Keith Strudler

Dr. Keith Strudler
Montclair State University

We’re going to talk now with a familiar voice on WAMC for more than a decade: sports commentator Keith Strudler. Each Wednesday afternoon, Strudler has weighed in on the intersection of sports and society, tackling everything from the NFL’s concussion crisis to the corruption of youth sports. With a PhD in Mass Communication from the University of Florida, Strudler founded the Center for Sports Communication at Marist College in Poughkeepsie. This fall, he’s starting a new job as the Director of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University in New Jersey. Don’t worry: he’s staying on as WAMC’s sports commentator. But we wanted to catch up about the job and the world of sports in the meantime.

Keith Strudler: Both Sides

Aug 16, 2017

The other side. That phrase, or a variant thereof, has gotten an unusual amount of play in the past several days. We’ve been told, by the President, no less, to look at both sides when assessing blame. Most every mediator or manager wants to hear both sides before making a decision. No matter your posture or position, it seems there’s always the other side to consider, even if it sometimes seems intuitively one-sided. Like the world is round. Or ice cream is delicious.

Keith Strudler: The Wrong Finger

Aug 9, 2017

As it’s said, a picture can be worth 1000 words. I’m not entirely sure we’d need that verbosity to understand the intent of a photograph posted on the social media site Snapchat last week by the Atlee Little League Softball team. This group of 12-15 year olds had just advanced to the Junior League World Series by beating a team from Kirkland, Washington, who was hosting the tournament. The game was allegedly feisty and ended 1-0, which was something of a contrast to Atlee’s blowout wins up to this point. In fact, their run total to date had been 29-1, which, among other things, made for some pretty unwatchable softball.

Keith Strudler: Olympic Planning

Aug 2, 2017
Olympic rings
wikipedia.org

Every now and then, I get into an argument with my mom about vacation planning. It’s usually because she wants to plan a trip a year in advance, and I have a hard time seeing past lunchtime. For a whole lot of reasons – two of them being my children – I’m not really good at long range personal planning. In other words, I barely know what I’m doing next week, much less next year.

Keith Strudler: 110 Of 111

Jul 26, 2017

You know how they say that knowledge is power. In some cases that’s true. Like if you know the winning numbers to the lottery, that’s powerful information. Which makes knowledge a valuable commodity. But sometimes, it’s not. Which means sometimes, you don’t want to know everything. That might be for plausible deniability, which, let’s say, could keep you out of jail. Our out of divorce court. That’s why some things are on a need-to-know basis. But the real issue with knowledge isn’t just that it can get you in trouble. It’s that once you know something, especially something bad, now you have to do something about it. It’s part of the cognitive dissonance thing, meaning it’s hard to manage inconsistent ideas.

Keith Strudler: The Politics Of Hair

Jul 19, 2017

If you’re like me, you spent a good amount of your late youth arguing with your parents about your hair. For me, it was one of a select few moments of protest, since I wasn’t really cool or sophisticated enough to break any real rules. But, I did like to challenge the barber shop to make my hair look more like something from the Muppet Show than GQ. Eventually, in college, I invested in my own pair of hair clippers and lived by the mantra that it will always grow back. I also seemed to think that having cool hair would make my band more popular, or at least more popular than if people simply focused exclusively on what they were hearing. Such led me down the exhaustive road of an extensive hair gel collection, fabric hair bands, and once even an experiment with orange hair dye – which I immediately regretted.

Keith Strudler: Finding The Longhorn Beach

Jul 12, 2017

When it comes to big time college sports, there is no shortage of irony and hypocrisy. So this story is neither isolated nor surprising. But at the least, it is explicatory. This is another story about major college football – its excess, its priority, its oblivion. It’s a story about an American pastime that can’t escape its own ambition. And one of poor judgement mixed with tunnel vision.

Keith Strudler: Elliot’s Bike Wreck

Jul 5, 2017

Last week I ended up at one of those after-hours pediatric offices. My 7-year-old Elliot took a nasty spill off his bike and ended up with cuts from his knee to his face, all of which were immediately bandaged. But around bedtime that evening, when we were changing the gauze, the scrape on Elliot’s knee looked a little too deep. I know that because I nearly passed out when I took a close look. So being the good father that I am, and looking for an excuse to take someone out for ice cream, off we went to pediatricians after dark.

Keith Strudler: Battle Of The Sexes, Part II

Jun 28, 2017

It was well over 40 years ago that Billy Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs in a tennis match played in the cathedral of har tru, the Houston Astrodome. This event was billed as the Battle of the Sexes and placed a staunch advocate for fair if not equal recognition for women’s sports against an articulated male chauvinist. To some spectators, and there were many, this match would let us know if women can compete against men in sports, where they were largely relegated to the sidelines. Of course, this was far more complex than that, given the age disparity and showmanship of the affair. Regardless, King’s victory was important in furthering the progress of female athletes. Maybe better put, a loss would have been catastrophic, with a top female tennis pro losing to an againg male has-been, someone that couldn’t even stay on the court with current male pros.

Keith Strudler: NBA Draft Champions

Jun 21, 2017

Thursday is the NBA draft. You may or may not have known this, based on both your geography and relative interest in the sport. The draft isn’t for casual fans, those who enjoy the sport on occasion or perhaps when the games matter most – like the playoffs. The draft, for the NBA or any other sport, is for people who care how the sausage is made. It’s like people who watch CSPAN to see the party whip in action before a vote.

Keith Strudler: Grade School To College Football

Jun 14, 2017

Want to know what three numbers make most parents sick to the stomach? 5. 2. 9. That 529, the college account where families aspire to store away their extra change in the fading hope they might be able to pay for some small part of their kids’ college education. Granted, it’s a little like trying to climb Mount Everest. You can’t really make it a little a time, and you might just die trying. So, lots of families look for other ways to fund a college education.

Keith Strudler: Our Global Sports Neighbors

Jun 7, 2017

The US may have a new focus on nationalism. But it seems Canada may not. At least not Canadian hockey, which, if you know the country, is essentially one and the same. While Americans look for new and innovative ways to close our borders, the Canadian Women’s Hockey League is extending theirs – all the way to China. Beginning next season, Beijing’s Kunlun Red Star hockey club will join this Canadian sports organization, bringing the total number of teams to five. Three of those teams are in Canada, not surprisingly, and the other is in Boston. So I suppose this isn’t the league’s first foray into global markets, if the US is deemed that.

Keith Strudler: Pulling Punches

May 31, 2017

Weather permitting, today my 7 year old son Elliot will have his debut performance on the pitching mound in Little League Baseball. I’m not exactly sure what to expect, other than what I expect when I watch any baseball game of 7 and 8 year olds – a lot walks and dropped fly balls. He practiced pitching quite a bit yesterday – and by quite a bit, I mean like 15 minutes – and is pretty excited to have the spotlight. So excited he’s decided to skip today’s soccer game to play baseball instead, which, if you’re current on youth sports, is not a typical decision.

Keith Strudler: The Downside Of Being Happy

May 24, 2017

NFL athletes, you can now celebrate. I mean literally, you’re allowed to celebrate now. The NFL has just changed the rules that have shackled players for too long, rules that have made scoring a touchdown feel too much like touring a cemetery. Prior to this momentous rules change, players who scored a touchdown could not have choreographed, excessive, or prolonged celebrations. They also couldn’t spike or spin the ball, fall to the ground, or use any props – the ball or otherwise.

Keith Strudler: The French Open Rules

May 17, 2017

If you believe the common vernacular that star athletes get everything they want, and no ever says “no” to them, you should talk to tennis star Maria Sharapova. She wouldn’t agree with this at all.

Keith Strudler: Travel Soccer

May 10, 2017

So I’m going to say two of the dirtiest words in the history of the American version of the English language. Travel soccer. If you’ve ever so much as sat in a minivan before, those words make you curl up in a fetal position. It’s like saying tax audit or prostate exam. They’re scary because they’re real.

Keith Strudler: Rooting For Isaiah

May 3, 2017

It is hard not to root for Isaiah Thomas right now. I’m speaking of the younger Isaiah, the one that plays guard for the Boston Celtics, not the one that led the Knicks into a theme park like free fall. Let’s start with the fact that he’s managed to become an all-star despite his 5’9” frame. Having actually met him once and also standing 5’9”, I can attest to his stature. We were literally eye-to-eye. He looked like a college intramural player. So for that alone, he’s a fan favorite.

Keith Strudler: Humanizing Tiger Woods

Apr 26, 2017

Perhaps Tiger Woods isn’t that different from all of us. According to his agent Leigh Steinberg, Woods simply wants to be pain free, play with his kids, and go out in the backyard to have fun with his friends. He also said something about wanting to enjoy his boat, which probably creates some distance between us common folk. To achieve a pain free life, Woods just had back surgery, fusion surgery to be specific, to end back spasms and ongoing pain, which can be problematic for someone who makes his living twisting his body to propel a golf ball hundreds of yards at a time.

Keith Strudler: Joe Mixon’s Descent

Apr 20, 2017

Joe Mixon is a likely third round pick hiding in a first round body. Or perhaps he’s a no round pick. What I mean is, Joe Mixon, the superstar running back from Oklahoma, would most likely be picked in the first round of next week’s NFL Draft. That is, if not for a video that was released in December of 2016 of Joe Mixon punching a female Oklahoma student in the face at an off-campus sandwich shop. Mixon had been suspended from the team for the 2014 season following the incident, in which he broke four bones in the woman’s face and was charged with a misdemeanor, but for the most part, it wasn’t until the video broke that he felt the wrath of the public and, now it seems, the NFL establishment. Teams are likely concerned either that this behavior will continue or, perhaps more cynically, might believe drafting someone with such incendiary video baggage might upset their fan base.

Keith Strudler: The Importance Of Rest

Apr 12, 2017

So last week I had the flu. I’m saying this mainly in the dim hopes of garnering sympathy from the listening audience. It also made me keenly aware of the importance of rest. When you have the flu, you pretty much live your life one long nap to the next, in-between which you change sweat soaked shirts and complain to anyone that’s close enough to hear. But no matter what you do, or what medication you take, or what faith healer you call, the only thing that’s going to make you better is rest.

Keith Strudler: Just Move Baby!

Mar 29, 2017

The definition of the word “raider” is someone who takes something by force. Or, someone who plunders or pillages. But that definition, the Raiders is the perfect name for the football team the city of Las Vegas forcefully took from Oakland, where the team has spent the vast majority of its 57 years. The soon-to-be Las Vegas Raiders will move to Sin City no earlier than 2018, and perhaps as late as 2020, when the city completes its new domed stadium. Which means they’ll be something of a lame duck in the Bay Area for the next year or two. Talk about awkward. It’s like firing someone right before you start a cross-country drive together.

Keith Strudler: Getting It Right

Mar 22, 2017

No matter who you cheer for in college basketball, no matter how busted your bracket is, whether your Kansas or Kentucky, we can all agree on one thing during this NCAA men’s college basketball tournament. And that is, we all can’t stand the officials. Now that’s a normal truism in sports. No one ever really likes the refs. At best, we might concede the challenge in their jobs, which is predicated upon applying highly objective standards to a universe of subjectivity. Where you are deliberately judged and second guessed every moment of your workday, and even on the best of days, half of your customers are going to be angry on every play. Where there is literally no glory, something well indicated by your assigned wardrobe – usually a black and white striped jersey that’s oddly reminiscent of prison outfits of the early 1900’s. And where the speed and intensity of the games you officiate make precision an absolute impossibility – so much that your job is routinely supplemented by video replay. So I think rational sports fans might objectively concede how hard it is to officiate a modern sporting event – at least when the game’s over.

Keith Strudler: The Mensch Without A Medal

Mar 15, 2017

All dreams eventually come to an end. And such was the case this morning for Team Israel, or more specifically the national team from Israel that competed in the World Baseball Classic, the self-ordained World Championships of baseball. The Classic was founded in 2006, and perhaps took on slightly greater prominence once the sport was removed from the Olympics after 2008, making this event the most visible international championship among baseball playing nations – of which there are surprisingly few, at least compared to truly global sports like soccer or track and field.

Keith Strudler: The Nike Pro Yarmulke

Mar 8, 2017

A long time ago I competed in the Maccabiah Games in Israel, which is commonly or perhaps mockingly referred to as the Jewish Olympics. I say this not to brag – and I doubt anyone takes it that way – but rather for context. There, I raced in the triathlon and the half-marathon. And throw in any joke you’d like about the Maccabiahs doing a half-marathon instead of the full deal. If nothing else, it’s hard to go sightseeing on tired legs.

Keith Strudler: Hey Congress, Stay Away from Sports

Mar 1, 2017

In case after last night you didn’t hate Congress enough, or didn’t have enough reasons to believe they were sanctimonious wind bags that have less conviction than a wet noodle, maybe this will do it for you. This week, members of that elected body decided to give an ethics lesson, which in itself is rich. That lesson, served in the form of both lecture and discussion, went to the international Olympic community, including members of the IOC and the World Anti-Doping agency that were there in person. It came from House members on both sides of the isle from a bunch of sub-committees I’ve never heard of. And it came after Michael Phelps and shot putter Adam Nelson told the legislators about the lack of institutional control around Olympic doping and, in particular, pointed a finger at the freak show that is the Russian Olympic program, where doping has run far and rampant – and for years unchecked.

Keith Strudler: The Best/Worst Of Times

Feb 22, 2017

Perhaps it’s true that for women’s basketball as an aggregate, these are the best of times and the worst of times. Certainly, the University of Connecticut, whose women’s team has now won 101 consecutive games, is living in halcyon days. 

If the New York Knicks were looking for a diversion from either a) their abysmal play in a weak Eastern Conference or b) the fact that their vastly overpaid GM is openly mocking the team’s leading star, then I believe they’ve done a great job. Now, if they’re trying to at all change the narrative that this franchise is anything less than a traveling circus, then perhaps it’s less successful.

Keith Strudler: The Spoils Of Super Bowl Victory

Feb 8, 2017

As the saying goes, to the victor goes the spoils. While it pains me to say this, the victor on Sunday was the New England Patriots, who managed to essentially steal the Super Bowl from the Atlanta Falcons, who will now spend the rest of their lives answering basic math questions about clock management. So New England gets all the accolades, the rings, the bonus money, the parades – basically all of those tangible perks that go to the winning team, which, let’s be clear, would have been Atlanta had they had not made even one in a series of bad decisions in the fourth quarter.

Keith Strudler: Super Bowl Sadness

Feb 1, 2017

So in the grand scheme of American holidays, Super Bowl Sunday reigns supreme. With all deference to Thanksgiving and Halloween and even the 4th of July, nothing unifies this country in a singular activity like the Super Bowl. That activity being eating ourselves into a coma while watching a bunch of highly paid grown men wrestle for a pigskin. On Super Bowl Sunday, nearly half of this country does exactly the same thing at exactly the same time, invoking ritual and history, surrounded by friends and family. Compare that Labor Day. It’s not like we all go boating, or all picnic. Even on Christmas, it’s not like half of America goes to church as the same time. Besides, that’s not American holiday, but a religious one – although not if our current government has anything to do with it.

Keith Strudler: Members Only

Jan 25, 2017

If you are of a certain age, or have parents of that vintage that enjoy telling stories, you are familiar with the incendiary and offensive expression, “No Jews, No Blacks.” It was a common refrain for certain beach clubs, restaurants, and country clubs of our American past, found commonly in wealthy enclaves where a white religious majority could exclude those deemed as others. In some regard, this exclusion could explain part of the political cohesion of the Jewish and African-American communities throughout American history. Even if they have often suffered disproportionately, many of even America’s most integrated Jews recognize a common history of discrimination.

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