Bud Grant passed away this weekend at the age of 94.
There was simply nobody like him: he grew up without a father, as I recall, and I believe his mother had to resort to an older profession to help support the family when he was young. Grant was a THREE-sport star at the University of Minnesota.
He’s the only man to play in both the NBA and the NFL.
The only man to intercept five passes in a pro football game (in the CFL), though he had played wide receiver part of the time in the NFL.
A few years ago I heard that Grant staged an annual yard sale at his home on Memorial Day weekend. I asked Grant if I could speak to him about that, and I was surprised that the then 88 year-old grant accepted the offer. He invited me to spend an afternoon at his home in Bloomington, Minn. It was a Saturday in May (the week before the yard sale) and we spent four memorable hours in his living room, downing endless cups of coffee and discussing his life.
Despite that gruff exterior, Grant had a wicked sense of humor. Dry, but wicked. An exceptional person. Thank you for that day, Coach Grant. Rest in peace.
Something a teacher (Mr. Gilligan, 8th grade math) told me long ago and that I’ve never forgotten: you may be remembered for that one infamous moment in your life, no matter what you do all of the rest of your life. So try to avoid it.
On the same night a year ago in which Will Smith won a Best Actor Oscar (something that fewer than a handful of black men have ever done), he slapped Chris Rock onstage at that ceremony. And, alas, 50 years from now, that’s likely what Smith will be remembered for most.
Ironically, Rock had taken the high road about the incident for nearly the entire year afterward. And continued to do so for the first 45 or 50 minutes of his unprecedented live Netflix special, “Selective Outrage,” two Saturdays back. Rock’s set had a few peaks– the “Americans being addicted to attention” and “racist yoga pants” riffs stood out—but there was also more of a sense of anger than comedy to much of what he was spewing. Hostility.
Then he finally came around to The Slap. He started out fine, reiterating that he was not a VICTIM. But then his harangue became ugly, and not particularly funny. When he aired, onstage, the extremely dirty laundry that had been a part of the Smith-Jada Pinkett marital problems, he went too far. And, just like Smith, he cannot have that moment in time back.
I wish that Rock had consulted his good friend Jerry Seinfeld before he ran with that material. The one good joke in the riff that he had (the idea of Smith starring in “Concussion” and then giving him one), he flubbed. The rest, I believe, Seinfeld would have told him to scratch in order to maintain a semblance of dignity. All Rock did was lower himself to the same level where Smith was a year earlier.
Tom Cruise seems sanguine about the fact that he may never win an Oscar (or he’ll pull a Henry Fonda and win one on his deathbed out of sympathy for all the times the Academy overlooked him during his career). In the meantime, the actor whose first catchphrase was “Sometimes you gotta say, ‘What the f***'” is going to live his best life. Or kill himself doing so.
What is the largest lake entirely bordered by states in USA?
What two current coaches have taken three different schools to a Final Four?
Name a Civil War battle—not Fort Sumter—that the Confederacy undeniably won.
What is the basic molecular structure of any sugar?
Perhaps the most thrilling and incredible sporting event of 2023 thus far occurred in London on Saturday morning at Emirates Stadium. Arsenal, in first place in the Premier League, ahead of Manchester City by just two points at kickoff (three points for a win, one for a draw, zero for a loss), hosted AFC Bournemouth, which was in 19th place.
The clubs that are in 18th, 19th and 20th place at season’s end are relegated down to the Championship League (not to be confused with the Champions League), the second level of English soccer.
So here’s what happened:
° The lowly Cherries scored just 9.1 seconds into the match. It was the second-fastest goal in Premier League history.
°The Cherries added a second goal shortly after the half to take a 2-0 lead. No team had overcome a 2-0 second-half deficit to win in the EPL in four years.
° The Gunners erased the deficit with goals in the 62nd and 70th minute. The atmosphere at Emirates was electric. The Cherries were holding on for dear life.
°In the final moments, nay, the final play of stoppage time, in the 97th minute, the Gunners scored the game-winner off a corner kick. No matter what happened after Arsenal’s Reiss Nelson touched the ball, the match was going to be over. He flared it into the low right corner of the net. Bedlam in London.
The Gunners, in search of their first Premier League championship since 2004, retained their 5-point lead over Man City (who’d won earlier in the day to trim the gap to two points). Bournemouth, looking to avoid relegation for the second time in the past four seasons, may have been dealt a death blow. It’s almost impossible to take a 2-0 lead in the home pitch of the Premier League’s top side. It’s unforgivable to squander it.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, the two most successful sides in Premier League history, Man United and Liverpool, met at Anfield. The Reds scorched Man U, 7-0, the most lopsided win in their long and storied rivalry. It’s the most lopsided loss in Man United history, period. The club was founded in 1878.
This Jordan Also Rules*
*All of this info, and just my knowing about it in general, is credit to sports brain
I haven’t watched a full episode of SportsCenter in years, so I’ve no idea if they even mentioned over the weekend what U.S. teenager Jordan Stolz accomplished. It was a landmark feat.
The 18 year-old speedskater from West Bend, Wisconsin, ventured into Europe and swept gold in the 500, 1,000 and 1,500 meters at the World Speedskating Championships in Holland. It is difficult to fathom the enormity of Stolz’s weekend.
First, Stolz became the youngest world champion in this sport—ever.
Second, Stolz became the first person to ever sweep those three events at a world championships.
Third, Stolz is American. Not Dutch, not Danish, not Scandinavian, not even Russian.
Stolz’s mom is a dental hygienist. His father, a police officer, is originally from Germany. He was inspired to try speed skating after watching the 2010 Winter Games with Apolo Ohno and Shani Davis. Since 5th grade he has been home-schooled. The family annually takes vacations to remote sections of Alaska to hunt moose and fish for halibut and salmon. The NBC Olympics feature writes itself. Yes, we’re three winters out from the next Winter Games. But Stolz, not quite 6’1″, is positioned to be the greatest American speed skater since the GOAT himself, Eric Heiden.
Ow! My Cheeks!
If you’ve seen Mike Judge’s 2006 film, Idiocracy, which with each year becomes less of a comedy and more of a prophecy, you remember that in the film, set 500 years in the future (way too optimistic), the most popular television show is called, “Ow! My Balls!” The program is nothing more than a reality show in which different contestants are punched, kicked or hit in their genitals. And America loves it.
So here comes Slap Fighting, a.k.a. the Power Slap League, promoted by Dana White, one of the principal architects of American Dystopia, and next comes the New York Times think piece on it. Our thoughts: We’d never watch Slap Fighting (okay, not more than once), but we see no reason to ban it.
Yes, it’s—what’s that word?—deplorable. And it’s not a good omen as to where society is heading. But it’s only a symptom; it’s hardly the cause. Moreover, this is not cockfighting or dog-fighting. The participants have a choice. We do not espouse protecting people from themselves.
If you’re going to ban this, then ban MMA and football, too. And if you’re not, then give a cut of the proceeds to Barney Stinson, who originated the Slap Bet on How I Met Your Mother (which is likely where White obtained the idea).
A Horror Hidden Gem
I love movies (don’t we all?). But I especially love older ones, and learning about the history of the film business…all of the off-screen drama that goes into the making a film. So the other night I was looking at a list of Greatest Films of The Seventies (a particularly rich decade what with The Godfather flicks, Network, Rocky, Annie Hall, All The President’s Men, Star Wars, The Conversation, Animal House, Dog Day Afternoon, The Sting, Deliverance, Jaws, The French Connection, Mean Streets etc. and so on) and I came across a title I’d never seen: Don’t Look Now.
Here’s what the author of the list, Marc Chacksfield, had to say about it:
One of the scariest movies of all time. One of the most beautiful movies of all time. One of the most fractured movies of all time. One of the most heart-breaking movies of all time. One of the greatest movies of all time. Director Nicolas Roeg never bettered Don’t Look Now – a stunning piece of cinema that keeps you guessing until the terrible end. Go Watch Now.
That’s quite an endorsement for this 1973 British film starring Donald Sutherland (at the height of his cinematic powers) and Julie Christie (one of the five most beautiful woman to ever appear on film, who at the time was dating Warren Beatty). Here’s what we can say: Sutherland and Christie play a comfortable English couple who lose their daughter in a bizarre drowning incident. They’re soon off to Venice, where Sutherland, an architect of sorts, has been hired to restore a church. From there we delve into prophecies, people who have the power of “second sight,” an unbelievably raw and unadorned love scene between the two leads (Beatty threw a fit and it’s difficult to blame him), and a sense of foreboding that is always present.
The movie is a puzzle of sorts, fractured and fragmented, with recurring themes or images of water and the color red and broken glass. It doesn’t make much sense, until it does. And you always have the sense of foreboding…this is not going to end well.
They knew how to make horror films in the Seventies: This, The Exorcist, The Omen. Even the TV miniseries The Dark Secret of Harvest Home (an older Bette Davis is in on the terror). This wasn’t torture porn. The sense of what was coming was more palpable than the actual horror itself. And there’s always a sense of isolation. And maybe someone with a British accent who is blind.
A couple more items: 1) How versatile was Donald Sutherland? He starred in this and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (a remake), both horror films, but also in M*A*S*H and Animal House. 2) The man who played the police inspector did not speak a word of English. He had no idea what he was actually saying, which may have helped in the scene. 3) The stuntman refused to do the scene in the church (you’ll see), so Sutherland did it himself. He used a hidden wire as a safety precaution. But an experienced stuntman later told him that with all of the twisting he’d done as he hung 30 feet above a marble floor, he’d rendered the safety wire useless. Had Sutherland let go of the rope, he would have fallen to his death. Which would have been the ultimate irony of this film.
What finally struck us about Don’t Look Now? Two things. First, Christie’s most famous role is from Dr. Zhivago, and after you see this you’ll have a sense of deja vu about one of its final scenes and one of this film’s final scenes. Second, this film was released in Great Britain in October of 1973 as a double bill with The Wicker Man, of all films. It’s impossible to find another picture that better parallels this one. No one planned it this way, but once you’ve seen both, you’ll understand why I write that. If you’ve never seen this, or the original Wicker Man, get to it.
Why was the original opening of Fenway Park delayed?
What is the largest body of water (contained) in South America?
What was the title of the first film to win the Oscar for Best Picture?
What is the landmark decision involved in Plessy vs. Ferguson (a phrase or clause will do)?
Who had the longest hitting streak in baseball last year or how many games long was it?
Times like this, I’m happy to remind people that not only are Jon Stewart and I homphones (it’s 2023; get over it) but that we have both called Middletown, N.J., home for more than a decade at some point in our lives. And that we both love Bruce Springsteen…and pretty much there the similarities end.
By the way, how many times has the person opposing you in a political discussion retreated to “That’s your opinion” in an argument since Donald Trump declared his candidacy in 2015? It’s maddening and something I’ve dealt with often. And my reply is exactly what Stewart’s is here, but we both know that the person across from us isn’t listening. They’ve got no interest in enlightenment. Just in holding onto their precious beliefs. Hyprocrisy does not shame them in the least.
Send Liars, ESG Bills and Money
I’m not a Democrat. Really. It’s just that how come every time I see a politician lying, it turns out to be a Republican? The coup de grace here is when Becky Quick says, “So you know Schumer’s biggest donors, but you don’t know yours?” Game, set, match.
Antoine Davis’ chase of Pete Maravich’s NCAA career scoring record was always fraught with qualifiers. First, Pistol Pete never played as a freshman at LSU because in the 1960s frosh were not eligible to play varsity (blah blah blah acclimate to college life yada yada yada interest of the student’s welfare blah blah blah). Second, the 6’1″ guard from Detroit-Mercy is in his FIFTH full college season, due to Covid rules.
Third, he’s played in 144 games compared to Maravich’s 83.
Fourth, made 588 three-pointers to Maravich’s zero.
Fifth, played with a shot clock.
Sixth, played his entire career in the Horizon League, not the SEC.
Still, former Indiana coach Mike Davis’ son needed just 26 points last night in the conference semifinal versus Youngstown State (the Penguins!) to break Pete’s record (and three to tie). Or he needed his team, which has a sub-.500 record, to win so that they’d play at least one more game.
Davis and the Titans fell just short. Trailing by three in the waning seconds, Davis launched a three that missed. Detroit Mercy would lose, 71-66, as Davis finished with 22 points. The Titans are now 14-19.
That keeps them out of both the NCAA and NIT tournaments. Would they pay the $27,500 entry fee just for Davis, who is leading the nation in scoring at 28 points per game, to find those four points he still needs? An already compromised record reaching yet another layer of compromise?
My former student and friend, SportsBrain, did point out that we nearly had (and may still have) both the NBA and NCAA career scoring records, marks that each have been around more than 33 years, broken in a one-month span. Wild.
Shots and Shots and Shots
Something’s happening here/What it is/Ain’t exactly clear….
But let’s pay attention anyway, okay, kids?
—Arizona State defeats Arizona last weekend (above) on a past-halfcourt jumper at the buzzer (as SportsBrain noted, Arizona should have missed its second free throw; what difference did a one- or two-point lead make when you know the Sun Devils’ final shot is gonna be a three?).
—Philadelphia nearly defeats Boston on a Joel Embiid three-quarter court shot that splashed through the net, but was released a fraction of a second too late.
— Then Paul George and the Clippers nearly defeat the team with the NBA’s best record, Denver, on a similar shot that goes through the hoop. The refs correctly point out that the shot was released late while conveniently ignoring, as they always do with All-Stars, that George traveled.
—By the time we reached Sunday afternoon, Caitlin Clark’s buzzer-beater three for Iowa over No. 2 Indiana seemed like child’s play (How do you let the best ‘baller in college hoops get the ball going to her strong side!!!????).
The point? Could it be that because players are practicing threes so much more often than they ever used to that range in general is improving? Or are these random anecdotal moments with no connection whatsoever? We report. You decide.
Kind Of A Strong Take
What individual is identified with victory at the Battle of Hastings?
What is the connection between the first NCAA basketball championship game and the first college football playoff championship game?
Who scored the most points in an NCAA tournament game (one person)?
If a solution has a pH of 13, is it an acid or a base?
Supply a Wordle answer that has no vowels (and is not a plural).
Your Humble Correspondent recently turned 69 (no wisecracks, please). Age brings experience and (some) wisdom. In my four years of self-declared retirement, my perspective has sharpened regarding the current state of affairs in our country. Like the old Reese’s commercial where peanut butter collided with chocolate, my current world view bumped into my love of movies. There are some movies that did not intend to predict the future but are prescient in viewing them now. YHC would like to offer Five Flicks that are worth watching and/or have a pivotal scene “ripped from today’s headlines.” These movies all are worth viewing because of crackerjack casts. By happenstance, these wonderful actors appear: Frederic March (three times), William Holden, Spencer Tracy and Burt Lancaster (twice each).
Executive Suite (1954)
The plot centers on a successful manufacturing company in crisis after its founder and president dies suddenly. The climax involves a board meeting to select a new chairman. The company controller, played by Frederic March, touts his worthiness for the role by pointing out his leadership in maximizing profits and growing shareholder dividends. William Holden’s character, in a somewhat cheesy, scenery-chewing speech, claims the profits chase is killing the company. His message is that the assembly line workers need pride to go with their paychecks. Holden, representing underdog true believers, inspires the board members – even a reluctant March – to nominate and unanimously vote him as the new chair. (Apologies: spoiler alert.)
Relevant because: The major U.S. companies that produce goods and services are money-making monopolies. Airlines, rail carriers, oil, groceries, meat, medicine – the corporations involved in each of those commodities/services can be counted on one hand. Corporate greed is rampant, aided by a Congress with its palms open and greased with payoffs. Since being freed from government oversight in 1978, the major airlines have turned air travel into a NYC subway at rush hour. Profits grew and shareholders dove into their money piles like Scrooge McDuck. Improvement investments were aimed at growing the bottom line. American, Delta, United and Southwest control 66% of the market. During the pandemic, the nation’s airlines received $54 billion in bailout money to “remain solvent.” A large percentage of that cash was used in stock buy backs. Southwest Airlines received $7 billion but it didn’t bother spending any of it to update an antiquated computer system that just before Christmas caused one of the worst passenger nightmares in airline history. (Big shareholders fly private, natch.)
Inherit the Wind (1960)
The movie is based on a 1955 play that was written as a parable based on an event, the infamous “Scopes Monkey Trial” in 1925. The title comes from Proverbs 11:29: “He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind.” While religion and the debate over evolution vs. creationism is the main theme, it’s also about intellectual discussions of thorny topics, the concept of thinking and discussing conflicting ideas. The playwrights had McCarthyism as inspiration.
A high school teacher is on trial for teaching Darwinim to his students, a violation of state law. Spencer Tracy is his lawyer, Henry Drummond (based on real-life lawyer Clarence Darrow) while Fredric March is Matthew Harrison Brady, who assists the prosecution. March’s character was based on William Jennings Bryan, a three-time presidential candidate as a (gasp! Horrors!) Democrat. The courtroom drama has Drummond being denied his scientific witnesses on evolution; the prosecution’s objections are upheld. Drummond is cited for contempt by judge Col. Potter (just kidding; the wonderful Harry Morgan). Faced with no basis for his defense, Drummond decides to use the Bible and calls Brady as a witness. Side note: Drummond’s client is Bertram Cates, played by Dick York, the original Darren on “Bewitched.” This Perry Mason moment is elite acting as Tracy/Drummond verbally and intellectually jousts with March/Brady. My memorable takeaway from Tracy/Drummond: “The Bible is a book. It is a good book… but it is not the only book.” The entire movie is well worth finding and viewing.
Relevant because: Time to get all political and religious up in here. The GOP has been coopted by zealots descended from the John Birch Society. Republican rhetoric relies on propaganda and appeals to the Bible Belt. “We’re a Christian nation.” Never mind the Founding Fathers wrote a Constitution for a country where people came to escape religious tyranny. A new term that is a blinking red light: Christo-fascism. The movie: It’s based on a 1955 play that was written as a parable based on an event, the infamous “Scopes Monkey Trial” in 1925. The title comes from Proverbs 11:29: “He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind.” While religion and the debate over evolution vs. creationism is the main theme, it’s also about intellectual discussions of thorny topics, the concept of thinking and discussing conflicting ideas. The playwrights had McCarthyism as inspiration.
Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)
The epitome of an all-star cast. Spencer Tracy. Burt Lancaster. Montgomery Clift. Maximilian Schell (won Best Actor Oscar for his performance… and no actor was ever more deserving).Richard Widmark. Marlene Dietrich. Judy Garland. Abby Mann won an Oscar for his screenplay, which turned a dull trial about a familiar, horrific event into compelling drama.
Were the Germans who “went along to get along” guilty for the Holocaust they didn’t directly participate in? Should they have taken a stand? How could they have ignored the Nazis, the Gestapo, the SS, Hitler’s madness? Lancaster, one of four Germans on trial, tries to explain and answer those questions when he testifies… for the prosecution. Lancaster’s powerful presence and passionate speech, in YHC’s opinion, was worthy of a best supporting actor nomination.
Relevant because: Double relevancy. This recounting of the Nazi war crimes trial shortly after World War II displays the power of a false prophet fascist (Hitler) who convinced Germans to “love their country” so much that six million Jews were exterminated. War crimes is an ongoing topic as Vladimir Putin tries to exterminate Ukraine. This cynic bets Vlad will never face a trial in The Hague.
Seven Days in May (1964)
Published early in 1962, the novel on which the movie is based told the story – set a decade in the future – of a military coup. President John F. Kennedy read the book and was supportive of the idea of the movie (which would be released after his assassination… fill in your own ironic twists). Frederic March, the fictional president, negotiates a nuclear disarmament treaty with the Soviet Union to end the Cold War. The treaty is unpopular and the president’s approval rating plummets. Military hawks on the Joint Chiefs of staff, chaired by Burt Lancaster’s character, put together a covert military unit. During a staged “alert” the unit is to take over the nation’s communications, seize the president and install a military government. Lancaster’s character in the book and movie was based on two real-life generals. Major general Edward Walker resigned at JFK’s request. Walker was what YHC likes to call “a piece o’ work.” Air Force general Curtis LeMay (a World War II hero in the Pacific) was the model for the second character. LeMay counseled JFK to carpet bomb Cuba during the Missile Crisis. He also favored the sustained bombing campaign of North Vietnam and was the vice-president nominee running with George Wallace in 1968. YHC’s assessment: See, Edwin Walker. Kirk Douglas is Lancaster’s top aide and becomes suspicious of the plot. He works with the president and his closest advisors to try and gather the evidence to expose the plan. March confronts Lancaster in the oval office. Again, it’s a master class in acting pitting two foes committed to their causes.
The relevancy: Can our government be overthrown by a coup? Jan. 6, 2021 proved that question isn’t theoretical. We’re still a democracy only because of good fortune plus the fact that the organizers were incapable of planning a one-car funeral.
(Ed.: Also, a weathered-looking Ava Gardner plays the honey pot… as she also does in 1959’s On The Beach, a film that suggests that nuclear disarmament did not occur, that the major powers dropped nukes on one another, and only the beautiful people—she and Gregory Peck—survive)
A satirical black comedy brilliantly written by Paddy Chayefsky (he won an Oscar for best original screenplay), it was considered “over the top” by YHC when he saw it in the theater but much of what was portrayed has become reality. (Side note: it won three acting Oscars. Beatrice Straight won supporting actress for her only scene that last five minutes and two seconds; a brevity record for an Academy Award.) A network (UBS) losing the ratings war tells veteran anchor Howard Beale (Peter Finch, who won Best Actor but before the awards ceremony) is told by his boss, world weary news producer Max Schumacher (played by William Holden…a wonderful circling back to Executive Suite) that he’ll be fired. Beale is mentally unstable; he announces on his newscast that in a few days his farewell will be an on-air suicide. Schumacher convinces his bosses, who naturally want to immediately fire Beale, to give the anchor a final appearance to apologize and leave with dignity. Instead, he launches into a rant about life being “bullshit.” Viewers dig it and ratings climb but then crater again. Ambitious programming chief Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway, winner for Best Actress) sees her chance. First, she seduces Schumacher. Then she lobbies the network to move Beale’s news show to her control in the entertainment division. Her bosses agree when one of Beale’s rants features a catch phrase that galvanizes the nation (as it did in real life). “The Howard Beale Show” (Beale is billed as “the mad prophet of the airwaves”) is blend of current events and entertainment. Beale appears in front of a stained-glass backdrop so his rants seem like sermons – delivered before a life studio audience. Other segments include Sybil the Soothsayer, who predicts the next night’s news, and a gossip specialist called Miss Mata Hari.
The second half of the movie spins faster, covering topics of corporate greed (that again), global economy and even terrorism. It includes a second iconic scene where Ned Beatty’s character, who runs the corporation that owns the network, chastises Beale and explains The New World Owner (which sounds familiar today).
Film critic Roger Ebert wrote in 2000 that the movie, “Seen a quarter-century later it is like prophecy.” Pity Ebert isn’t alive to provide an updated opinion.
Relevancy: Dominion Voting Systems is suing FOX News for defamation and $1.6 billion. Winning a defamation suit is a tough nut to crack, but this nut (FOX) is effing crazy. Recent information made public from evidence uncovered by Dominion shows that FOX news hosts (and even owner Rupert Murdoch) knew they were spouting lies about The Big Lie, the 2020 election. A “news” channel knowingly reporting “fake news” to retain its viewing base of Qanon qrazies? Well, who would believe that fictional poppycock?
The plethora of poor-taste puns possible involving the Brandon Miller situation and his 41-point performance last night are too numerous to consider here (the number alone reminds us of Springsteen’s “41 Shots”). Miller also scored the game-winner in overtime at South Carolina.
If you’re not aware, the Alabama forward is a legit first-team All-America who last month provided his teammate, Darius Miles, with the gun that would be used in a murder that night.
This is possibly the Tide’s best basketball team ever, and Miller its best player. So, unless Miller is charged as an accessory—and he hasn’t been—head coach Nate Oats is going to let him play. Which he did and then some at South Carolina last night.
We don’t know what the right answer is. We do know that Oats said he reached out to Ray Lewis for guidance immediately after the incident, which seems a little strange. We also remember when first-team All-American Steve Alford was suspended for a game for posing for a poster whose proceeds went directly to charity.
As a “sports nation,” we lost our way decades ago. All that’s left now is to measure the degrees of degenerate behavior, both by players and “leaders” alike.
Thoughts On Wordle
Over the weekend we passed the 100 Games Played mark on Wordle. If you do not play Wordle, The New York Times makes one game available daily. The object of the game is to correctly guess that day’s five-letter word (e.g., GUESS) and you get six chances. After each guess, the board tells you if the letter appears in the word in the right spot (green box), if it appears in the word but in the wrong place (yellow), or if it does not appear in the word at all (gray).
A few thoughts on Wordle, and you’re invited to share yours:
A) I like to use a different starting word each day to keep it fun. Sure, you can use “AUDIO” each morning, as it may be the only five-letter word with four vowels (and every single word has a vowel or “y” in it), but where’s the fun in that? So I like to mix it up. You?
B) The scariest words are the ones that by changing only one letter have many possibilities. Example: “NIGHT” could also be “RIGHT,” “MIGHT,” “SIGHT,” “TIGHT,” “LIGHT,” or “FIGHT.” If you find yourself at “_IGHT” after a couple of guesses, your best next guess is to use a word with as many as those possible first letters in it, as opposed to hoping for the correct guess.
C) Occasionally, Wordle is going to provide a word you never use in everyday parlance. Or almost never use: “CHARD” and “RIPER” have tripped me up. “MUCKY” almost did. And “RIPER” reminds me: any word that has two of the same letter always has the potential to wreck you.
D) It’s an addictive game. Thank God there’s only one a day. I find myself thinking of five-letter words far too much. Thinking of possible starter words with three vowels (QUOTE, VOICE, IRATE, VAGUE, RAISE) and also of words that would make great answers, such as ABYSS or GHOST.
E) I like that Wordle provides one’s personal stats: % of times the player has gotten the day’s word as opposed to missing out on all six tries, as well as where player has guessed correctly (for example, how many times on the 4th try, or the 3rd try, etc.). If your Wordle % is 99% or higher after 100 games, let us know in the comments.
The best film of 2023 opens tomorrow: Cocaine Bear. Above is the only promotion you need to see.
Oddly enough, this same weekend TCM is canceling its TCM Underground series, which runs each week at 2 a.m. EST Saturdays. Odd, because this movie is perfect for its lineup.
Hollywood Death Irony (Add To Cart)
Remember when we did that item a week or so ago about Hollywood legends presaging their deaths in film (Carole Lombard, James Dean, etc.)? We have another to add to list: John Cazale. In the 1975 film Dog Day Afternoon, Cazale plays a bank robber/hostage taker along with his The Godfather brother, Al Pacino (weirdly, Pacino’s character is named Sonny, their other brother in the two classic films).
Anyway, there’s a scene where a female hostage is about to light a cigarette, and Cazale’s character, Sal, says he does not smoke because he does not want to die of cancer. “Your body is the temple of the Lord,” Sal says. The irony being that Cazale in real life was a chain smoker who would be dead two years later, at age 42, from lung cancer.
In Greek mythology, who stole fire from Mount Olympus and gave it to mortals?
Movie that features “Guido The Killer Pimp?”* Extra credit if you can tell what landmark series the actor later appeared in.
True/False: Frank “Home Run” Baker never had a season in which he led the majors in home runs.
Provide a wild animal that is a 3-letter word, 4-letter word, etc., up to a 9-letter word.
The last northeastern school north of State College, Pa., to win a college football national championship (voted on by at least two news services) was?
I used to walk past a newsstand just like this one on my way to catching the downtown 1/9 train every morning on my way to work (first, at Sports Illustrated and then later at NBC Sports, The Daily and eventually Newsweek). If the tabloid newspaper (one of three available to me in NYC) had a photo and headline juicy enough (“Headless Body In Topless Bar!”), I’d purchase it for the ride to midtown or, later, Wall Street.
Now, if someone had told me back then that I could have all of the stories in all of the publications pictured above available in a device that I could hold in one hand, I’d have probably thought, That’s bonkers! But also, HOW COOL! Would I have realized, though, the calamitous effects such an advance would have on my industry?
The trouble with the internet, social media and devices is not that everyone has access to reading news. The trouble is that everyone has access to providing it. Just in the past 24 hours I’ve seen death-knell moments for my industry, particularly sports writing:
° News that Barstool Sports, founded by Dave Portnoy— a brilliant and tireless businessman but not a journalist—was sold for $551 million. Meanwhile, just one week ago Sports Illustrated laid off a dozen or so editors, including all of its beat editors.
° Yesterday my friend Bruce Feldman’s piece on Jalen Carter, the former Georgia nose tackle who should be the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft, ran on The Athletic (a site that, estimably, is attempting to thrive by having readers pay for its content directly). Then, this morning, someone with a Twitter feed called “NFL Rookie Watch” parroted Bruce’s original content without crediting him. It was left to Bruce, who likely has better things to do, to call the tweep out for it. But there will be no repercussions, other than shame, which let’s face it, went out of fashion with lemonade on the front porch.
° This morning someone on Twitter named David Zabinsky produced one of those threads about something cool you may never have heard of (“Sealand”, a “country” comprised of two people). Then he mentioned that if you liked this story, you should follow him. This thread is in the vein of those written daily by Joe Pompliano and Kendall Baker, each of whom have built massive Twitter followings by showering their followers with cool nuggets of info.
About half an hour later Zabinsky tweeted….
In other words, this story was written by Dylan Taylor-Lehman and Zabinsky simply lifted that author’s work. I don’t know if Pompliano and/or Baker work this way, honestly. What I do assume is that someone from “Narratively,” or the author him/herself, contacted Zabinsky and was none too happy about having his/her hard work lifted without credit being given.
As a journalist, the idea of reproducing someone else’s work and sharing it without ever giving them credit…well, that’s tantamount to a Catholic priest standing up in front of the congregation on Sunday and announcing that Jesus was a fraud. In short, why even call yourself a journalist? Or even come close to the enterprise?
°Finally, yesterday the Cronkite School at Arizona State University (not to harp on this—I’m about to harp on this—but this is a school named after a newsman who not only did not attend ASU but never even himself finished college) awarded its annual Cronkite Award to Gayle King of CBS This Morning. Last year’s honoree was Al Roker, who at least was candid enough to acknowledge at the luncheon that half the reason he’d won was because they knew he’d pay for an entire table or two (at whatever the cost is). The award/luncheon functions primarily as a fundraiser/self-promotional tool. I’m not sure what message Cronkite is attempting to send to its journalism students other than “Just be famous, baby.”
It’s weird. The year is 2023 and many of the best writers with whom I worked at Sports Illustrated, names such as Steve Rushin, Tim Crothers, Alexander Wolff, Austin Murphy and Jeff MacGregor, to name a few, writers who are still close to their primes and should be the elder statesmen of sportswriting today, are either minimally writing or not writing at all. Sports Illustrated really does not even have dedicated office space these days (there is a common work area shared with non-SI folk). Your coffee table at home is your desk.
I’ve thought a lot lately about a kindly old man named Jeremiah Tax. Born in 1916, Tax came to his professional peak just as Sports Illustrated was launching into orbit in the late 1950s. He became a writer for SI, then an editor (at the time, all editors were first writers, because it was believed—correctly—that an editor needs to understand the grind), and later an executive editor. Jeremiah Tax was one of the top names on the masthead when SI was in its 1970s prime.
By the time I arrived in 1989, Tax was in his early seventies. Retired. Kind of. Except that he’d still take the train in from Long Island one day a week and, not unlike Gandalf, roam the halls to provide sage advice to reporters and editors alike. The “Tax Man,” as we called him (because at SI we witty folks never failed to Use Your Allusion, I & II, as I just did again here), was never an intrusion. He was a warm and welcome presence.
This small, kindly old Jewish (am I allowed to say that?) man with a warm smile would pop his head into your office (yes, even at the age of 22 I had my OWN office in a midtown Manhattan skyscraper… something the top editor there no longer has). He’d be holding paper copy of the story you were fact-checking (or, if times were flush, had written), and a pencil. He’d ask if he could sit down and, once welcomed, would ask if it was okay to go over with you some concerns that he might have. Questions that had popped up in his mind. The Tax Man was so friendly, so grandfatherly, that you were only too happy to welcome him in.
Why did Jerry Tax do this? To get out of the house? Perhaps. But also, I’ve come to believe, because the culture of SI was so important to him. The wise elders pass on their knowledge to the next generation(s). It’s what takes place in any thriving family or company.
That was the Sports Illustrated I stepped into in 1989.
Today, SI and most of legacy media only thinks of the moment. The editorial decisions are made by men a level above and a floor removed (speaking figuratively these days) from the folks who are actually on the ground writing and editing. These same generals are “earning” (because I must wonder, How exactly are they earning their salaries?) exponentially more than the infantry who are on the front lines (writers, editors) and their solution to any lack of growth (not lack of profit, lack of growth) is simply to cut staff… even if 10 staffers probably don’t combine to earn the salary that one of them does.
But, the worst offshoot of all of this is the lack of continuity at SI or any legacy media workplace. There is no Steve Rushin occasionally roaming the halls to offhandedly provide wisdom and insights to the Gen-X’ers and Millennials who sorely need it (and who often don’t believe they do, which is Exhibit A of why they sorely need it).
I recall Thursdays and Fridays at SI where the coolest hang would be the Scorecard office. Jack McCallum, the editor and as affable a person who ever worked at SI, had a larger office and was a natural as a host. Rich O’Brien and Steve Cannella (two distinctly different generations from Jack and each other) also worked on Scorecard. They’d be seated on the couch. Jack would be holding court, the banter would flow, and the occasional guest (Merrell Noden? Alex Wolff? Franz Lidz?) would stop by. Overtly, ideas were being tossed about—this was organic Slack, farm to table—and laughter was being shared. More subtly, the way that it happens at a family’s Thanksgiving table, the rites of being part of the SI family were being passed down to the next generation.*
*Thinking deeper on that Scorecard office, it was SI’s unofficial Algonquin Round Table. Whenever an out-of-town writer would visit the 18th floor, he (unless it was Sally Jenkins) would pay the obligatory visit to either Mark Mulvoy or Peter Carry (our top two honchos) or both, and then also to his primary editor. With those out of the way and time to kill before lunch or happy hour, he’d plop himself into the Scorecard office to partake in the banter.
McCallum, O’Brien and Cannella (the last, the youngest, is now the top name on the magazine masthead) all had similar traits: personable, far from self-absorbed, kind but, if attacked, could be caustic. Team players. The Scorecard office was a litmus test of not only a writer’s (or reporter’s) wit but also general character. Would you do a road trip with this person? Some visitors were simply so entertaining and funny–Rushin topped them all, but Franz Lidz was simply so out there—while others, such as Noden or Bill Nack, were passionate and deep thinkers but, again, never took themselves too seriously. As a young reporter, you understood not to stay past your welcome time and to listen more than talk. That room was like the cool kids’ quad in every dorm in America.
True story: one day an editor walked into the Scorecard office with a fax (!) he’d just received. It was a pitch from someone associated with his beat, an idea that he did not believe merited a stand-alone story in Si (in its print-only era) but that “might make a nice Scorecard item.” Jack & Co. were used to being handed off an editor’s hand-me-downs (this allowed the editor to tell the pitch man that he had not outright rejected the pitch). After the editor left the room, and this was an editor everyone liked, Jack took the fax, gave it a cursory read, and then stuck it down the back of his pants, mimicking the act of wiping his tush with the fax.
The fax may still have been in Jack’s trousers when the editor returned. Turned out there was a phone number on the fax that he needed. Could he have the fax back? Thinking quickly, Jack told the editor that he’d not been in the office. He must’ve given it to another editor. Rich and Steve quickly backed him up. The editor looked confused for a moment, but it was three against one. And editors were always rushing from one office to another. He bought it.
That story is about 30 years old and I remember it. I don’t know if anything that happens at anyone’s home coffee table in media today, whether it happens on Zoom or in Slack, will be remembered 30 days from now.
Is this why legacy media is dying on the vine? It’s more of a symptom, an example of what we are losing.
But don’t get me wrong. I lament what we are losing, but I’m also extremely grateful that I was at least around to experience what there was. We had quite a time. I truly feel badly for the twenty-somethings who are coming up in the journalism world today, who equate being a talented journalist with owning burner phones and breaking trades and transitions on Twitter. That’s important, too, to a degree, but the moment you break that news there’s a David Zabinsky who’ll retweet it and within minutes no one will remember that you had it first. Or care.
I’d love to have been some young reporter’s Jerry Tax. We all need them. But now all the Jerry Tax’s are playing pickleball. There’s no office to visit.
What year did Custer’s Last Stand (itself a misnomer) take place?
Who threw the last complete game in a World Series (you can provide pitcher or team or year and I’ll take it)?
Name a god who had the same name in Greek and Roman mythology.
If you missed just-arrived-in-the-NBA-in-time-to-win-the-Slam Dunk Contest Mac McClung over the weekend, we have you covered. The 6’2″ G-Leaguer from Virginia provided sport with its mightiest upset since Saudi Arabia defeated Argentina in the World Cup last November.
Should we just rename the contest the “Max McClung?” Like the Gus Macker?
Above, McClung’s 2nd 50-pointer.
Something To Consider…
Jon Rahm won the Genesis (formerly L.A.) Open Sunday, his third PGA Tour already in 2023. So, updating the rankings (subjective):
World’s Best Golfer…. Spaniard
World’s Best Tennis Player… Serbian or Spaniard (Novak or Rafa)
World’s Best Soccer Player… a Frenchman (Kylian Mbappe) or an Argentine, Spaniard or Norwegian
World’s Best Baseball Player… Japanese (Shohei Ohtani)
World’s Best Hockey Player… Canadian (Connor McDavid)
World’s Best Basketball Player… Serbian (Jokic) or Slovenian (Doncic) or Greek (Giannis)
Don’t worry, America. You still have football. For now.
Cross-Country Is A Fall Sport, After All
G’day, mate! is a classic Aussie phrase. But, “Gidey! Mate!” is not.
At the World Cross-Country Championships in Bathurst, Australia, over the weekend, a wild finish in the women’s race. Ethiopian Letesenbet Gidey, the current world-record holder in the 5,000, 10,000 and half-marathon (that’s mighty impressive), held the lead in the final 50 yards of the 10-K race. Then she turned around to gauge how close behind Beatrice Chebet of Kenya was to her.
Don’t look back, as Boston once advised.
Gidey lost her footing and fell as Chebet raced to break the tape. Then a bystander ran onto the course to help Gidey up, which resulted in her receiving a DQ.
Name (at least) three bands that should appear on a President’s Day playlist.
What was Doris Day’s connection to Charles Manson?
What state has the most national parks?
What does the endocrine system do or deal with (a one-word answer may suffice)?
Who was the first president to have seen the Pacific Ocean (not necessarily as president)?
*My good friend Adam Duerson has no idea that I am writing this, and so if I know him as he knows me, I imagine that he’s reading this with more than a tinge of trepidation (“What is Walters going to say? I wish I could edit this first…”). But I will do my best up front to assuage all of his fears.
It was a snowy Sunday night in mid-March of 2004. Adam Duerson, Jamie Lowe and I were inside Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Connecticut. The NCAA tournaments—men’s and women’s—were only days from tipping off and UConn had decided, if memory serves me correctly, to make both of its highly-ranked teams available to the media in a mostly informal presser on the court (cktk with Mike Enright).
This was also the first day of a grand expedition. The three of were about to embark on a two-week, cross-country pilgrimage, charged with seeing as many NCAA (and NIT) tournament games as humanly possible from a fan’s perspective. Adam was an editor at a newly formed publication, SI On Campus, which had launched the previous September. I had been hired as its back-page columnist and write-as-much-else-as-you-are-able guy, and Jamie was a newly added hire that winter whom our top editor, Chris Stone, had taken to because her prose had a certain age.
On that chilly Sunday morning the three of us had piled into a modestly priced RV rented in Rockland County, N.Y., and then made our way across blustery central Connecticut until we reached Storrs. The journey was quite familiar to me. Three years earlier I had spent an entire year living near UConn’s campus, attending every practice and game I could, for a book I’d write on Geno Auriemma’s amazing program, The Same River Twice (it seems bizarre to write now, but that team had Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi and lost before advancing to the championship game… in fact, neither was considered the team’s top player).
All of this is to lead to the exchange from that night that I’ll never forget. The UConn women were on the cusp of winning a third consecutive national championship, and fourth in five years. Someone in the press asked Auriemma how he had known that his three long-time assistants—Chris Dailey, Jamelle Elliott and Tonya Cardoza—would turn out to be such great coaches. “I didn’t know if they would be great coaches,” Auriemma answered. “I did know they were good people. I figured the rest would take care of itself.”
If there is a better epitaph for the SI career of my good friend Adam Duerson, whose tenure at the magazine ended earlier this week after a nearly 20-year run, I’d love to hear it. A Midwesterner through and through, Adam has proven a trusted confidante, friend, editor and mentor to countless staffers over the years. He may be the most ego-free person I’ve ever known at SI and unlike a few other people with whom I worked there, every word Adam tells you, you can take to the bank. He’s honest.
I remember the first day we met. SI On Campus had its first staff meeting, called by our managing editor, Chris Stone. This was exciting. SIOC was going to be this cool indie label of SI, and Chris had managed to cobble together more than a few of the cool teens (representationally) from the main mag: Maureen Grise (now Cavanagh) would be our photo editor; Mark Bechtel would also help when the editing bay became too full. I had just been hired back after being laid off by the mag two days earlier. We were all in our thirties.
Then there was Adam. Thrift store T-shirt, checkerboard Vans, scruff on the face. SI editors were known for making insider references to “Old Nassau” or out-Brooks Brothers’ing one another. And here was this hipster who was probably hiding a Pabst Blue Ribbon in his backpack. He was from Wisconsin; had attended school in Madison. To Chris’ credit, he saw something. And he was right.
Adam and I spent that first fall with out desks near one another and a slow, deep friendship blossomed. I was the prodigal son come back to the mag who was a pariah to some of the more entrenched SI editors. Adam was this maverick that did not meet the dress code. But we both got the job done, and I learned quickly that Adam was an incubator of outstanding ideas and that he saw them through, A to Z.
We’re about 12 years apart in age. Adam clued me in to the music of the present, from The White Stripes (he took me to my first Jack White show) to The Shins. He showed me that Radiohead had actually made albums since The Bends.
By the time Adam, Jamie and I piled into that RV on a cold and raw March morning, the kind northeasterners are far too familiar with, we had attended many SIOC staff meetings, exchanged too many knowing glances at things others had said (and Adam had rolled his eyes enough at my corny attempts at humor), to not be pretty decent friends. But two weeks together in a van? That would be the test.
The RV trip deserves its own long-form story. From Storrs to Bristol (a quick stop at ESPN) to Penn State to Columbus to South Bend to Carbondale to Kansas City to Denver to Missoula to Spokane to Reno to Las Vegas to Phoenix and finally, back to Las Vegas. In South Bend we woke up in a Wal-Mart parking lot on St. Patrick’s Day. None of us had showered or slept in a proper bed in three days and Adam had the inspired idea for us to have our “family portrait” taken at Wal-Mart (I wish I could show you the picture; we are hideous). That evening Adam and I staged a “Shamrock Shake-down” at a local McDonald’s: a 7-minute chugging contest of Shamrock shakes (the manager kindly asked us to leave as soon as it ended). At a bar in Missoula Adam and I realized that the locals might have thought we were a couple–they certainly realized we did not belong— and we headed out before matters deteriorated. At an eatery in Spokane, we gawked as recently retired NBA legend John Stockton walked in on a weekday afternoon to speak to his father (who owned the place). In Arizona we stopped at my parents’ home just long enough for my mom to do Adam’s and Jamie’s laundry and feed us a proper Italian meal.
That trip cemented the friendship. In the ensuing years, as many of my contemporaries got married, had kids and moved out of the city, Adam and his tight-knit group of friends informally adopted me. Adam’s apartment, which overlooked Tompkins Square Park in the East Village, became the epicenter of social activity. Adam was never the life of the party—though he could be—but more so the organizer. Weekly poker games. An annual trip to Belmont Park in which Adam and his friends rented a bus and dolled up as if they were high society (while still not being too posh to play flip-cup on the grounds of Belmont). A winter race across three boroughs and over two East River bridges in shopping carts that was dubbed, “Idiotarod.”
This Midwestern kid who was never easily pigeonholed—a Wisconsin native who openly roots for the Chicago Bears—brought a refreshing enthusiasm to living in New York City. Adam was always fun, but never loud or overbearing. In any social situation, he let the game come to him. And I don’t know if he’s ever seen “Auntie Mame,” but he lives the adage: “life’s a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.”
(And even though Adam is now married with two small children, he still embraces that philosophy.)
It was Adam who organized a trip for about a dozen of us to visit South Africa for the 2010 World Cup. I’d have never done that on my own. It was Adam who turned innumerable game watches or other NYC happenings into communal events. Adam knew the name of every speakeasy and every soccer bar in Manhattan or Brooklyn. I cannot tell you how many games of all kinds I watched at various joints in those two boroughs where Adam welcomed me amidst his gaggle of friends, all of whom were at least 10 years younger.
I wouldn’t call Adam an extrovert, and yet he is never alone. He toils to create community in whatever he does, wherever he goes. And because he is so genuine and so honest, there are scores of present and former SI staffers who think of Adam as that one true friend they have at the magazine.
While there remain a few folks at SI today whose tenures predate Adam’s, no one was a more formidable bridge to the flush past at SI that people like myself lived and to the stark present. No one that I know cared more about the legacy of this wonderful enterprise, begun in 1954; was a more ardent student of the mag or a more passionate historian. If you point out a long-form story that ran in the 1960s that you recently unearthed to Adam, chances are either that 1) he’s already read it, 2) he’s spoken to the author about it or 3) he’ll read it next chance he gets.
Adam never wanted to be an SI writer (extremely rare for someone who enters SI at such a young age). He always wanted to be an SI editor. Didn’t want his name on the marquee, more content to produce and direct. And he has never, ever, ever taken that route as a power trip. He sincerely cares about the stories. He creates relationships with writers and implicitly understands all the suffering and anguish that went into it, as well as the excitement you have about it. Too many editors, particularly those who have never written, never develop those traits. They are inherent in Adam.
In January of 2020 Adam and I met at a bar in the Dumbo area of Brooklyn. I was working mostly as a waiter but my restaurant had just been sold. Covid was not yet on anyone’s mind. Adam had this idea for a story on the New York Press Softball League, a once-mighty staple of Wednesday summer afternoons in Central Park. Expectations for a “Where Are They Now” story on this were low, but Adam offered me a crack at it. I said sure. I literally had nothing else to do.
Over the course of six weeks in March and April, just as the pandemic was sweeping the country, I reported the story. A 90-minute phone conversation with a subject after which I put down the phone, my neck cramped, and just giggled at the anecdotes being tossed my way. Waking up at 3 a.m. after four hours of sleep to write (by then I’d taken a job at a supermarket). You reach a point, if you’re lucky, where you realize you’re working on the most wonderful story of your career. And, if you’re smart, you don’t share too many of the details with your editor (Adam), because you want the story to knock him off his feet. Never oversell your story before you file; it’s a lesson I try to pass on to every aspiring journalist I know.
And just to reiterate: no one but no one is letting this writer back in the pages of SI except Adam. There’s no political upside to doing so. Adam never cared about that.
Finally, I filed the story. Anxious for the response text or call I’d receive from Adam in a day or two (it was a 10,000-word piece). Went for a swim to try to return to the land of the living. About an hour after I’d filed, I’d finished swimming laps. I checked my phone, which I’d left within arm’s reach of my lane. There was a text waiting from Adam. It’s the kindest thing any editor ever wrote to me. Adam knew exactly what to say.
Adam’s not dead, of course, just unemployed as of earlier this week. Pardon the Interregnum, as this condition will not last long. It’s not just that he’s too talented to be out of work. It’s that too many people in this often thin-skinned and petty industry (guilty on both counts from time to time myself) admire him and trust him and respect him. Like working with him. Yes, he’s a fantastic editor, but before anyone knew that, they knew that Adam Duerson was a good person.
Adam was never content to allow SI to become soft on its past reputation. He was always about finding new peaks for SI to ascend. He never wanted SI to become Fat Elvis in Vegas, writing checks off its readers’ sense of nostalgia. He has always strived to make the current incarnation of SI live up to the high bar established the previous century. When established names such as Steve Rushin and Jeff Pearlman return to write for their alma mater, Adam has almost always (maybe exclusively always) been their editor. He seeks them out and they know he’s going to do his damnedest for their story.
I don’t feel sorry for Adam. I feel sorry for Sports Illustrated. And I don’t mean that vindictively. I always want to see them both thrive. I don’t know whether the excision of Adam and a dozen or so other editors will make SI more profitable in the short term. But I feel pretty confident that it will take SI further away from being the true bastion of sports journalism that it had been for decades.*
*Adam, I wrote this on the fly. Please have Bechtel give it a blue pencil and Meesha a strong copy read. Ask Schropp to find some photos of us on the March Madness trip. Please run any interference between Stone and I, as you’ve always been so deft at doing.
In her prime…and that was an extended period of time… Raquel Welch appearing onscreen in anything more revealing than a Hefty trash bag was at least an R rating by default. She was to the fairer sex in the 1960s and ’70s what Chris Hemsworth is today. Pure molten sex appeal.
It helped that Welch (given name: Jo Raquel Tejada… her father was Bolivian), who passed yesterday at age 82, never took herself or her bombshell status too seriously. She was as comfortable lampooning her sex appeal and supposed diva status on The Cher Show as she was on The Muppet Show as she was on Seinfeld. Her poster, the iconic image from One Million Years B.C., made a relevant appearance in The Shawshank Redemption (that poster replace the one of Rita Hayworth, whose father was also of Latin descent: Spain).
Welch was always fated to be more of an iconic figure than she was an actress (she was once referenced in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, with Rhoda noting that the voluptuous beauty would never die due to drowning). Welch (her first husband’s surname) seemed to take it all in stride.
Before striking it big, Welch, who was born in Chicago and then moved to Los Angeles, had jobs as a weather presenter in San Diego (there’s a Ron Burgundy joke to be made) and as a cocktail waitress in Dallas. She auditioned to be Maryann on Gilligan’s Island but did not land the role.
Her first major role was in Fantastic Voyage (1966), in which she plays a member of a medical team that is miniaturized and sent into the body of a politician who has been gravely wounded. It was a terrific idea for a film (perhaps you watched it in high school biology class), but it failed to showcase all of Welch’s talents. One Million Years, B.C., released later that year, would be the film that changed all of that. The secret sauce? Welch spent the entire film in a prehistoric bikini.
The concept of “less is more” was never more fitting.
Name at least four movies in which Tom Hanks urinates.
Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, commemorates what event?
True-False: Nevada borders Montana.
Name three starters from the 1975 Golden State Warriors NBA champions.
In what country will the 2026 Winter Olympics be held?
Revealing that your pregnant before more than 100 million people at once, well… Rihanna gave them something to talk about. We were fascinated, if not necessarily entertained, by all of it. The levitation opening was cool but, Rihanna being one of the world’s highest grossing artists and sex symbols, we assumed the bulbous red parachute onesie was just the outermost layer of what would eventually be a highly revealing costume.
It turns out, we are told, that the dancers were meat to represent sperm, which could only mean that Rihanna’s costume was a stand-in for—the Super Bowl, Fun For The Whole Family!
And this got us to thinking…Rihanna was showing, and while pregnancy is far from our area of expertise, she must be at least five or six months along. No? And the NFL revealed that she’d be the halftime performer late in September. She was already pregnant then and she knew it. Did the NFL know it?
So imagine you’re Roger Goodell and Co. Are you saying, Who cares if she’s pregnant? She’s Rihanna. Or are you quietly hoping that she opts to cancel (“Anyone have Lizzo’s cell number?”). Because you know what you cannot do, not in 2022 or ’23, is “fire” Rihanna due to her pregnancy. Even if that was in the contract. Because imagine the uproar that would cause: firing a woman of color because she’s pregnant.
Never mind that 1) Rihanna was not being paid a penny for the performance and 2) she’s already one of the wealthiest females in the world.
K.C.’s Secret Weapon? Pre-Snap About Face
If you were paying attention, both of the Chiefs’ fourth-quarter touchdowns, from deep in the red zone, came on passes near the pylon where the receiver was WIIIIIIDE OPEN. How did that happen?
It happened because of a wrinkle that exploited defenders in man coverage taking for granted something that has been occurring the same way for decades. What is that? A wide out who goes in motion toward the line of scrimmage pre-snap will continue in that same direction (Newton’s—Cam Newton’s— 2nd Law of Thermodynamics). Except that on both of those plays the player in motion reversed direction as soon as the ball was snapped.
As the Eagle were in man coverage, as that receiver heads toward midfield, or away from the sideline, the responsibility for coverage usually switches from a corner to the linebacker. Then the ball is snapped and he’s already headed back toward the sideline he had come from. In the confusion, the defenders lose him. And he’s wide open for a TD.
While this play may predate my personal memory, I first saw this ploy attempted—and with similar success—in the BYU-Notre Dame game in Las Vegas last October. The Cougars deployed it in the first quarter and scored an easy six. I recalled thinking that 1) I’ve never seen anyone try that and 2) that was a weird time to pull out that trick; I’d have saved it for a last-minute situation or a must-have two-point conversion.
Anyway, it worked. Two weeks later Notre Dame copied it—Tommy Rees was taking notes—in a game at home. I believe it was on a fourth down play in the first quarter. The Irish were successful, but it did not go for a TD. If some team used this play before BYU did, I’m not aware of it. But it is genius. Because it’s curious wrinkle of a part of the game most of us had just come to take for granted.
Why does all of this matter on a larger scale? Because everyone losing their minds on the holding call that sealed K.C.’s victory is failing to notice that the Chiefs tried the same ploy yet again. If you click the “Watch on YouTube” above, you’ll see that JuJu Smith-Schuster is in motion, yet again, toward the interior of the field. While his about-face is not as abrupt—SS continues toward midfield after the snap for two steps—he does once again, as with the previous two TDs, do a 180 and head toward the sideline.
This time the Philly defender, James Bradberry, becomes aware of it just in time to make a desperation move and grab SS’s jersey with his right hand. The original Fox replay showed the play further along, and from the wrong angle. Greg Olsen focused on Bradberry’s left hand, not his right. It was left to Kevin Burkhardt to point out that they needed to review the play from a few seconds earlier.
Tough call. Correct call. An anticlimactic finish to an otherwise exciting game. But it was the right call and the “let ’em play” crowd needs to return to their sandboxes.
What is the capital of Paraguay?
Name three Alfred Hitchcock films in which at least a couple of scenes are staged on a train.
Who was the first Super Bowl starting quarterback to not eventually land in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
What company had the largest market capitalization (market cap) in 2022?
The world’s tallest building is found in what country?