by John Walters

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Starting Five

Minnesota Tloses

Certainly the Yankees are Savages, but the Minnesota Twins just lost their 16th consecutive playoff game. And their 13th in a row to the Bombers, a team that only won two more games (103 to 101) than they did this season.

The Yanks become the only team to sweep their divisional series. Gleyber Torres, 22, had a home run and two doubles while making an incredible defensive play in short right from his second-base spot. Gleyber, Judge, D.J. LeMahieu and Didi Greglorious (!) all made fantastic defensive plays.

The Twins may want to petition to move to the National League.

Big D Visits Big D (Arlington, Actually)

On Sunday TV host and Extremely Wealthy Woman Ellen DeGeneres and her partner, Portia de Rossi, were guests of Jerry Jones in the owners’ box at the Packers-Cowboys game. Well, they were more closely guests of Jones’ daughter, Charlotte. Ellen, who sat next to the 43rd president of the United States, had a few wise things to say about her pilgrimage to Jerry World on Monday.

Another Flag Incident In San Francisco

In the midst of the 49ers’ 28-3 pasting of Baker Mayfield and the Browns, Niner rookie Nick Bosa sacked Baker Mayfield and celebrated by figuratively planting a flag in the turf.

Bosa played at Ohio State in 2016 and ’17 (he mostly sat out last season) and while there only lost one game at the Horseshoe: to Mayfield and the Oklahoma Sooners—a game after which Mayfield planted a flag in the Ohio State turf.

I’m not sure if MNF payback really counts—but the Niners are 4-0.

Follow You, Follow Me

We caught Phil Collins’ “Not Dead Yet” show at Madison Square Garden last night.

Now, before you say that you’re more of a Peter Gabriel guy/gal than a Phil Collins guy/gal, hey, so are we. But do you know the other artists who sold more than a 100 million records both as a member of a band and as a solo artist? It’s a short list: Paul McCartney, Michael Jackson and Phil Collins.

Collins, who must be seated for most of the show due to complications from back surgery, played plenty of hits both from his solo career and Genesis (we wanted to hear “Turn It On Again” but alas, no), but the true highlight of the show was the band’s 18 year-old drummer, Nicholas Collins.

Besides holding his own at dad’s drum kit, Nicholas also played piano for a duet with his proud pop. Can you imagine being 18 years old and not only touring with a world-class artist but also your father? And holding your own? Good-looking kid, too.

The Last Point After

Almost, if not every, former Sports Illustrated staffer grew up a fan of the magazine (had my first subscription at age seven or so and only dropped it when I was hired) and most have given eulogies-in-kind in the past week. I worked there for 15 years in two stints: 1989-2001 and 2003-2006. I actually started on July 20th both times.

Anyway, today I want to talk about SI for two reasons. The first is this Point After piece by Rick Reilly buried deep in Peter King’s “Football Morning In America” column this week. It’s worth the scroll down as it’s vintage Reilly.

When I was in college Reilly was the guy my Notre Dame buddy Marty Burns and I would read religiously, and it’s a wonderful gift of fate that Mister Burns and I were both able to work at SI for more than a decade. When I was in my post-collegiate existential crisis between attending grad school, making lots of money and marrying far above my station or pursuing my childhood dream of working for SI, I wrote to Reilly. Like, a letter. In an envelope. With a stamp.

He wrote back to this nobody. A letter. In an envelope. With a stamp. When we finally met in person he was gracious and funny and humble and just incredibly kind to all the twenty something fact-checkers at SI whom he knew aspired to be him. I read a lot of cheap shots taken at Reilly these days on Twitter, blogs; those folks can go suck eggs. In his prime, Reilly was the absolute best at his craft and when he’d visit the office (he lived in Denver at the time), he was a charismatic presence who brought laughter to every office he visited.

The second thing I’d like to talk about today is something I’ve not heard anyone mention. To work at SI or even to be a sportswriter is, hopefully, to eventually be brought into spheres of people who tell you that they don’t follow sports. This happens to me a lot and at first glance I find plenty of folk, particularly here in Manhattan, think of us as Oscar Madison. Or worse.

To me the appeal of sport, the longer I’ve had to think of it, is that unlike ballet or Broadway or a recital (and those things all have their appeal), there is genuine excitement because Darwinism is involved. Somebody wins, somebody loses, just as has been taking place for millennia out on the Serengeti Plain or the Kalahari.

Sport is the surrogate for survival for our subconscious and instinctive self, a 21st-century being that no longer has to worry about maintaining the hearth or fending off saber-tooth tigers (although, ironically, Nazis remain a threat). When I’ve posited my theory at dinner parties, etc, I’ve seen people genuinely look at me differently. They’d never thought of sport that way. But to me that is why it has such passionate and universal appeal; it is providing that same anxiety/thrill our ancestors felt when riding a stagecoach across Apache lands or going to war against the Visigoths.

Now, I bring that all up because what are layoffs than just another example of Darwinism (and I’ve been on the wrong side of a layoff or two, so I have empathy for these jettisoned SI staffers, I do)? Yes, Maven is a corporate vampire that will use up SI’s last remaining drops of integrity the way a pimp uses a pretty 18 year-old girl’s virtue and charms, no doubt. But this is also a story of natural selection: half the staff was selected to survive and the other half was sent out into the wilderness.

As a sportswriter or jettisoned SI staffer, maybe (not now) you will one day appreciate the irony of it all (right now you will grieve, perhaps publicly and on various podcasts). Sports are all about one side making the cut and the other not. And that’s what happened at SI last week. Although, honestly, I believe that those who did not make the cut will ultimately be better off.

I’ve written this before, but when SI laid me off in June of 2001—on the morning of the wedding of my SI buddy Steve Cannella, where I was headed; Cannella is now the co-editor in chief of the mag— I received plenty of nice notes and calls of conciliation from co-workers. The one call I will never forget came from my close friend, then and now, Austin Murphy. “John, Austin,” the driest sense of humor in journalism began. “Better you than me.”

Life isn’t fair, as every pro athlete knows. You don’t deserve anything. I learned that lesson and good when SI laid me off. It’s a lesson you need to experience but once you do, everything gets better. It’s a lesson plenty of ex-SI staffers are feeling, perhaps truly for the first time, this week.

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