by John Walters
1. Fantastic Feats
On an otherwise slow sports weekend in early August (no NBA, no real NFL or college football and really only the PGA Championship of major import), we were still treated with three incredible moments.
The first: Saturday night in Oakland and A’s rookie centerfielder Ramon Laureano makes the most incredible double play of the season.
We’re hardly the first to say it, but that’s a 321-foot (107 yards) toss that never made the first baseman move an inch. It must have had launch codes. Not to forget that the catch itself was incredible. Haven’t seen a throw like that since Yoenes Cespedes roamed left for the A’s.
Then last night Wayne Rooney, who was supposedly old and washed up, made one of the great individual soccer plays you’ll ever see. Note that D.C. United had pulled the keeper so he had to make this tackle to save the game. Like Laureano, that was just the first half of a two-part incredible feat.
And do pay attention to where we were in stoppage time. There were only 40 seconds or so remaining.
Finally, we turned on the Nats-Cubs game after a 13-hour day at the gig last night to this scene: Cubbies trail the Nats 3-0 in the bottom of the ninth inning. Two outs, bases loaded. Max Scherzer has pitched an absolute gem—seven innings, no runs, 11 K’s—for the Nats but his night is over.
In steps Cubs rookie David Bote to pinch-hit in the ninth spot. In 75 previous at-bats, Bote has two home runs. And we’ve all watched enough baseball, plus seen how the Nats’ season is going, to know how this ends. Bote sends a 2-2 pitch to dead center, over the wall.
A nationally televised prime-time walk-off grand slam. Cubs win! Cubs win! (we need Will Ferrell as Harry Caray to call the final pitch of this game for posterity).
Note: ESPN Stats reports this is the Cubs’ second walk-off grand slam of the season after only having two such plays in the entire history of the franchise prior to 2018.
2. “This Moment of Serenity”
*The judges will also accept “Leaving On A Jet Plane”
We get it: What if some “evildoer,” or worse, a radicalized Muslim (!) had stolen that Horizon Air prop jet that seats 76 passengers (officially, a Bombardier Q400) and not 29 year-old Richard Russell, who from the sound of his tone with the air-traffic controller, was strictly out for a joy ride?
But they didn’t. It was Russell. And while we understand the safety concerns—fans were already filing into Safeco Field for a sold-out Pearl Jam concert (how cliche)—we listened to Russell’s audio with the the tower and…
…thought of him as a restless but gentle soul, a self-described “broken guy” who just yearned to have a moment of freedom, to break out of the controlled monotony most of us face. He yearned to really live. At least that’s how we read it. We’re glad no one else was hurt; there was nothing in his voice to indicate that he had any intention of harming anyone.
Like those globe-pedaling cyclists we profiled last week, Russell died at the age of 29 in a crash. But man, that loop-di-loop he did. How many commercial pilots have yearned to do that after takeoff?
p.s. Washington state now is the all-time leader for wild aviation tales: D.B. Cooper and Richard Russell (and, yes, we know Cooper’s flight originated out of Portland but it landed at SeaTac before taking off again).
3. Payeng It Forward
We’d never heard of Forest Man, a documentary that was released last summer, until one of our favorite Twitter follows, Vala Afshar, tweeted about it last week.
In short: Jadav Payeng, a Mishing tribesman in India, was concerned about the deforestation taking place around him. In 1979 he noticed a few dozen snakes had perished on Mashuli Island, where he’d grown up, when they’d washed ashore and had no place to hide from the sun. So the next day he planted a tree. And the next day he did so again.
And Payeng kept doing that, planting one tree per day, for 37 years (note to my friends in Brooklyn: someone really needs to do this in Bushwick). Payeng, through his daily act of conservationalism, created a forest preserve that over the years attracted has attracted a herd of elephants, plus rhinos, tigers and deer.
What I love about this story is it reminds me that one person can absolutely make a big difference.
— Vala Afshar (@ValaAfshar) August 13, 2018
Payeng created paradise simply by repeating a selfless ritual day after day. There’s a metaphorical lesson in that for us all. There’s also the lesson of how one man can make a tremendous difference for good. If there is a heaven, Payeng is a first-ballot entry. He honestly deserves a Nobel Peace Prize, we think.
4. Durkin Do-Nots
Last week former ESPN reporter Brett McMurphy broke a story that rendered a B1G East coach on administrative leave and a week later a trio of current ESPN reporters respond with, “Hold my beer.” Now Maryland coach D.J. Durkin is on administrative leave—our own Stewart Mandel tweeted “Legends and Administrative Leavers”— and we think, unlike Urban, that Durkin’s turtle is cooked.
First, there’s an actual death (Jordan McNair) involved. Second, it’s exactly the type of bullying culture university presidents want no part of. Durkin’s curriculum vitae includes stops at Notre Dame (under Ty Willingham, who was to busy rushing to his tee times to bully players) and Stanford and Notre Dame under Jim Harbaugh (the poultry-hating coach with a travel bug). We’d be curious to see how his coaching style was influenced and by whom.
5. Trumpy Bear
It’s too late to take it to last weekend’s white supremacist rallies, but surely there will be more in your future! It’s Trumpy Bear, and the ad we saw on CNBC last week says it can be yours for just $19.95 (in true Trumpian fashion, there’s a quickly spoken throwaway line that informs you it’s TWO payments of $19.95, so really it’s $39.90).
We’ll give them credit. The idea is genius. If you’re part of the MAGA crowd, you may want a Trumpy Bear for those long nights when thoughts of a female president or Robert Mueller succeeding give you chills. If you are on the other side of the fence (or, wall, but Mexico’s gonna pay for it), you may purchase it for the ironic value. Or as a piñata.
Ed. Note: Our birthday is coming up. Please do NOT get us this. Kthxbye.
What song made you reach for the radio dial—to be clear, not the “Turn It Up!” volume knob but the “Change that crap!” Tuner knob—at warp speed like no other in the Seventies? We’ll go with this 1975 tune by Brazilian one-(*)hit wonder Morris Albert. The soft-rock classic peaked at No. 6 and induced countless bouts of spontaneous vomiting.
Mets at Yankees
7 p.m. ESPN
An East Coast Bias spectacular! But hear us out: The Mess are throwing Jacob deGrom (or as my autocorrect tries, often successfully, to inform me, “Jacob Legroom”) and his 1.77 ERA versus Luis Severino and his 15 wins. We’ve got the MLB ERA leader versus a man tied for the MLB Wins lead (Max Scherzer would be the MLB wins leader today were it not for Bote’s grand slam last night).
p.s. Rain is in the forecast….again.