My Usual GameNovember 26, 2015

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When my friends and I play golf, we spend most of our time discussing stuff like continuous non-vanishing tangent vector fields and the sorites paradox, but most other guys, most of the time, talk about sports. That’s easy for the ones who skim money from their children’s college funds to finance killer teams on FanDuel, but it can be challenging for others. Now, though, there’s an equalizer: TipOff Sports, a weekly email cheat sheet “for people who want a quick and easy way to know what’s going on in the world of sports.”

TipOff’s editor is David Epstein, the author of The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance, which spent many weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. The book explains how a regular dad, using items found in almost any kitchen or garage, can turn his children into athletic superstars by making simple modifications to just one or two of their chromosomes. Well, that’s not exactly right, but it’s a terrific book, and you should order a copy immediately for everyone on your list. In fact, order two, so they can keep one in their car.

I spoke with Epstein recently. “The idea for TipOff originated with two founders of the food-delivery app Seamless,” he said. “One of them, Todd Arky, is a massive sports fan. The other, Paul Appelbaum, thinks RGIII is a new phone technology. They're great friends, and Todd wanted to be able to talk at least rudimentary sports with Paul. At first, it was just text in an email, but we've been experimenting with different features, and recently we got an actual layout.” TipOff is useful even if you’re already a sports nut, because it enables you to keep up with stuff you aren’t interested in but would like to have an opinion about. Here’s a seasonally appropriate video from TipOff’s Thanksgiving edition:

Epstein has a long history in golf. “My first job, when I was 13, was as a caddie at the Westmoreland Country Club, in Wilmette, Illinois. I got interested in it because my older sister had a friend who was a star on the high school football team and also a caddie. The only problem was that I had trouble following the drives -- so that's actually when I realized I needed glasses.”

Epstein is married to Elizabeth Green, who was one of my daughter’s roommates in college. She’s also a terrific writer (as is my daughter). Green’s specialty is education. She’s the author of Building a Better Teacher: How Teaching Works (and How to Teach It to Everyone), which was also a New York Times bestseller. Why don’t you order a few copies of that book now, too?

Green told me, “When I am not using TipOff to learn the meaning of obscure sports terms like ‘LeBron James,’ I am having a lot of fun with my website Chalkbeat.org, which we like to think of as the Golf Digest of the education-reform world. Our victories have to do with holding public officials accountable and drawing attention to promising (and sometime unhappy) happenings in schools.” And that's something else you can talk about with your golf buddies when you’re not boring them with your theory of the golf swing or playing your trombone.

I don't remember who sent me this photograph.

MyUsualGame.com

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