“The guy’s driving me fucking nuts ringing me up every hour of the day telling me how well he’s playing,” Tim Boggan confided to me on the first morning of the Open in Fort Lauderdale. “But he’s living in a fool’s paradise. Sure, he’s practising, but against the same opponent. Steve Berger. Always Steve Berger. He isn’t tournament-hardened. My heart says yes. But he’s got no chance.” You listen to Tim Boggan. Himself one of the game’s old hardbat lions, he is American ping-pong’s most impassioned historian, a one-time English professor at Long Island University whose specialty was Romantic and Victorian poetry but whose true love was always table tennis; a grizzled, exasperated man with an icy beard, dreaming thwarted dreams, another mariner chasing the gleaming margins of the untraveled world. So you listen to what Tim Boggan’s heart says, as well.

But then whose heart doesn’t say yes to Marty? He is the fatal Odysseus you have to follow beyond the sunset. Succeed or fail, just one more voyage. Opinions differ as to whether Marty Reisman was America’s greatest ping-pong player ever, but he was certainly its boldest adventurer, lifting the prestigious British Open title when he was only 19, enlivening a doleful postwar European ping-pong community with Lower East Side effrontery, an extrovert belligerent with one of the loveliest and most lethal forehands you could hope to see, a natural who seemed to be inventing the game anew every time he played it. And now here he is, over half a century since he first became United States National Junior Champion, wanting another shot at another title. Of course the heart says yes.

The Final Days of Favre

There may have been a point where Brett Favre played football because he loved it. But he kept playing it long after it made sense, because he doesn’t know how to do anything else. He never bothered to create another identity. The fact that others conspired to bestow this shallowness with meaning and virtue isn’t Brett Favre’s fault. I use my one question here to ask him about “life after football.” He instantly shoots back, “Is there?” It functions as a laugh line in this room of reporters—and Favre is indeed quite funny in other parts of the presser (“I think my stubbornness, my hardheadedness, and stupidity at times has enabled me to play for twenty years”)—but when Favre says the thing about life after football, he isn’t smiling.

The Worldwide Leader in Dong Shots

With his leering coverage of Brett Favre’s penis (allegedly!), Rex Ryan’s foot fetish, and the surprising sex life of ESPN, A. J. Daulerio has turned into the raunchiest, funniest, and most controversial sports site on the Web. But at what cost to his soul? And hell, to sports journalism itself?

Searching for meaning in the mistake

Seven months ago and 2,400 miles away, the veteran Major League Baseball umpire cost Armando Galarraga a perfect game in Detroit. And every day, something trips Joyce’s memory about his devastating mistake and the subsequent fallout: from the death threats he and his family received and the security team that greeted him on every road trip to the piles of heartwarming e-mails and letters saved by his wife of 28 years, Kay.

The sports infidelity equation

The concept of infidelity in sports isn’t exactly new but is seemingly ever-present now with the help of technology, TMZ, message boards and other instant media. Stories about Parker’s divorce, Brett Favre’s alleged racy text messages and Louisville coach Rick Pitino’s sex-extortion case are just a click, tweet and moment away.

Nathan Stiles Wanted to Keep Playing

A few minutes before halftime, the kid known as “Superman” awkwardly walked off the field, screaming that his head hurt. An assistant coach grabbed Nathan and asked a string of questions: What’s your name? Where are you? What are your parents’ names? What school do you play for? With tears filling his eyes, Nathan answered every question correctly. As the coach turned to find a trainer, Nathan attempted to stand. But he fell to the ground, unconscious.

Out of the Park

Mickey Mantle made history against the Washington Senators. A local teen found the high-flying ball behind a house near the stadium. Finding that boy 50 years later wasn’t so easy.

Alberto Salazar and the New York City Marathon

For the past eight years, Salazar has been paid by Nike to lead a group of up to a dozen runners, who train together on the campus of the company, in Beaverton, Oregon—and who, Nike hopes, will win races wearing swoosh-adorned clothing. At first, Salazar had limited success. But in recent years he has acquired a certain mystique for his ability to cajole fragile runners into peak performance.

Ads via The Deck