IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

The Say Trae Kid

The NBA moved to a conference format 50 years ago. In all of those years, the most prolific scoring output from a player in his conference finals debut game is 48 points. By Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks. Last night.

There were plenty of pundits (Doug Gottlieb stands out) who said that drafting Young after his freshman season out of Oklahoma was a mistake. He’s too small. He won’t be able to guard anyone in the NBA.

It’s a different game now, though. If you’re lethal from beyond the arc, and you can create your own shot off a drive if defenders crowd you beyond the arc, and if you can get to the free throw line, that overcomes plenty of defensive liabilities.

I don’t know if Atlanta can defeat the Bucks and Giannis. But if they do, the NBA Finals could be a showcase for a pair of emerging superstars: Young and (I’m hoping this doesn’t jinx my Suns) Devin Booker.

Five-Star Commentary

Here’s General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, providing the type of commentary you only see in a Frank Capra film.* It’s curious that 1) Milley graduated from the same university—West Point—as Mike Pompeo and even bears a striking resemblance to him, and yet is intellectually curious and not a bully, 2) Matt Gaetz of all people gives him a disappointed head shake as he listens and 3) this commentary incited Laura Ingraham to go into “defund-the-military” invective. It’s funny how Trumpers love the cops and military until either institution does not go along with their white supremacy platform.

*I’ve already shared an anecdote or two from the Capra autobiography I’m reading, “Frank Capra: The Name Above The Picture.” So I don’t want to spoil it too much only to say that his story from the day of the premiere of You Can’t Take It With You, the first of two consecutive movies he made with Jimmy Stewart, Jean Arthur and Edward Arnold, is simply unforgettable. This is a fantastic read.

The Sky Is Falling

Her name is Sky Brown, she is 12 years old and a British skateboarder. Next month she’ll become the youngest person to walk in the Opening Ceremony since Danish swimmer Inge Sorensen, also 12 at the time, did so in 1936. Sorensen won a bronze medal in swimming, a feat that so enraged Adolph Hitler that he invaded her country (I think).

Anyway, Brown would have been younger than Sorensen if the Olympics had been staged as scheduled. But she came precariously close to not being anywhere at all when this maneuver on the half-pipe went horribly awry. She suffered a broken wrist and some cranial stuff, but is back to boarding.

Sham and Shame

Today in “What’s Wrong With The USA?” (Where do we begin?)

  1. The Milwaukee Bucks are willing to let you work for them for free!

2. A woman in Indiana, the first person involved in the January 6 insurrection to be sentenced for her crime, received no more than a $500 fine, three months’ probation and some community service work. This is no way to disabuse a cult of making a second attempt at insurrection. Personally, we prefer Madame DeFarge’s method of punishment for treason.

The Kid…

(The Hindenburg, also German)

Oh, the humanity. Germany was playing Hungary in Munich. In Munich! And the Deutsch were unable to finish uber alles. And so The Kid loses a monster amount, $1,000. It’s time to buy him scuba gear. He’s 20-10 but at $365, or down $635 from where he began (even though he’s got a 66.7% in wins).

Germany had just tied the score when this happened in the second half.

The score finished 2-2 in the soccer match, by the way.

Today he likes VEGAS -135 versus Montreal. Loses $135 or wins $100. He never seems to pick the underdogs, does he?

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Valley Oop

What needed to happen for the Phoenix Suns to pull off the winning play in Game 2 of the WCF last night:

  1. Paul George, an 84% free-throw shooter who had only gakked both free throws in one visit to the line ONCE in the pas 141 times, had to miss both fouls shots. That, which had a 0.7% chance of happening, happened.
  2. Mikal Bridges, who is normally money from the corner, missing his corner three and it going out of bounds off a Clipper.
  3. Jae Crowder to make an exquisite inbounds pass from the corner, over 7-footer DeMarcus Cousin and just to the right of the backboard, while still putting it close enough to the cylinder.
  4. Devin Booker’s gutsy back screen on another 7-footer, Ivica Zubac.
  5. DeAndre Ayton to finish the job, basically the easiest aspect of the entire play.

The Suns have now won nine consecutive playoff games. They could conceivably go 6-6 the rest of the way and bring the Valley of the Sun its first NBA championship. If that happens, the man I’ll be happiest for is Valley broadcast legend Al McCoy. The 88 year-old has been the Voice of the Suns since Day One in 1968 and he still does their radio broadcasts.

Sailing Away To Key Largo

The film noir classic Key Largo played on the TCM the other night. A few notes:

–Directed by John Huston immediately after he’d directed the same lead actor in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (he’d also directed Bogey in The Maltese Falcon), this film features three Hollywood heavyweights in front of the camera: Lionel Barrymore, Humphrey Bogart and Edward G. Robinson. All-timers, each of them.

–I did not include Lauren Bacall in that list. She’s a classic beauty of Hollywood’s golden age, but I’m not sure she belongs in the same acting class as those three. Oh my God, am I sexist?

–Can we not make the argument that Frank McCloud (Bogey) was only headed to Key Largo to see if his dead war buddy’s widow (Bacall) was as much of a smokeshow as she’d probably looked to be in the photos his buddy had shown him? Oh my God, am I sexist? Seriously, though, Key Largo really isn’t on the way to anything—besides Key West—and as Frank himself tells Nora (Bacall), he’d never worked in the fishing industry.

–Johnny Rocco, what a great gangster name. I have grandparents whose last names were DiDonato, Muggeo and Mundo. And here I get stuck with this WASPy surname. I coulda been someone in the Syndicate. Running counterfeit bills up from Havana. I blame my parents.

–Rocco’s stooges in this film are terrific. Also, the first time we see Rocco he’s sitting naked in a tub and it’s almost too revealing. Sure, we get a topless Edward G. Robinson while Lauren Bacall never does a single costume change. Oh my God, am I sexist?

–The soft-than-soft rock tune “Key Largo,” by Bertie Higgins, from 1982, makes a few references that do not align with the film. First, he makes references to Casablanca (“Here’s lookin’ at you, kid” and “play it again,”), which Bacall did not appear in (though the two did appear in To Have And Have Not, which is eerily similar in plot). Second, part of the chorus is “sailing away to Key Largo.” Except that they never do in the film. Bogey sails away from Key Largo, his life at risk. Finally, they really never “had it all” in the film. In fact, Huston denies fans the sappy reunion hug at the end.

–The film, except perhaps for the opening minute, was shot entirely in Burbank. The studio wouldn’t front Huston the money to film on location, as he just had with Sierra Madre, even though that film had been a hit. In both films, by the way, a supporting actor/actress won an Oscar. Here it’s Claire Trevor as the mobster’s mol.

–Robinson, one of the greatest and most iconic of all the character actors Hollywood ever produced, was never even nominated for an Oscar. That’s unbelievable, one of the great travesties of Oscar-dom. His character was reenacted time and again by Bugs Bunny. We were all watching Edward G. Robinson impersonations before most of us knew who he was.

–If you’re keeping score, Bogey starred in two classic films where he pilots a small boat. This and The African Queen (with Katharine Hepburn).

How The West Was Done

A few figures that should inform or alarm you, concerning how the American southwest, particularly the metropolitan Phoenix area, is hurtling toward its own Big Short moment:

–Home prices in the Valley’s nicer zip codes have jumped 30 to 40% in the past year (the pandemic definitely has played a role, as people who can work remotely are choosing to relocate here… looks around innocently, whistles).

–Phoenix has received about 1.2 inches of rainfall thus far in 2021, with the year nearly half over. The average annual precipitation is about nine inches.

–Lake Mead, the large man-made lake that provides drinking water to two of the fastest growing metropolises in the U.S., Las Vegas and Phoenix, is at its lowest water level since it was constructed in the 1930s.

–Before summer even officially began on Monday, Phoenix had already seen the most consecutive days over 115 degrees in its history.

Skyrocketing home prices, historic drought and sizzling temperatures, and a vanishing water supply. What could possibly go wrong? Go, Suns!

I’ll see you in Alaska.

Stop And Frisk

Future first-ballot Hall of Famer Max Scherzer was stop-and-frisked three separate times last night in his outing against the Phillies (Max won, both the game and the challenges). We sympathize with baseball, which is in the midst of its own drought (scoring), its worst since 1968. And pitchers have more sneaky substances at their disposal than ever (as do insurrectionists).

But watching pitchers undress on the mound gives us queasy feelings about Charlie Brown being taken yard. We cannot see this farce lasting all that long. Cheating pitchers hurts baseball’s offense, but treating aces as if they’re black teen drivers going 27 mph through a school zone (Oh my God, am I sexist?) is a worse look.

The Kid

…took it on the chin last night as Montreal blanked Vegas. He’s now 20-9 with a bankroll of $1,365. Still up, but for someone hitting on more than 2 of every 3 picks, not rolling in as much cash as he’d probably like. We’ll await today’s pick.

UPDATE: The Kid wants Germany minus-500 versus Hungary in Euro 2020. And he’s putting $1,000 down. So he can win $200 or lose $1,000. Some would say he’s on TILT. We’ll see.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

SCOTUS 9, NCAA 0

This had to be the most impactful no-touchdown contest since LSU 9, Alabama 6 back in 2011. The Supreme Court completely shut out the NCAA in its battle to maintain a waiver against anti-trust practices in order to keep an artificial ceiling on player compensation. Then Brett Kavanaugh—yes, that dude—wrote a concurring opinion in which he concluded, “The NCAA is not above the law.”

Only Trump-era Republicans are.

Anyway, college football has already created unrestricted free agency with the transfer portal. Here comes bidding ways. You’ll still watch on Saturdays. So will I. Might as well face it/We’re addicted to love.

Above there, that’s Whizzer White, who had one of the more impressive lives you’ll ever see: played three sports, including football, at the University of Colorado and later became a Supreme Court justice. We think he would’ve concurred with the majority opinion.

Hasn’t Football Always Been Kinda Gay?

Las Vegas Raider defensive end Carl Nassib posted on Instagram that he is gay. Very matter-of-factly. I’d say “nonchalantly” but that words sounds rather French, which sounds rather, well, you know. Anyway, Nassib becomes the first publicly acknowledged ACTIVE (not “actively,” ESPN) gay player in NFL history. The five-year vet played at Penn State, where he led the nation in sacks his final season.

Sincerely, though, this was a very brave thing for Nassib to do. He’s just signed a three-year deal, so he has security, but he’ll never be an anonymous NFL player again. For better and for worse, alas. But hopefully the next pro athlete(s) to announce such will be able to do so with less fanfare.

Bitcoin Bummer: It’s All Relative, Or Is It?

If you bought Bitcoin one year ago and never touched it, I have wonderful news for you: your investment is up more than 200%.

If you bought Bitcoin last February, we have some bad news for you: your investment has been halved.

Now China is cracking down on Bitcoin mining. The name-brand cryptocurrency fell below $30,000 for the first time since January this morning. It’s way too early (for us, at least) to know who’s right here, the old guard (it’s the greatest Ponzi scheme ever invented) or the young lions (dude, it’s the future). We’re just happy that we don’t own any crypto-related stocks right now.

And we feel that the arguments made by the likes of Michael Burry, Paul Krugman and even Bill Maher the past six weeks (which we’ve featured here) are more compelling than those by renegades who seem to be whistling past the graveyard this morning. They all sound like the dude above. Or like a MyPillow ad. At the end of the day it sounds as if the best thing about Bitcoin is believing in Bitcoin. It’s kinda like… a cult. But then, so was Christianity at one point. It all depends on how many people are going to go all in with the virgin birth thing and the resurrection thing. If enough people believe, you can have a Vatican City or a Bitcoin at $500,000, I guess.

Time will tell.

Driving Too Dumb Gets You A Cul-de-Sac-Sac-Sac-Sac/You Oughta Know By Now

This is the best argument for “Defund the Police” you’ll see today. Do you really need five squad cars to play follow-the-leader on a low-speed chase into a dead end?

Donovan Is Gonovan

If you watched NBC’s coverage of the U.S. Track & Field Team Trials from sunny and hot Eugene, you saw them do a nice feature on men’s 800 runner Donovan Brazier. They went fishing with him to a stream in Tillamook, Oregon, and played up the fact that the 2019 world champion and American record-holder from Grand Rapids, Mich., was the surest lock for Tokyo at least in last night’s hour of TV.

Guess what happened? Brazier did not win the 800. In fact, he came in last. You still gotta run the race.

Brazier’s loss may not help the U.S. send its best team to Tokyo, but it’s what makes the Trials such compelling TV. Four years of training can blow up in less than 2 minutes (or less for shorter races/events) with one poor performance. And for track athletes, shining at the Olympics is how you go from a mid-range level earner to a major earner. Brazier was poised for a big pay day. Now he’s just another millennial with nothing to do this summer.

The 70-60-54 Club

Perusing the first eight NBA players to commit to Team USA for men’s hoops and this jumps out at me: at least six of the eight have a 54-point game or better. Five of them have scored at least 60 points in a game and one (Devin Booker) has scored at least 70.

And none of them are named Stephen Curry or LeBron James, neither of whom will play.

The other two are Draymond Green (an excellent passer for a power forward) and Bam Adebayo, who probably had to sign a waiver promising not to shoot unless off an offensive rebound or alley oop. I doubt there’s ever been an Olympic squad with five players who have 60-points-or-better games on their resume. One or three, perhaps, but five?

Note: if the Suns go all the way to the NBA Finals and it goes seven games, Booker’s last NBA game would end one day before the Opening Ceremony. Would he still travel to Tokyo? Remains to be seen. They’d obviously be fine without him during round-robin play, so he could take a few days off and still head over there. What a summer that would be, eh?

The Judges Approve This Headline

I don’t know how many of us will wind up reading the story, but don’t blame the headline writer at The New York Times. His hed: “When An Eel Climbs A Ramp To Eat Squid From A Clamp, That’s A Moray.”

Well done. No splash. Frame this. And this is why SEO optimization needs to disappear from our lives. Give us creativity and fun over most-searched terms 9 days out of every 7, please.

The Kid

… is back on the Win track with Brazil’s defeat of Peru. So he’s now at 20-8 and $1,610. We’ll wait for today’s wager as he is returning from visiting his pops on Father’s Day (a day of regret and sorrow for his dad… I’ll wager).

Tonight The Kid returns to the ice, where he likes VEGAS -245 over Montreal. That’s losing $245, winning $100. You’re right, the Kid never takes the dog on the money line.

THE BIGGER SHORT?

by John Walters

MH will be taking a summer break tomorrow—perhaps longer—so here’s a little lagniappe on top of today’s edition. To tide you over. We’ll be back… when we’re back.

Three things we know about megamillionaire hedge-fund manager Michael Burry, who was profiled in Michael Lewis’ fantastic book, The Big Short:

  1. He’s the smartest guy in the room.
  2. He’s the wealthiest guy in the room.
  3. He is a fearless and unapologetic iconoclast.

More than a decade ago, Burry made himself (and his few remaining clients) hundreds of millions of dollars by seeing through the charade of the housing market and CDOs, etc. He shorted mortgages when housing prices had only been increasing for six consecutive decades. Rule No. 1: Gravity always wins.

Last week, under his Twitter name of @cassandra (a reference to the Greek goddess who issued dire warnings that no one heeded b/c who wants to hear bad news?), Burry sent out the following tweet:

“People always ask me what is going on in the markets. It is simple. Greatest Speculative Bubble Of All Time In All Things. By two orders of magnitude. #FlyingPigs360”

The tweet has since been deleted but the message lingers.

It’s frothy out there and you have to wonder, Will we be looking back and wondering how come more of us didn’t listen to Burry sooner? The first time we had an excuse. None of us knew he existed. Now we do.

Check out just a few stocks or currencies that are discussed daily on CNBC:

Tesla (TSLA): Up more than 300% in the past year, and it had already risen about 300% in the year prior to that.

Greyscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC): Up more than 200% in the past year, and again, it had been lower than that.

AMC Cinemas (AMC): Up more than 1,000% in the past year.

We’re not here to tell you what to do, if you’re in the market.

But here we sit in what will be the fourth consecutive 115-plus degree day in Phoenix, something we never experienced more than one day a summer (side note: it’s still spring) growing up here in the late 70s and early 80s. The point: people warned us about climate change for decades but everyone was too busy getting a killer tan to care. Now, people care. Particularly since it’s been about 10 months since the Valley’s last solid rain storm. No lie.

Why didn’t we listen? is a common refrain among failed civilizations. Or investors. We’re listening to Burry. Do what suits you best.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Yakety Saxers

In Philadelphia, with Julius Erving and Allen Iverson seated courtside, the Sixers blow a 26-point 3rd-quarter lead and lose Game 5 to the Atlanta Hawks. What happened? Well, only two Sixer players, Joel Embiid and Seth Curry, scored after halftime; the Sixers were outscored 40-19, AT HOME, in the fourth quarter; and Ben Simmons shot 4-14 from the free throw line.

Embiid (above), who finished with 37 points and 13 boards, did all but carry his team on his wide shoulders but it just wasn’t enough.

The Jazz also lost at home despite having a decent halftime lead the Clippers being without Kawhi Leonard, a three-time NBA Finals MVP.

Both series had been squared at 2-2. The team that wins Game 5 of a 2-2 series goes on to win 82% of the time.

23 And Me

The Arizona Diamondbacks lost again last night, in San Francisco. Not only are they 2-27 over their las 29 games but this was their 22nd consecutive road defeat, an ignominious record they now share with the 1943 Philadelphia Athletics and the 1963 New York Mets.

The D-Backs could collect their 23rd consecutive road loss before sundown, as they wrap up their series at San Francisco with a matinee. On the hill for the Giants? Kevin Gausman, who is 7-1 with a 1.43 ERA and a 0.78 WHIP. Uh oh.

As The Kid pointed out to me, Arizona’s last road win was Madison Bumgarner’s (7-inning) no-hitter at Atlanta on April 25.

It Happened One Film

Another vignette from Frank Capra’s autobiography, Frank Capra: The Man Above The Title.

The year was 1933 and by this time Capra had begun to establish himself as the star director at his little movie-making studio, Columbia Pictures, but they were clearly not in the same league as the big boys, MGM and Paramount. He was the star of an also-ran studio, but his imperious boss, Harry Cohn, trusted him.

Meanwhile Capra was obsessed with winning an Oscar, but he sort of felt that he’d never get that acclaim unless he was pitching in the big leagues with MGM or Paramount.

So here’s Capra mooning that his latest film, Lady For A Day, will get the Dangerfield treatment from the Academy (and it will). But in the meantime he’s about to make his next picture. No actress in Hollywood, not even those who’ve worked with Capra, will take the female lead. They’ve read the script and they hate it. Finally he and his writer, Rob Riskin, pay an in-home visit to an actress with whom Capra had worked before on one of his very first films. It’s early December and the actress tells them she’s packing up to spend a month skiing in Sun Valley with friends. They beg her to reconsider. She lays down the gauntlet. “I get $25,000 a picture,” she says. “If you double that and get me in and out in four weeks, I’ll do it.’

She thinks she’s put the carrot out too far. Instead, Capra gets his boss, Cohn, to go for it. The actress is Claudette Colbert.

(Capra with his stars; all would win Oscars for this)

Male lead? Capra’s in luck. Sort of. Louie B. Mayer, the head of MGM and the most powerful man in Hollywood, is furious at one of his male stars, Clark Gable. He basically puts him out on a loaner to Columbia to teach Gable a lesson. Gable arrives at Capra’s office midday, drunk. Capra asks Gable if he’d like to read the script on his own or if they should talk about the story first. Gable looks at Capra, whom he’s never met, and says, “Pardner, I don’t care what the fuck you do.” (Frankly, Scarlett, I don’t give a damn...)

The film? It Happened One Night. It would go on to become the first (of only three films) to sweep the five major Oscar categories: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Screenplay.

Capra’s genius lay in a few different talents: 1) he could always find a way to rally the most diffident or even downright recalcitrant lead actors to put aside their egos for the sake of the film, and 2) he was never too stubborn to listen to a better idea.

Capra had a very close friend, a writer named Myles Connolly, who was never afraid to be the gadfly reminding Capra he was not perfect. Such friends can often be annoying, but they’re almost always good for us. Connolly took a look at the script and showed Capra the problem: neither the heiress nor the gent had any traits that would make any normal American, in the midst of the Great Depression, want to root for them. He suggested that the heiress be bored with her well-kept existence, that the guy have some issues of his own. Make them sympathetic. Capra had Riskin rewrite the script. He listened.

The rest is Hollywood history.

20-20-20

Rafael Nadal has announced that he will not be competing at Wimbledon later this month/next month. What does that mean? A much more open door for Novak Djokovic to win. What does that mean? Well, Roger Federer and Rafa have 20 Grand Slam wins and Djokovic has 19.

So if the Djoker wins at the All-England, all three tennis greats will be tied for the most Grand Slams with 20 and tied for the first time since before Roger won his first Grand Slam in 2004.

And this opens the door for Djokovic to be the all-time leader in Grand Slam wins. Whether you think that makes him the greatest tennis player of all time is up to you.

A Triumph For Satire

These are the type of moments that Joseph Heller or Paul Beatty (The Sellout) wishes they’d written. As GOP-infested state legislatures move to outlaw the teaching of Critical Race Theory, i.e. history, the Senate has just approved Juneteenth as a federal holiday. Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery.

So the GOP is saying, You can have your day off to celebrate not being slaves any more (hell, you’re all lazy and not working and just collecting the unemployment any more), you are just not allowed to teach anyone, white students particularly, about the origins of all of this.

Go Ask Alex

We were watching the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials last night and we may have discovered America’s next darling/sweetheart… oh no, am I objectifying. Yeah, probably. But that’s how the world, and marketing, works. Her name is Alex Walsh, she’s 19, attends Virginia, she won the 200 IM, and she has a face that can move truckloads of Wheaties boxes.

No one has Katie Ledecky’s talent, but Walsh has the intangible “All-American girl” traits that can elevate her to stardom.

Tales From The Crypto

If there’s one thing that can potentially sink the crypto craze (besides it being a very well-marketed Ponzi scheme), it’s the profundity of various and newfangled coins. If you have too many different types of coins, all of them springing up from thin air, then none of them are valid. Billionaires and treehouse inhabitants learned this the hard way yesterday as the IRON Titanium Token, a.k.a. TITAN, surged to $65 a coin, then quickly dropped to below $60, inducing panic among the whales.

Its latest stop? A price of $.002175, or about 1/5 of one penny.

If you owned 1,000 TITAN coins at the start of yesterday, they were worth $65,000 at one point. They’re now worth two dollars.

If Bitcoin were the only cryptocurrency, the concept would have far greater stability.

The Kid

…. had to know this was coming. He’d won eight straight since betting on the Clippers in Game 5 at home. So he did a similar thing yesterday, a Game 5 involving the Clippers, except going against them. And he lost. He’s now at 19-8 and the bank is down to $1,510.

Waiting on today’s wager. We wonder if he’ll have the temerity to take the Diamondbacks.

UPDATE: He’s taking Brazil -500 over Peru. So to win $100 or to lose $500.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Massive

Legen—wait for it—dary.

With Kyrie Irving out with a sprained ankle and James Harden at about 50% with a sore hammy, Kevin Durant absolutely took over Game 5 for the Brooklyn Nets. The two-time MVP transformed into The Lord of Flatbush Ave. with a 49-point, 15-rebound, 10-assist masterpiece as the Nets took a 3-2 lead in the series with a 114-108 victory.

Never in the history of the NBA playoffs had a player had a triple-double combo of at least 45 points and at least 15 boards (with 10 assists, by definition). Now one has. Two years after a disastrous exit in Game 5 of the NBA Finals due to a ruptured Achilles, Kevin Durant is back.

Alex Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

By midway through the Olympics (Opening Ceremony is July 23) you will probably be familiar with the name John John Florence. The 28 year-old is the U.S.’ top male medal hopeful in the new Olympic sport of surfing.

But John John’s mom, Alex, may be the more intriguing story. Her tale is a combo of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born To Run” and the Beach Boys’ “Surfer Girl.” Alex was born and raised on the Jersey shore, but she grew up dreaming about the Hawaiian surf lifestyle. At age 16 she won a bikini contest, which gave her enough dough to travel to California, where she won another bikini contest, which gave her ample scratch to move to Hawaii. She landed without a place to stay or a soul in the world that knew her, but Alex Florence is not the type who remains a stranger.

She quickly found a shack to move into on Oahu’s famed North Shore—home to the Banzai Pipeline, the greatest break in surfing. She became a surfer and also had a son. Exactly who John John’s dad is not public information… leading to some speculation that it is 11-time surfing world champ Kelly Slater… whom John John beat out for the final spot on the Olympic team.

You’ve got to give the lady credit. A lot of people say, “Baby this town rips the bones from your back” and “we gotta get out while we’re young,” but Bruce lives only a few miles from where he grew up. Alex heeded the call and moved her existence from the Jersey shore to the North Shore… and never looked back.

A Burrito, No Competo

American middle-distance star Shelby Houlihan will not be going to Tokyo. The American record-holder in both the 1,500 and the 5,000 won’t even be headed to this weekend’s U.S. Track & Field Trials in Eugene, even though she lives just two hours north in Portland.

Why not? Houlihan tested positive for a banned anabolic steroid, nandrolone.

Houlihan, who at age 28 is in her absolute prime and who did not win a medal in Rio, claims she is innocent. The 12-time All-American from Arizona State is blaming the bad contents on a pork burrito she purchased from a food truck. “I feel completely devastated, lost, broken, angry, confused and betrayed by the sport I love,” Houlihan, who found out last Friday that her appeal had been denied, posted on Instagram. If you read this story, there’s good reason to believe that Houlihan is telling the truth.

The ban lasts four years. Houlihan’s hopes for Tokyo are gone. It’s not as if she’s Russian, after all.

“You’re Drought!”

(With 15 homers and 43 RBI, 3rd baseman Eduardo Escobar is actually having an All-Star season for baseball’s worst team)

After a home win versus the Colorado Rockies on Sunday, May 2nd, the Arizona Diamondbacks had a 15-13 record. Not superb, but at least competitive in baseball’s most talented division: the National League West. Then the bottom fell out.

The D-Backs are 5-35 since then and 2-26 in their last 28. They’ve lost 21 consecutive road games—the MLB record is 22. In this 40-game span the Diamondbacks have had a 13-game and our currently in the midst of a 12-game losing streak.

Quick: name a player on the D-Backs. I can’t, either. That’s likely part of the problem.

A reminder that the 1962 New York Mets, in their inaugural season, own baseball’s worst record in the modern era over a full season (40-120, .250). The D-Backs, at 20-48 (.294) are still north of that.

North By Northeast

Remember that item we ran a month or two ago (of course you do) about how Hitchcock films have so many recurring conceits? Well, we ran that before we ever saw Saboteur, Hitchcock’s 1942 spy thriller. I guess it’s easier to say that almost every Hitchcock film has distinct elements of one or more other Hitchcock films. It’s as if he has a certain number of ingredients and each dish resembles one or three other dishes.

Saboteur is basically North By Northwest headed in the opposite direction (L.A. to the Statue of Liberty), except our hero is on the run from the law for a crime of war sabotage of which he is innocent. It even has a climactic scene, as in North By Northwest, with our hero and the villain grappling on an iconic American landmark with the villain falling to his death (there’s a lot of gravity playing a role in Hitchcock films: these two, Vertigo, Rear Window). This film also resembles other early Hitchcock efforts (Notorious, The Lady Vanishes, The 39 Steps) involving Nazi spies and/or Fascist rings.

And as we noted with Battleground a week or two ago, the notion of fascists and/or authoritarian governments is nothing new. Here’s Hitchcock in 1942, when the Nazis were all over Europe and the U.S. (and Great Britain) were in dire straits, using a scene to fight for truth, freedom and the American way. The dashing villain in this scene is that era’s Mitch McConnell, the Koch brothers, Mike Pompeo and, of course, Donald Trump.

The Kid

….did it again. That’s eight in a row off Portugal’s 3-0 win versus Hungary. He moves to 19-7 and is now up a healthy $1,635.

Tonight he loves that Kawhi Leonard is out for the Clippers so with UTAH being at home, he likes the JAZZ minus-125. Risking $125 to win $100.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Don’t Mess With Texas B/C Texas Is A Mess

Remember, oh, a few months ago when Texas was TOO COLD and residents were burning furniture to stay warm because the grid was down and its GOP leadership was blaming it on wind turbines? Well, here we are a few months later and now Texas is TOO HOT and once again citizens are being asked to live as if they are in a third-world country (don’t do laundry or dishes, please).

Maybe Texas just has a major Goldilocks problem?

This is because Texas’ leadership wants to remain fiercely independent, which comes at a price to Texans when your leadership is also grossly incompetent, corrupt, misogynistic and ignorant. Funny how life works that way.

There are three states we’ve spent time in that seemed markedly different than the rest of the USA in terms of infrastructure, plumbing, road maintenance and just general functionality: Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Now what else do those three states have in common, you might ask?

Texas, unlike those other two states, has no excuse. It’s a wealthy state with tons of resources that has long been grossly mismanaged. Oh, but its high school football fields are the best in the nation.

Progressophobia

Forgot to include this yesterday, but it’s one of Bill Maher’s better “New Rules” essays. What I love about Maher, admire about him, is that he’s as likely to piss off the Far Left as he is the Far Right. Because he’s not about searching for affirmation or protection from either tribe. He’s about looking for the truth. And if you disagree with his truth, please just show us the facts. I think he’s spot-on here. If you disagree, tell us why.

Roger That

Here’s Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, a true rock god (whom we had the privilege of serving tequila shots back in 2012), going full-blast on the awfulness that has always been Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook.

The Last Frontier Rail

Did you know about the Alaska Railroad? You can fly your ass to Anchorage, the state’s largest city, and from there embark either north- or southbound. You can go by rail to Seward or to Fairbanks. You can even take it directly to Denali, home of the national park that is home to the highest peak in North America. The state of Alaska owns and operates the railroad, which actually covers relatively little ground in the entirety of The Last Frontier. The state understands its value both for freight and tourism.

It’s never been easier to explore this planet (with access to beer most of the way), and yet so many people are addicted to their laptops and home base. What would Jack London think?

The Kid

…Speaking of rails, train kept a’ rollin’, all night long… he improves to 18-7, seven straight wins, off last night’s Vegas shutout of Montreal. He’s at 18-7, a 72% win percentage, and up to $1,535.

Today he likes Portugal and confirmed aqua drinker Cristiano Ronaldo over Hungary in the EuroCup. That’s a -220 bet, so $100 to win and $220 to lose.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Ned’s Dead, Baby. Ned’s Dead.

Ned Beatty enters the ultimate transfer portal at age 83. An incredible character actor with an outstanding body of work, but let’s focus on two scenes that will live as long as people love movies. What makes them so powerful is that Beatty (no relation to Warren, who was born the same year) is playing two characters who could not be more opposite. The first, from Deliverance, is weak and literally gets raped—probably the most uncomfortable moment on screen in a major motion picture to that point in time (1970).

The latter is an all-mighty potentate, explaining to a charismatic TV host how the world actually works. From Network, 1975.

Two lines that will live forever: “Squeal like a pig!” and “And you will atone!” (only the latter was actually uttered by Beatty himself). So iconic is the latter cinema moment (both, actually) that Jimmy McGill reprises it in the premiere episode of Better Call Saul.

Djoker’s Wild

Down 1-0 to the greatest clay court player ever on Friday, Novak Djokovic rallied to win the final three sets at the French Open semis (the key moment was winning the third set tiebreak after squandering a 5-3 games lead). Then on Sunday, down 2-0, he rallied against 5th-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas and again won three straight sets.

The all-time men’s Grand Slams championships titles list now looks like this: Roger Federer, 20 (age 40); Rafael Nadal, 20 (age 35); Novak Djokovic, 19 (age 34). For us, this was the Djoker’s springboard triumph, the one that will allow him to finish atop this list.

Also, we should mention that UNSEEDED Barbora Krejcikova won the women’s title at the French. So Naomi or Serena basically gave one away.

Speaking of Serbian swingers, Nikola Jokic’s weekend in Denver began with pregame MVP presentation and ended with the above frustration swipe, drawing an immediate ejection.

So it was quite a Sunday for Serbian swingers.

Leave, Eriksen

On the second day of Euro Cup 2021, in a match between Scandinavian sides Denmark and Finland, Danish midfielder Christian Eriksen suddenly collapsed on the pitch. According to the team doctor, Eriksen “was gone” before being resuscitated with a defibrillator. At the time, in the match’s 43rd minute, neither side’s players know if Eriksen had expired for good or no when they were asked whether or not they wished to continue the match. No one should have put them in that position.

Eriksen has recovered and is in stable condition. Denmark lost, 1-0.

Graze Autonomy

Finally, a good idea: one that will promote both tourism and wild animal welfare.

The Interstate 80 bridge that connects Illinois and Iowa across the Mississippi River is in poor shape (related: it’s always infrastructure week) and needs to be replaced. It’ll cost $20 million to tear it down. So Chad Pregracke has a better idea: you’ve got to build a new bridge anyway, so why not keep the existing bridge intact and allow it to be used as a bridge for bison to cross so that they may graze in either state (would a buffalo toll be one bill?).

Pregracke agrees that his idea is crazy, but so crazy that it might just work. A bison bridge would draw tourists to the area and it would also save the cost of having to tear down a bridge that would have a practical purpose.

Welcome To The Internet

We’d been hearing some of the tweeps push the “High Praise” button on Bo Burnham’s new comedy special, Inside, which he basically wrote, produced and performed from wherever he was safe-spacing. So we thought, Okay, we’ll give it a short listen and… WOW. The lyrics here are brilliant, as is the entire performance.

It’s as if there’s an American-born Tim Minchin out there. You’ll want to listen to these lyrics more than once.

Check, Please

Three years later, we’re still a little mystified as to why Anthony Bourdain killed himself (June 8, 2018). Few humans appeared to have a better life and few seemed to have more of a passion for it. Bourdain, the 6’4″ chef-author-adventurist, was living the dream with his shows No Reservations (The Travel Channel) and Parts Unknown (CNN). He seemed like the guy you’d want to sit down and have a beer, or better yet, a meal with. I always thought of him as the Lou Reed of chefs: totally New York, totally a rock star, totally feral, and with a dark side just under the surface.

Next month a documentary about Bourdain’s life and death, The Roadrunner, will be released. July 16th. Can’t wait.

The Kid

…. keeps rolling. He won with the Pirates on Friday to move to 17-7 with a bank roll of $1,435. What will he do next?

Tonight, he wants to keep the win streak alive with VEGAS minus-250 versus Montreal in the Stanley Cup playoffs. That’s $100 if Vegas wins and a loss of $250 if Montreal wins.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

When The Schiff Hits The Fan

In today’s episode of “Banana Republicans” we learn that Donald Trump had William Barr subpoena Democratic congressmen Adam Schiff’s and Eric Swallwell’s data from Apple. And Tim Cook handed it over.

This would seem like an absurdly gross misuse of power, no? Particularly since there was no evidence of any crime being committed. What was taking place is that Schiff was the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee investigating leaks about the White House and Russia.

As an aside, there’s no person in the world keeping a better secret than the American translator who was in the room with Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. Whatever communication passed between those two world leaders in Helsinki in the summer of 2018 is invaluable.

Kamala Harris, here a senator, asked the right question but erred in letting Bill Barr off the hook. She should have remained silent and waited, as uncomfortably long as it took, to get a response.

It Goes To 12

College football has now decided to go from a 4-team playoff to a 12-team playoff. Guess what? Relative to the 4-team playoff, we are in favor of this (we’d return to the old system of the two top-ranked teams at year’s end and bowls and Brent Musburger and/or Keith Jackson, but that’s us). With one YUUUUGE caveat: you shouldn’t be asking the best players in college football to play two to three extra games, with exponentially higher risk of injury, without compensating them. That’s just unethical.

Al-CAT-raz

This is a fascinating story about people, the pandemic and pussycats. Here on Isla Fuhrtada, a small island off Brazil’s coast, live 100s of mostly abandoned cats. They are mostly feral now. What exactly they are eating, I don’t know. Maybe they should become pen pals with that elephant herd in China.

I think they could start charging cat lovers to visit the island and then use the proceeds to leave Nine Lives cans all over the island. Works for us.

The SuperFriends

or

or

Clay Mation/Machine

In a few hours from now as the MH staff pecks this out, Rafael Nadal will be taking on Novak Djokovic in the French Open semifinal. A few notes, via The Kid…

—Nadal is 105-2 all-time in matches at the French

—Nadal has only dropped 22 sets in those 107 matches, or about one per five matches.

—Should Nadal beat Djokovic and win the final, he will surpass Roger Federer for the most Grand Slams in a career (21 to 20). Djokovic has 18. However, there are those who will always consider this mark somewhat dubious. Why? Because currently 13 of Nadal’s 20 career Grand Slams were won in Paris. He is the King of Clay, unassailable. But while he has won at least one of each of the other three Grand Slams, he’s not been anywhere near as dominant.

–No matter where Djokovic and Federer end up on the all-time list, and there guess here is 1st and 3rd respectively, Nadal is the greatest player on clay ever. Not even close. Whether he’s the greatest tennis player of all time is a matter of opinion. There will be those who will never shake from Fed. Djokovic will likely end up with the most Grand Slams and yet also the fewest fervent acolytes of the trio.

Say It Ain’t So, Bo

1989: “Bo Knows”

2021: “Bo Knew”

The news coming out this week about Bo Schembechler, arguably the most iconic coach (after Fielding Yost?) in Michigan football history, is truly disturbing. Some are saying it’s worse than the Joe Paterno news and that may be accurate. If you’re not up on what’s happening, read here. And remember that it’s Bo’s stepson making these allegations, with first-hand knowledge of being a victim as a child.

One suggested reason as to why coach Bo Schembechler never blew the whistle on Dr.Robert Anderson, why in fact he lobbied to have him reinstated: control (see our Vlad Putin item above). When you’ve got the goods on someone else’s sexual perversions, you can get them to do what you want.

Somewhere in heaven (or elsewhere), Woody Hayes’ spirit is saying, “All I ever did was punch a player on national TV.”

Hidden Figure

Her name was Judith Love Cohen. Born in Brooklyn in 1933, she excelled at both math and ballet. In college, she was the only female in her engineering classes and also dancing in the Metropolitan Opera Ballet. She moved to Los Angeles, where her dance career ended but she was the only woman in her engineering classes at USC.

She worked at TRW, an engineering firm, for more than 30 years. Her most important project was the Abort-Guidance System, which was used to get the Apollo 13 astronauts back home safely in 1970. A few months earlier she had given birth to actor Jack Black. Yes, this dude…

Pretty cool, eh?

The Kid...

…. is hot tonight! The world, is hot tonight! But where will he be tomorrooooooooow?

The Kid wins his fifth straight, I believe, to move to 16-7 and $1,335. He liked Vegas last night and they beat Colorado 6-3. You’d think he’d be up more than $335 for having won roughly 70% of his picks.

We’ll see if he gives us a call today. His favorite athlete is Rafael Nadal and he claims to have made boatloads of juju betting Rafa at the French Open over the years, so he might be incommunicado this morning.

UPDATE: The Kid likes MILWAUKEE (35-27) -270 against Pittsburgh (23-38) in the Senior Circuit. To win, $100. To lose, $270. The Brewers put Brandon Woodruff and his 1.42 ERA on the hill at home.

THERE IS NO “TRY.” THERE IS ONLY “DO”

by John Walters

I saw something late last night, I believe it was during Brian Williams’ “The 11th Hour” broadcast, that said Democrats would continue trying to persuade Republicans to quit obstructing every initiative of President Biden’s simply on the basis that they’re his.

There is no try, as everyone’s favorite little green man, Yoda, once said. There is only do.

Mitch McConnell, who may be the most evil man ever to occupy a chair in the U.S. Senate, understands this. Democrats still do no.

Yesterday the transcripts of former White House counsel Don McGahn’s testimony from Friday were released (McGahn negotiated a deal in which he’d only testify if it was not televised, because he’s smart enough to know that his words would then live forever in infamy on YouTube). McGahn, in case you missed it, testified that his boss, Donny Trump, had ordered him to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the midst of his investigation. McGahn chose not to do so, explaining that such a maneuver would be a textbook example of obstruction of justice, the very thing that Mueller was investigating.

Then, when word leaked, Trump wanted McGahn to write a release saying that it was he, McGahn, who wanted to fire Mueller and that Trump had nothing to do with it. That Trump had never ordered this. A direct and outright lie, confirmed by one of the two men involved.

This on top of listening to tapes, released earlier this week, in which Rudy Giuliani explicitly states the “quid pro quo” that Trump wants from the Ukraine. And then Trump went out publicly and said, “No quid pro quo.”

I don’t know how many more pieces of evidence anyone needs to see that Trump is an outright crook and that Republicans are hell-bent on destroying democracy in exchange for returning to power. And, having learned their lessons from the past four years, never relinquishing it again short of an outright war.

Democrats cannot just try. They must do. If that means putting Donald Trump in shackles now and worrying about the ramifications later, do it. If that means openly investigating every last aspect of January 6th and holding the powerful people (in Congress and in the White House) accountable, do it. If that means telling McConnell and Joe Manchin to go f*ck themselves and pressing ahead with legislation anyway, do it.

You’ve got the will of the majority of the American people on your side, do not squander it. There is no try. There is only do.

On this same Brian Williams’ telecast last night a former U.S. Attorney, I believe her name was Joyce Vance, argued the merits of Attorney General Merrick Garland opting against prosecuting Trump with, “If we begin prosecuting former presidents, we’re going to look like a banana republic.” Dear Ms. Vance. See the picture below. We’re already there.