Sports Fans Dying Hard


By Benjamin Conniff
Getty Images

Getty Images

TUESDAY, Dec. 23, 2008 ( — With more than a dozen college bowl games left to play this season and the NFL playoffs and Super Bowl on the horizon, sports fans may be focusing on couch surfing, beer, and nachos. But they might want to take a second look at the exercise habits of the sports teams they support.

A new survey suggests that die-hard sports fans weigh more, eat fattier foods, and have worse health habits in general than folks who don’t care as much about sports.

“The irony is seeing unhealthy people watch athletes at the peak of physical fitness,” says Daniel R. Sweeney, PhD, an assistant professor of sport management at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR), who conducted the survey with Donna Quimby, PhD, an associate professor of exercise science.

The researchers conducted an online survey of 14,000 people at UALR, including faculty, staff, and students. They divided 515 respondents into two groups—die-hard fans and those who were less devoted to sports teams. About 70% were students.

“Those that highly identify with a team are more emotionally involved and personally committed,” says Sweeney. “They usually spend more time, energy, and resources on rooting for their team.”

Despite sports fans’ religious-like devotion to their heroes on the field, the researchers found that they didn’t appear to emulate their health habits. In fact, devoted sports fans had a higher body mass index than non-sports fans, and were more likely to be overweight, with an average BMI of 27.4, compared with the nonfans’ more slender 25. (A BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight.) Read more »


Where are the Bonds of yesteryear?

from, 11/30/08

bondIn Quantum of Solace, James Bond is stripped of his credit cards, his passports, and his mission. Why didn’t they strip the name James Bond while they were at it? The creators of the most recent two Bond films have removed just about every vestige of the character I once knew. The high-tech gadgets are a thing of the past, as are Bond’s standard sidekicks, Q and Moneypenny (though Daniel Craig is lobbying for Q’s return). Bond’s bevy of willing women shrinks with each new installment. His only successful venture here is with the facile (in every sense of the word) Agent Fields (Gemma Arterton). The fiery, complicated Camille (Olga Kurylenko) is just the kind of woman with whom Bond should end the film locked in a passionate embrace. In Q of S [SPOILER ALERT] the girl just doesn’t give a damn.
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The Penny Palate

I recently started a new blog called the Penny Palate, dedicated to eating and drinking cheap in New York City, at restaurants and bars and at home. In our current economy, it’s a classy site for the unabashedly stingy. Here’s a full description of the site from its about page:

from The Penny Palate

picture-11Please, sir, may I hear some more?

We know you’ve heard it before. “You have to be rich to do anything in New York.” Whether it’s a skeptical suburbanite or your I-banker friend who’s happy to drop the equivalent of your entire paycheck at swanky bars, there’s a pervasive sense that there’s no fun to be had in this city without paying a steep price. We don’t buy it.

The Penny Palate is devoted to rooting out the cheap food and drink that skeptics are too lazy to find. As Wall Street swirls deeper and deeper into the toilet, cheap restaurants are flourishing and more and more establishments are getting in on the action with “recession specials.” The heady days of the extravagant spender are past, and the hour of the penny pincher is here.

Our daily postings will tell you where to grab lunch when your wallet’s light, what bar serves up cheap drinks and free grub at happy hour, and even how to cook dinner and entertain without breaking your piggy bank. We’ll include special categories like a “Happy Hour of the Week;” “Tuck for a Buck,” which points you to great food for only a dollar; and our favorite, “The Circular Jerk,” epic journeys in food shopping and cooking led by the treasure map that is the circular.

We’re not talking Frank Bruni’s “cheap” $65 sushi special here. We’ll never recommend anything over $10, so when we say cheap, we mean it. So let’s raise a 2-for-1 pint to the thrifty New Yorker. This site’s for you.

As Old as the Blues

from the Playboy Blog, 11/13/08

edwardsA 93-year-old doesn’t take the stage the way most musicians do. It takes a lot longer, and may require spotters on either flank. So when David “Honeyboy” Edwards made the trek to center stage at the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill and settled ever so slowly into his chair, I had to wonder, does he still have it?

Born in 1915, Honeyboy is one of the last original Delta bluesmen still walking the earth. He’s a contemporary of the legendary Robert Johnson, and actually wrote some of the songs that Johnson made famous, including “Sweet Home Chicago.” But despite his age, Honeyboy put on an energetic show. His voice, a bit deeper and gruffer than Johnson’s, was still strong, his lyrics as unintelligible as ever. Honeyboy’s guitar rhythms were a bit more lax than they were in the old days, but his accompanists, Michael Frank on Harmonica and Rocky Lawrence on second guitar, followed his lead smoothly. And when it came to soloing, Honeyboy showed that his fingers and creative mind were still impressively nimble. He raised his eyebrows at the crowd whenever he hit a particularly mischievous twang, and Lawrence contributed delighted cackles and howls at Honeyboy’s most impressive riffs. But the band never stopped to soak up the love from the crowd, chugging relentlessly from one song to the next without rest.

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Beerfest, Part II


from the Playboy Blog, 11/7/08

After my thorough drenching at the NY Brewfest, I was happy to see that the Brewtopia Great World Beer Festival was being held indoors at Pier 92. Of course, Mother Nature responded with a gorgeous fall day. It also wasn’t particularly fortunate that I was hitting up the festival the morning after Halloween. This meant a long subway ride with a hangover vicious enough to make me question my will to live, and miss my stop. But once I meandered over to the Hudson, it took just a few sips before I was floating once more, and ready to get down to the business of picking a favorite.

Best beer: Tröeg’s Troegenator Double Bock

The Troegenator was a pleasant surprise: rich, warm, and malty but not overly sweet, a common failing that leads me to avoid double bock in general. It was also quite smooth for its 8.2% abv. The brew was a perfect complement to a tasty (though regrettably $8) bratwurst sandwich from Helmut’s Brats & Pretzels.

Worst Beer: Schmaltz Brewing Jewbelation 12

Mix one part Hershey’s chocolate syrup and one part Dubra vodka. Shake. I imagine Schmaltz’s recipe is a bit more nuanced, but the effect is about the same. The 12% abv is a plus, though.

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Crisis and recovery: The Dow Jones Industrials

From MSN Money, September 2008

This is a screen capture of an MSN multimedia feature for which I did the research and a bulk of the writing. See the full feature here.

As time goes by

With the work of the Duff Young Foundation at a brief pause, I’ve decided to abjure a regular paycheck and freelance full time. I’ll continue to write for the Foundation, but devote most of my time to my own stories. Here’s my most recent blog post from Duff Does Africa describing the situation:

As time goes by

September 29, 2008

Saturday has passed, and I remain at my computer in my Brooklyn apartment. A crisp fall breeze has blown out the city’s muggy summer stench and soon colored leaves will litter my back porch. And I will be here to enjoy the fall weather longer than I expected.

America’s current financial malaise has taken its toll on everyone, and it’s no surprise that a businessman like Duff has found himself with extra work. Indeed, Duff is struggling under the weight of a load of unforeseen business responsibilities, and they’ve left him without the time and energy to go to Liberia and carry out the plan.

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Getting soaked in more ways than one

from the Playboy Blog, 9/16/08

Mother nature kindly dumped barrels of rain on New York City last Friday. But that didn’t keep thirsty souls from flooding into South Street Seaport that night, where over 80 craft breweries had pitched tents for the third annual New York Brewfest.

There are difficulties inherent in attempting to write about a five hour long, all-you-can-drink beer marathon. It’s not easy to shoulder your way up to a bar through a crowd of guys twice your size in bright red Duane Reade ponchos. But looking back, my biggest problem is just remembering what the hell happened, especially on a night when any notes I may have taken quickly turned to mush. Here are the brief highlights I do recall…

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My bad, actually Africa’s doing just fine

from Duff Does Africa, 8/21/08

In today’s New York Times, Roger Cohen bubbles over with optimism about Africa’s current situation and prospects. Apparently Cohen just came back from Ghana, one of a small handful of African nations with relatively decent governments, and he’s extrapolated Ghana’s modest success onto the rest of the continent.

Unfortunately, Cohen’s rosy view of Africa’s current state is deluded. “Vodaphone had bought a majority stake in Ghana Telecom for $900 million…and I’d heard much about 6 percent annual growth, spreading broadband, and new high-end cacao ventures,” Cohen reports. “I don’t think that picture is exceptional these days for Africa, where growth averaged close to 6 percent last year.” What Cohen fails to take into account is that a lot of that 6% growth is fueled by opportunistic Chinese and Russian companies who strip mine and destroy the local environment, or companies like Firestone, which has been operating a virtual slave labor camp in Liberia. Moreover, no matter where the cash flow comes from, the amount that touches Africa’s poorest citizens amounts to less than a trickle. Most of Africa’s pseudo-democracies still operate on old patronage networks, in which profits go to friends and political networks, not roads and schools.

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Get Out Of Your Garage

from the Playboy Blog, 7/31/08

If you want to make it big as a musician these days, selling CDs isn’t going to cut it. Much like our shopping, dating, social interaction, and (ahem) media, the music industry is now dominated by, and reliant upon, the internet. But for music, this may not be a bad thing.

Enter, a brand new website that connects under-the-radar musicians with performance venues. The process is simple: the venue posts open dates in their calendar, interested bands apply, the venue filters through the information compiled on the bands’ pages to find the perfect fit, and the best band gets the gig. The simple online process removes snail-mailing sample CDs, days of phone tag, and scrambling to find last-minute acts from the process, leaving each party more time to do what it does best: play music and sell us beer.

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