for independent magazines. It's exciting to live in a time when, thanks to the internet, print is an unknown again and there are plenty of people out there doing wonderful things with it.

    Who works on it and what are their backgrounds?
    Amy Sohanpaul and I edit Renegade together. Amy has been editing another travel magazine for the best part of a decade and used to work in book publishing. I left university in 2009, and have been writing, editing and working in magazine publishing ever since. The magazine's art director is Pieter Stander, who's worked with us numerous times before.

    Tell us about the feature you're most proud of
    It's difficult to pick, but two seem to have stood out: the first is Barnaby Rogerson's essay about the current state of travel writing. The second is a piece we commissioned by LA-based poet/translator David Shook who wrote about his journey to Equatorial Guinea to find Marcelo Ensema Nsang, a poet whose work he'd become mildly obsessed with. We even got to publish one of Marcelo's poems for the first time.

    Can you recommend any other travel publications (print or online) that we should read?
    We've been following Boat since their first issue on Sarajevo. The concept is incredibly fresh. Another Escape is also great. And though not strictly travel, there are a few surf/skate magazines out there which instil a sense of wanderlust, especially Acid. And online there's Sidetracked, a magazine about exploration and expeditions (see below).
    Freddie Reynolds

    Sidetracked

    What's the concept?
    Sidetracked is an adventure travel brand that captures and presents the experience of some of the most breathtaking adventures taking place throughout the world. The stories are told by the men and women who undertake them, accompanied by incredible photography or video. Sidetracked started as a website but recently moved into print with a premium quality bi-annual journal, and we're looking at additional digital channels too.

    What motivated you to make it?
    I've been a freelance graphic designer for 12 years, working mainly on promotional and ecommerce websites. Three years ago I decided to combine my passion and training for good design and typography with my other interests – in particular, being engrossed in adventure, expeditions and exploration. The website has grown rapidly to become a great resource for adventure travel inspiration and the move into print has been a long-term ambition for me.

    Who works on it and what are their backgrounds?
    I look after the website production and design side of things and deal with the writers and photographers. We have two editors; Jamie Bunchuk, an explorer and writer with a couple of expeditions under his belt, and Andrew Mazibrada, a lawyer, author and freelance writer. Martin Hartley, a leading expedition and adventure photographer, has recently joined the team as director of photography, and National Geographic Adventurer of the Year Alastair Humphreys has also been involved in the project.

    Tell us about the feature you're most proud of
    That's incredibly difficult! The piece by Kenton Cool on the risks as well as the rewards of high-altitude adventure is an extraordinary and humbling story. For the website, I'd say The Land That Never Melts (a pulking expedition on Baffin Island), Sitka to Hoonah (an Alaskan kayak adventure) and 125 days in Amazonia (an expedition to cross Brazil from north to south).

    Can you recommend any other travel publications (print or online) that we should read?
    My favourite printed publications would include Boat Magazine, Another Escape and The Ride Journal – all stunning and great reads. I enjoy browsing through Exposure online and 12hrs.net and regularly check out Outside Online as well as the National Geographic Adventure blog too.
    John Summerton

    The American Guide

    What's the concept?
    Before The American Guide, there was The American Guide Series – an Encyclopedia Americana of tour books and pamphlets published on every state during the Great Depression era of the 1930s and early 1940s. It was a public works project paid for by the US government in which out-of-work artists, writers, photographers and editors across the country were put to work in their hometowns and states to create America's first great self-portrait. Today, The American Guide is a revival of this unique spirit of service to document the country. The goal is to make a state-by-state record of America, documenting people and places, both pretty and hard.

    What motivated you to make it?
    Six years ago we came across a copy of one of the original American Guide series books still in print and used it to explore modern-day New York City. We read about feuding gangs in Chinatown, the Coney Island boardwalk, and an old sailors' home on Staten Island. We loved that it was written, not by travel pros parachuting in to find the best hotel, but by New Yorkers who crawled the sidewalks talking to line cooks and kids playing stickball. It seemed like a missed opportunity that nothing similar existed in the present day. And with the astonishingly talented community of regional photographers and writers on Tumblr, we realized there was an opportunity to create a sort of crowdsourced, 21st-century version of the original series. Six years later, we almost have a complete set of the original American Guide series.

    Who works on it and what are their backgrounds?
    Tom McNamara and I are the creators and co-editors. We grew up in Minnesota and Florida respectively and both spent several years as producers and journalists at the Public Broadcasting Service. These days, we work at two different natural history museums. But as we said, the local guides are really what make The American Guide so special. There's an architect, a librarian, a skateboarder, a teacher, and a hotel maintenance man among their number.

    Tell us about the feature you're most proud of
    For the past two Novembers we've hosted American Guide Week on Tumblr — a throwback to the original American Guide Week that took place in 1941. It's when we turn The American Guide over to our 165,000-strong Tumblr community and ask everybody to tag images and words about where they live. We then feature their dispatches on the site.

    Can you recommend any other travel publications (print or online) that we should read?
    Drawn the Road Again is absolutely one of our favourites and features amazing illustrations, while Atlas Obscura is indispensable on our road trips. We also like This Belongs In a Museum, which features some cool spots we'd probably never find on our own.
    Erin Chapman

    Boat

    What's the concept?
    Boat Magazine is a nomadic travel and culture magazine that focuses on a different city for each issue. We physically move our studio to the new city, bringing a few writers and photographers with us, and work with locals to find and tell the stories that don't normally make the news. Because we spend a few weeks in each city we work really hard to get under the skin of the place and talk more about the root of some of these issues, or at least another side to them.

    What motivated you to make it?
    Being American, and someone who's lived abroad and travelled all over the globe, I get frustrated with traditional coverage of the rest of the world. A lot of the time it seems to be recycled and usually focuses on stories where a catchy or shocking headline can be gleaned. You can't get to the bottom of another culture in 48 hours, so the coverage doesn't seem authentic to me. I know these places have incredible, inspiring stories and people that really deserve to make the news and so that's what Boat tries to do.

    Who works on it and what are their backgrounds?
    We keep the core team tiny and nimble so that our overheads stay low – it's the only way we can keep going. I edit the magazine and go to each city and our design team is based in London. Otherwise, the small team of contributors for each city is picked based on their work and specialty. We've had Pulitzer Prize-winning writers, world-renowned photographers, illustrators, translators, poets, painters, filmmakers, even a musician came to Sarajevo with us to learn about the music and instruments in Bosnia.

    Tell us about the feature you're most proud of
    The feature I'm always the most excited to get back is the introduction to each issue. We always ask a local, well-known writer to introduce their city. I can't pick a favourite as they've all been amazing but some come quickly to mind. Nick Hornby's introduction to our London issue, without having read any of the other articles, perfectly summed up what all the other stories seemed positioned around: a city of incredible diversity and rapid, constant change and yet, still very much Charles Dickens' city. Our next issue (Issue 7 – Lima, Peru) is introduced by Rafo Leon, a fantastic writer who is astoundingly knowledgeable about his city and country and very poetic in writing about it.

    Can you recommend any other travel publications (print or online) that we should read?
    The Travel Almanac and Zoetrop: All-Story which isn't strictly a travel magazine, but always has great stories and writing from around the world. VNA is a magazine about street art around the world and so naturally touches on the culture of the cities these artists work in.
    Erin Spens

    Jungles in Paris

    What's the concept?
    We're a travel website that goes for quality over quantity – we only release one new story every week, prioritising film-making and photography. We try to provide a genuine, albeit brief, immersion into a foreign place. We never spotlight a destination. Travel trends don't interest us. Instead, we take on "micro-subjects" in the categories of craft, culture, geography, and wildlife. When choosing subjects we gravitate towards things that are timeless. Or at least they seem so at first glance, for the reality is that many of these amazing places are in danger of disappearing as the world gets more crowded and connected. In celebrating them we hope to increase the chances they might somehow be safeguarded.

    Who works on it and what are their backgrounds?
    The founders are my brother Oliver Hartman and me. We both live in New York and collaborate on almost everything: but to break it down, I do more of the writing/editing/trip organising, while Oliver's focus is more on the technical and filmmaking side.

    What motivated you to make it?
    As a travel writer, I wanted to spend more time on subjects that had nothing to do with new five-star hotels, celebrity chefs, new cruise destinations, spa treatments, and the like. These topics seem to dominate travel writing nowadays. I enjoy them, but only up to a point. My brother has a film production company here in New York, which does commercial work. Both of us really enjoy what we do. But we also wanted to take the knowledge and expertise we'd built up and apply it to something more exploratory and meaningful.

    Tell us about the feature you're most proud of
    The short film we shot with a boat-maker named Boniface in Zambia. These dugout canoes, called makoros, are a big part of life in parts of southern Africa, but you don't see them made out of wood that much anymore. It was the perfect Jungles subject – tradition, craft, local knowledge, these beautiful and mighty rivers – and Boniface was the perfect storyteller to help us capture it.

    Can you recommend any other travel publications (print or online) that we should read?
    Roads & Kingdoms and Nowhere magazine (tablet-only) are two of our favorites.
    Darrell Hartman

    Yonder Journal

    What's the concept?
    Yonder Journal promotes the exploration of "outsider" America. We publish impressionistic guidebooks.

    What motivated you to make it?
    We'd spent years of unsuccessfully/successfully (it really all depends on how you look at it) hustling brand content for various clients, most of whom were wonderful, but all of whom were consistently sub-flush in the money and imagination departments. Two years ago we decided to self-publish, on the internet, and in print. We were already making the stories, we were already doing the work, we were already finding the people, so we bought a URL and created an Instagram account, and here we are.

    Who works on it and what are their backgrounds?
    We are Emiliano Granado, a commercial and editorial photographer living in Brooklyn, New York, and Daniel Wakefield Pasley, a documentarian living in Portland, Oregon. We started working together about five years ago producing brand content, and it was immediately clear that we both wanted to document (and publish) an anthropological study of outsider America.

    Tell us about the feature you're most proud of
    We're proud that we haven't given up. And the guides are bona fide helpful.

    Can you recommend any other travel publications (print or online) that we should read?
    Is Vice a travel publication? Monocle?
    Emiliano Granado and Daniel Wakefield Pasley

    We Are Here

    What's the concept?
    The idea is to travel to a different city or district each issue and focus the whole magazine on it. It's very lo-fi and an attempt to move past the clichés that dominate most travel magazines. I also wanted to feature local voices, as a lot of travel magazines parachute a journalist in (often on a paid-for junket) and the content is by-the-numbers – how can you expect to understand a place without having lived there?

    What motivated you to make it?
    I love travel literature and magazines, but there was no travel magazine that I wanted to buy.

    Who works on it and what are their backgrounds?
    I do most of it – the design, photography, and commissioning. And when I am on the ground, will meet as many people as possible, explain the concept and get local writers to pitch ideas. The latest issue (focusing on Kathmandu) was written mainly by local writers, so it goes beyond the clichéd 'Shangri-La/hippies/trekking" narrative that most magazines focus on.

    Tell us about the feature you're most proud of
    In the first issue, I was surprised that the article How To Write About Dubai passed the censors in the UAE. It is basically a satirical article advising travel writers how to capture the city – it was written after a spate of poorly researched pieces were printed in the British press.

    Can you recommend any other travel publications (print or online) that we should read?
    There are a few newish publications I like from The Travel Almanac to Ling, a really cool in-flight magazine from Spain. I also love Freunde Von Freunden, a website that interviews creatives in their studios or apartments around the world. It might not be a conventional travel journal, but I also love Wilder Quarterly, which is a slightly trippy nature magazine from the US.
    Conor Purcell

    Cereal

    What's the concept?
    Cereal is a quarterly travel and lifestyle publication that takes great inspiration from classic books. You can see this influence in our design, structure, editorial voice and approach, and even in our logo – the thin lines between each letter of "Cereal" are meant to emulate the lines of books on a shelf. We love and appreciate the sense of gravitas that comes with considered, beautiful printed titles and wanted this to come to life when creating Cereal.

    What motivated you to make it?
    What motivated me to start the magazine, at the risk of sounding trite, is passion: a passion for travel, a passion for writing, and a passion for great visuals. Cereal allowed me to combine all three, and is my dream job come to life.

    Who works on it and what are their backgrounds?
    We currently have three full time members of staff: Rich Stapleton (creative director), Robbie Lawrence (features editor) and me (publisher and editor). We've also recently hired a part-time advertising manager (Abby Witherick), and work with a team of both local and international contributors to bring each volume to life. We all come from varied backgrounds. I have a background in luxury fashion and beauty marketing (I worked in this industry for about five years in New York) and moved to England to get a MA in English Literature. After graduation I did some freelance writing jobs, then worked full time for a local magazine before setting up Cereal.

    Tell us about the feature you're most proud of
    The feature that I'm the most proud of is one that we're currently working on. We are doing a travel chapter (as our magazine is divided into destination-specific chapters) on Vancouver, which is my hometown, and there is a series of features in this chapter that are some of my favourites to date.

    Can you recommend any other travel publications (print or online) that we should read?
    My go to travel publication is National Geographic – it is my favourite magazine. I also love getting tips on cities from Monocle.
    Rosa Park

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