IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Starting Five

50 Days

This weekend Saturday Night Live re-broadcast the episode from February 29, hosted by John Mulaney. As I write this, on Sunday, that was 50 days ago. It’s a fantastic show, with a cold open featuring all the donkey candidates —earlier that day Joe Biden had won the South Carolina primary and turned the direction of the Democratic race—and a vintage Mulaneylogue below:

The date also is significant because it was the first reported domestic death, in Washington, of an American from the coronavirus (you may recall that our fearless leader got the victim’s sex wrong… he had a 50/50 chance, and he got it wrong).

Anyway, the show was well aware of the coronavirus —it’s the subtext of the cold open and is heavily featured in “Weekend Update,” where guest commentator Michael Redd signs off cheekily with “Remember, black people can’t get coronavirus”— but who among the general population then really had any idea just how devastating it would be?

We’re 50 days removed from that episode, which also featured David Byrne and his shoeless troupe performing “Once In A Lifetime” (“My God, what have I done?” seems particularly applicable to you, Mr. President) and the genius “Airport Sushi” sketch (“Profiled Asian/Standing besides you…”) by the time you read this, at least 35,000 Americans will have died in those 50 days from coronavirus.

So when someone from Fox News or someone who watches Fox News or some psychologist who calls himself “Dr.” and appears on Fox News reminds you how many Americans a year die of the flu or from car crashes, remind them that neither are currently contagious and that this was 35,000 in 50 days. From a pandemic that, while not totally preventable, would have likely been cut at least in half if the White House had been paying attention earlier than Lorne Michaels’ cast was.

Give ‘Em Hell, Vic

This is Vic DiBitetto, who is a comic and the answer to the question, “What if Andrew Dice Clay and Sebastian Maniscalco had a baby?” A furiously funny four minutes here, all the more so because everything he’s saying is spot-on. And what a relief not to have to add, “NSFW,” not that we ever used to.

An Extraordinary Life

Beard’s J. Crew model good looks were just a small part of the package

Few men lived a richer life than wildlife (and model) photographer Peter Beard, who went missing on the last day of March from his Montauk home and whose remains were found in the woods not far away this past weekend. Beard, 82, had been suffering from dementia.

A child of affluence in Manhattan, Beard lived the type of existence that New Yorker features (and Amor Towles novels) were made for. His uncle is rumored to have invented the tuxedo. Beard, with movie-star looks and charm, started out at Yale as a pre-med but then switched to art (probably following a chemistry exam) and made an expedition to Africa while still in his teens. He would be forever charmed by the Dark Continent and become a fierce protagonist for wildlife.

The cover of Beard’s landmark photography book from the Sixties

He was also a man of his time. Beard loved models—he discovered Iman on the streets of Nairobi—and even married one: Cheryl Tiegs. They lasted four years.

Beard was even gored in the leg by a stampeding elephant once, and lived to tell about it. He was the kind of guy who photographed deadly creatures and partied with Keith Richards and Andy Warhol: he was equally at home with rhinos, winos and albinos.

If life is a ride, Peter Beard damn well got his money’s worth. Rest in happiness.

Bulls On Parade

There was only one. And we knew it at the time.

ESPN’s 10-part series on Michael Jordan and the 1990s Chicago Bulls was supposed to air after the NBA season, and I guess it is. It’s just that the air date was moved up by about seven weeks. The first episode premiered on Sunday night (after we wrote this), so we’ll wait to see. Our close friend from the first week of college, Marty Burns, was a colleague at Sports Illustrated at the time who had an innate knowledge of the south side of Chicago, his home, and all things Bulls and Jordan.

Marty learned quickly that the way to find out what was happening with the Bulls was to talk to the team’s old man, assistant coach Tex Winter. And Marty’s the kind of sportswriter athletes and coaches know they can trust implicitly. He’s genuine. Mister Burns, as we fondly call him, did a lot of great work on the Bulls in the 90s. I’m sure he’ll be tuned in to this.

Personal zeitgeist ’90s moment: It’s moments before Game 4 of the 1996 NBA Finals in the Key Arena in Seattle. The Bulls are up 3-0 on the Sonics and I’m there to do a piece on Bob Costas for Entertainment Weekly. I’m walking on the court, along the sideline, as the teams are warming up. About 10 feet away to my right, Michael Jordan is shooting jumpers. Ten feet in the other direction, Eddie Vedder is standing along the sideline, talking to someone. I could feel the vortex of greatness surging through me. Alas, it didn’t take.

Death of a Trump Truther

In this weekend’s New York Times, a timely piece on the death of longtime Bay Ridge (Brooklyn) bar owner Joe Joyce (above, left, in a photo from the late 1970s). The owner of popular local establishment JJ Bubbles since 1977, Joyce didn’t buy all the panic about the coronavirus. He was a loyal Fox News watcher, after all.

So Joe and his wife set sail on a Mediterranean cruise, with ports of call in Spain, on March 14. By April 9 Joyce, 74, had died from the virus.

Although, having read the piece, I think the most devastating aspect of the story is that JJ Bubbles has been in business for more than 40 years even though it only has Bud and Bud Light on tap.

Music 101

This version of David Bowie’s “Life On Mars” by Postmodern Jukebox is so good that we thought we’d add it. Stick around after three minutes to see what our chanteuse, Olivia Kuper Harris, can do vocally besides sing.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Good Read: “The Age of Coddling Is Over” by David Brooks

Starting Five

King Of The Jungle Road*

*The judges will also accept “Lyin’ Lions” and “Pride Goeth Before A Fall”

Go on NapQuest this morning and you’ll see a photo of a pride of lions napping fitfully in a road in South Africa. Amidst all the deaths of the pandemic, the upside is FEWER HUMANS out and about, which means less traffic. Even where I am, I’ve noticed the uptick in animals out and about. They must be wondering about this wonderful new world they’re living in, but they sure seem to be adjusting well. And quickly.

TCM Classic Weekend (At Home)

TCM’s 11th annual “Classic Movie Weekend” was to be held in Hollywood over the next few days, but circumstances have prevented that. Still, Ted Turner’s cable channel is hosting a home version of the event and the best part of that for you and I is a spate of classic films.

You don’t have the NBA playoffs to watch. No parties or bars to go to. You can only watch “Tiger King” or “The Crown” so many times. Here’s your chance to go to film school. You may even enjoy it. And Ben Mankiewicz, well, he’s the host with the most. Here’s the highlights of the Friday through Sunday schedule, with an asterisk next to films we’ve seen (so you’ll know when we’re b.s.’in’ you.

FRIDAY (all times Eastern)

Marilyn and Tony

3 p.m. North By Northwest* (1959): If not the best Hitchcock film (it’s in the top two), certainly the sexiest, with Cary Grant and Eva Marie-Saint.

5 p.m. Some Like It Hot* (1959): Men in drag has never been done more deftly, and Tony Curtis shines basically playing three different characters (he did not win the Oscar, only a Tony award). Jack Lemmon’s two top films this decade end with a one-liner aboard a boat.

10 p.m. Deliverance* (1972): Seriously, where did they find those locals? That kid on the bridge? Burt Reynolds and Jon Voight are about to own the Seventies.

SATURDAY

“Are you sure there’s film in the camera?”

12 a.m. The Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954): B-movie horror classic.

1:15 p.m. Safety Last (1923): Harold Lloyd hangs from a giant clock 10 storie above traffic. Stunt man? I don’t need no stunt man.

5:45 p.m. Network * (1976): Somebody felt bad for Ned Beatty after Deliverance and handed him a leviathan scene to show off all-encompassing power.

8 p.m. Casablanca* (1942): There are three films that everyone must see and then quote from: The Godfather (I and II) and this. Trust us, you’ll enjoy it.

11:45 p.m. Night And The City (1950) Stumble down Noir Alley and find Eddie Mueller hosting this gem, shot on location in London, starring Richard Widmark and the lustrous Gene Tierney.

SUNDAY

10 a.m. Lawrence of Arabia* (1962) The quintessential desert epic with Peter O’Toole in the role of a lifetime. He’s even more beautiful than the Arabic landscape.

6 p.m. Singin’ In The Rain* (1952) Probably the funniest, snappiest and many would also add best of the Hollywood musicals.

9:45 p.m. The Hustler (1961): Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason and an eight ball.

J.T. : Just Transferring

Not a surprise, but J.T. Daniels the then freshman quarterback at USC about whom all the ESPN announcers raved in 2018, has entered the transfer portal. Daniels suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first half of the Trojans’ first game, versus Fresno State, last September. Three-star freshman Kedon Slovis stepped in and promptly earned Pac-12 Freshman of the Year honors. And deserved them.

No word on where Daniels, an Orange County kid, is headed. But this is the right move for him.

George Versus Germs

The late George Carlin had some very pointed words about germs, deadly viruses and preparing your immune system.

Sports Year 1876

An Opening Day to open all opening days. In what is a leap year, sports take a quantum leap forward with the formation, on February 2nd, of the National League in Chicago. All present agree to mark the sport’s history from this time forward.

It is an eventful year, this centennial year, in American history: Alexander Graham Bell places the first phone call, Anheuser Busch begins manufacturing suds, and George Custer leads his men into an ambush in the hills of South Dakota.

But as for baseball, the opening Opening Day takes place on April 22 in Philadelphia. The Boston Red Stockings defeat the Athletics 6-5 on a Saturday at the Jefferson Street Grounds (bounded, for you Philadelphians and/or fans of sports lore, by 25th and 27th Streets on the east and west, and Jefferson and Master Streets on the north and south. It was not supposed to be MLB’s stand-alone game that day, but all other games were rained out, so it now has the distinction of being the first Major League Baseball game.

In August, or September, Walter Camp enrolls at Yale. He will become the central figure in the history of college football.

The Chicago White Stockings, managed by our old pal Al Spalding (who will also pitch) will win the inaugural National League pennant with a 52-14 record. The league’s seven other squads, in order of finish: the Hartford Dark Blues, St. Louis Brown Stockings, Boston Red Stockings, Louisville Grays, New York Mutuals and Cincinnati Reds (who finish 9-56). The Mutuals and A’s skip their final few games of the season, as they are both competitively and financially in over their heads.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Starting Five

30 for ’20

Did someone say 30,000 deaths in the United States? They will be day’s end.

It was only eight days ago that the staggering total was still below 15,000. It will have doubled in little more than a week. Or, as the President said more than one week ago, “A lot of death.”

Where does it end? Far too soon to tell, of course.

Meanwhile, in yesterday’s edition of “TCM Versus Today,” we watched No Way Out: the Sydney Poitier/Richard Widmark version from 1950, not the Kevin Costner/Sean Young version from 1987 (entirely different stories). In the 1950 version, Poitier is a young black doctor—the actor was only 22 when he landed the role and lied to the producer that he was 27 to land the part—who works on two criminal siblings, the Biddle brothers, who’ve just been shot in a robbery attempt. One of them dies and the other, played by Widmark (who probably sets a record, not since topped by a white actor, for the most uses of the N-word in one film), decides to blame Poitier for intentionally trying to kill his brother.

The plot then centers on Poitier attempting to have an autopsy done while Widmark refuses to let him do it: ostensibly because he doesn’t want his brother cut open “like a chunk of wood” but really because he’d rather remain ignorant and continue to blame the “n_____r doctor.” At one point his sister-in-law, the dead man’s wife, literally asks, “But why don’t you want to let them do the tests?” and he replies, “Because I have the answer right here (and points to his skull).”

Remember when Trump, only a week ago, said, “This is my metric?” It was that all over again.

Who needs cable news when you have TCM? Widmark, by the way, was fantastic and truly loathsome in this role.

Covid Comes Back

The headline that most caught our eyes this morning? The fact that in South Korea, 140 people who recovered from Covid-19 contracted it again. This ain’t the chicken pox, and it opens up some questions people may not want to consider.

If Covid-19 can recur in people, then what are we all supposed to do between now and Vaccine Day, which is likely still a year away? So you stay indoors and/or away from other humans for a month or three, but when we reemerge, then what? Everyone who has had it and recovered is probably just as likely to get it again. It’s like, Okay, stay away from the people with cooties until they recover… but even once they do recover, we are ALL just as likely to get the cooties again, both those of us who’ve never had it and those who have. So it’s not as if waiting those people out reduces the number of potential sufferers one iota. They’re all still in the pool with the rest of us.

A prediction: eventually the White House and business leaders are going to decide that the curve has flattened enough. And here’s the lynch pin: The NFL . If there is any public event business that can override shelter in place, it is The Shield. And they will. The NFL will play this autumn. Because at a certain point the potentates of this nation will understand that until a vaccine arrives, no shelter-in-place method is going to work unless it stays in effect until the vaccine. For the reasons outlined above: People who have had Covid and recovered are just as susceptible to catching it again, and you’re never going to get it down to zero patients, thus by separating those who’ve had from those who haven’t you’re not really doing anything effective once you let the former back into the population once they’ve recovered.

It’s an ALL or NOTHING proposition until the vaccine arrives. And I don’t think our “leaders” will have that much patience… with patients. We’ll see.

Rebounding From March 23rd

Speaking of rebounds, Wes Unseld

Yesterday CNBC posted a headline about bleak earnings reports and in its sub hed used a quote from a financier saying, “The economy is in ruins.”

Certain sectors, certainly. But as Mark Haines of CNBC called the 2008-2009 market bottom on March 9 (I believe, may be a day off) in real time, we wonder (using hindsight) if the market bottom hasn’t already hit: on March 23, 2020.

Let’s look at where a few stocks were on that day and where they are since:

United Health (UNH): March 23, $195, April 16: $286 UP 47%

Apple (AAPL): $212 to $285 UP 34%

Amazon (AMZN): $1,827 to $2,391 UP 31%

Question: Who among us had the temerity to go ALL IN and be bullish on March 23rd (I didn’t)? How many of us/you are up even 30% since that day? These are not tiny companies, in fact they’re Nos. 13, 2 and 3 respectively by market cap. You didn’t need to search far and wide to find them.

Of course, it’s easy to call a market bottom three weeks after the fact. Do we have any answers/insights? Our only suggestion, and that’s all it is, is that in this period of volatility, on a day when things are going well, it might not be the worst idea to sell and be very liquid. Wait for another awful day or spate of them. Does that make you a day trader? Perhaps.

Anyway, do what’s best for you. We’re just here to point out what has been happening, best we are able.

Earlier this morning Jim Cramer asked on CNBC, “Has Amazon become a small country now?” He noted this in the wake that Amazon has hired more people in the past month than anyone—as most companies are firing workers—and continues to do so. A Barclay’s banker says he’d rather own Amazon now than any other stock. So would we.

From “Gooooooooal!” To “Gooooo!”

We haven’t wanted to say much about SI’s unceremonious firing of Grant Wahl and we’re completely glad we’re off Twitter for moments such as this. I’ve known Grant since he started at SI and we’ve always been friendly, at the very least collegial. We played on the same SI hoops team [our best players? John O’Keefe, who could’ve played D3, easily, and Steve Rushin, who’s too talented in too many areas of life…it’s downright maddening 🙂 ] for a few years and I was always impressed by how intelligent this Princeton grad is. His wife, Dr. Celine Gounder, whom you now are able to see on MSNBC and CNN advising about the pandemic as an NYU epidemiologist, used to watch our games as a medical resident. She obviously had better ways of spending her time, but she still attended those games.

A couple of items: I recall watching the epic Champions League final of 1999 at an Upper East Side bar with three friends. They were: Grant, Rushin (SI’s greatest Anglophile and a soccer fan) and Jeff Bradley, an SI alum by that time and yes, the younger brother of Bob. I’m pretty sure I have the squad correct. It says something about where soccer coverage was in the USA then that we were all watching in a bar together. Jeff was writing soccer for espn.com at that point and Grant was about to be SI’s voice of soccer for the next two decades. Steve could’ve been had he wanted, as he was SI’s singular talent in all walks and still in his early 30s. That was the match in which Bayern led 1-0 until injury time, during which Manchester United scored 2 goals and stole the match away. It was my international soccer baptism.

Anyway, I remember that day. I remember nine years later pitching Grant on the idea —I had since moved to NBC and we were both in Beijing for the Olympics— of a nightly Olympic soccer roundup called… wait for it… The Grant Wahl of China. Grant was enthusiastic, my broadcast talent, Mary Carillo, was enthusiastic, but someone higher up at NBC was not as fond of puns as I, and it never happened. Alas….

Anyway, I don’t know what happened between SI and Grant. I certainly don’t begrudge any writer making a living, a healthy living, but relative to the times and to the beat, that salary was ginormous. And I recall myself being a 12-year veteran at SI and speaking up when I thought things were unfair. And paying a price for it. Was I right? Probably. Did it matter? No.

I was fortunate enough to have SI take me back. Twice.

Grant will be fine. And he did as much as any writer in the past 20 years to promote the sport in the U.S. While traveling the world and living a pretty fabulous life doing so. As time passes, hopefully he’ll remember that. And somehow I’m sure he’ll be at the next World Cup, even if they still stage it in the midst of a Lawrence of Arabia set.

Sports Year 1875

On November 13, the inaugural edition of “The Game” between Harvard and Yale is played in New Haven. The Crimson prevail 4-0 under their modified rugby rules and are named national champion.

The inaugural running of the Kentucky Derby sees Aristides in the winner’s circle.

The Derby would be run at 1 1/2 miles until 1896

In “association football,” a new practice known as heading the ball is introduced by players on Sheffield FC. Also, a player on Sheffield, Billy Mosforth, becomes renowned for being able to “bend” his shot. Bend It Like Billy?

The Boston Red Stockings go 71-8 and are champions of the National Association of Professional Baseball Players for a fourth consecutive season. Al Spalding goes 54-5 on the mound. The association will shorten its name to “National League” before next season.

Willie Park, Sr., wins the British Open one year after his brother, Mungo, had won. It was Willie’s fourth Open title, including in the event’s inaugural year, 1860. Park, a tall and handsome Scot, would have 10 children.

Meanwhile, our old friend Young Tom Morris meets Death’s gaze on Christmas day. It is a terrible and tragic year for the other four-time Open champ. On September 11, he and his namesake father (the third four-time Open champ) were playing a team match versus Willie and Mungo Park (really) at North Berwick when Young Tom got a telegram that his pregnant wife was having a difficult labor. Wikipedia notes that they finished the last two holes of the match (shame!), then hurried home by ship up the coast but by the time they arrived both wife and child were dead. Broken-hearted, Young Tom died four months later on Christmas day at the age of 24.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Starting Five

The Rx Is XX

What do the most successful nations fighting the coronavirus have in common?

Let’s look at some of the numbers first:

–New Zealand, four deaths.

–Taiwan, six deaths.

–Iceland, eight deaths.

Germany has 3,254 deaths, but its mortality rate for those stricken is below 3%, far lower than France, Italy or Spain, all western European neighbors with mortality rates above 10%. Long ago, in early February German chancellor Angela Merkel warned her nation that the coronavirus would infect up to 70% of the population. “It’s serious,” Merkel said. “Let’s take it seriously.”

Then she instituted testing. Immediately.

Iceland’s leader

What do these countries have in common? From New Zealand (Jacinda Arden, above) to Iceland (Katrin Jakobsdottir) to Taiwan (Tsai Ing-Wen), they all have female leaders. Who warns you about catching a cold: mom or dad? Who’s there when you do catch cold, mom or dad?

We almost had a female leader. Thanks, Pennsylvania. And Michigan. And Wisconsin.

The Man Who Never Was

I have this recurring observation as I watch old films on TCM the past few years. Invariably, someone will be talking about Donald Trump, not by name of course, even though the film was released anywhere from 85 to 50 years ago. Happened again last night as I was watching The Man Who Never Was, a 1956 film based on the true story that is detailed in the book Operation Mincemeat. It’s all about how the British fooled the Germans into thinking a planted dead soldier with phony invasion plans was the real deal.

Fast forward to a scene from inside the Third Reich, a conversation between two German intelligence officers, one of them an admiral. Thanks to IMDB, we can re-create it in full here:

Admiral: “Well?

Intelligence: “There’s nothing new from Madrid, Admiral. The Führer has told his conference that the documents are undoubtedly genuine.”

Admiral: “You mean HE doesn’t doubt them.”

Intelligence: “He’s quite sure.

Admiral: “The Führer, of course, has certain advantages over mere intelligence officers like you and me, Frederick. He has his intuition, whereas we have to rely on our brains. And he’s sure God is on his side.”

Intelligence: “But you are not?”

Admiral: ” I do not believe that God is on my side to the extent of sending me the enemy’s plans.

Sound like anyone we know?

The Great Yogi

I’ve started searching out classic Sports Illustrated stories to fill quiet moments of late. A few nights ago I found this gem from Roy Blount, Jr., in 1984. Not only is everything about it perfect, including the cover photo (Walter Iooss, of course) and the header (double entendre, but clean), but Blount’s prose is a joy. He mixes anecdotes and insights with just the right amount of glibness and respect.

Two humorous anecdotes stood out for me: the Gracie Mansion story and the check signed from Jack Buck. You’ll have to read the piece to learn the details.

However, the story that I know will stay with me is not particularly Yogi-esque but quite illuminating. Berra is the guest of honor at a father-son banquet in St. Louis where the kids will be given autographed bats and balls. In the corner are a group of boys sitting alone. Berra inquires as to who they are and is told they’re from a local orphanage. He asks if they’re getting bats and balls, too, and is told that it seemed that it was honor enough for them just to be there. Yogi promptly walks over to their table, plops a seat, and spends the rest of the evening in their company.

We always loved Yogi. And this is just one more reason why.

P.S. I also got a kick out of this Q & A with Blount from six years ago. For those of us who worked at SI, these words (again, from one of the most talented writers ever to work there) ring true:

 I think it [the story] was the magazine’s idea. Whoever the outside text editor was at the time [Myra Gelband] might have called me about it. They would usually suggest it. If it was their idea they’d think it was a good idea. If it was my idea, they’d say “Well…”

One year they called me and said, “Do you want to go to [Cubs] fantasy camp?” If I’d called up and said, “I want to go to fantasy camp” they’d say, “Well, so does everybody.”

Sign Posted

This hangs in the men’s room where I work. Thought I’d share it.

Sports Year 1874

Spalding’s W-L record in 1874? 52-16

The Victoria Hockey Club, the first known organized hockey squad (amateur), is formed in Montreal. Canadians immediately begin staying home on Saturday nights even though television sets are still more than a half-century away… Harvard and McGill play two games resembling football, or at least that’s what they call it, in May in Cambridge. The Crimson win the first 2-0 and the second game ends in a scoreless tie… Mungo Park is not the name of a rugby pitch in Sheffield but rather of this year’s British Open champion… The Boston Red Stockings win their third consecutive National Association of Professional Baseball Players championship. This league, the precursor of the National League, will exist from 1871-1875.

The Red Stockings, formed in 1871 after the dissolution of the Cincinnati Red Stockings in 1869, were the product of a pair of brothers who had been on the former team and relocated to New England. They are Harry and George Wright–yes, the Wright brothers, but not those Wright Brothers— and the team’s pitching ace is Al Spalding, who will go on to greater fortune (and fame) as the founder of Spalding sporting goods.

This Boston team, despite the name, will go on not to be the Red Sox of today but the Braves. They are the oldest continuous baseball team in existence (the Cubs were founded the same year but did not play in 1871 or 1872 thanks to Mrs. O’Leary’s cow).

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Starting Five

Portly Authority

We don’t watch the Trump Pressers (The T.P. America doesn’t need), first of all, because we have two real jobs taking our time (humblebrag #NeitherPaysAllThatWell) and second, because we’d rather die of Covid-19 than from high blood pressure.

But apparently, Monday’s Fourth Reich briefing was a real doozy with Trump claiming that he had “total authority” (like a fuhrer) and then becoming furious when a “really nasty” female reporter kept pressing him on how much fiddling he was doing as America began to burn in February.

Trump also showed a propaganda video — enjoy it, America, you paid for it—showing how he did “everything right” even as the U.S. death totals surged to more than 23,600, some 3,000 ahead of Italy. If Trump were running the coronavirus response the way he did his businesses, he would have already filed for bankruptcy.

Saul’in’ For Time

This is the last time I let you talk me into doing the Badwater Triathlon

The penultimate episode of the best season thus far of Better Call Saul was one for us viewers to catch our breaths and cleanse that piss from our palates. Last week was epic and next week’s season finale may offer a human sacrifice— it’s not looking good for Nacho, who only does everything a loyal soldier and son should… maybe he should’ve taken out Lalo when he had the chance near the well?

The theme of this week’s episode, if not the entire series, and they repeated it in case anyone wasn’t paying attention, is that we all make choices and that those choices lead us down a road… a road we cannot ever fully turn back from. We’ve long subscribed to this ethos? Good people, bad people? Not so much, although there are a few on either side. Most of us are just decent people who in the thrill of the moment make a choice, sometimes not wisely, sometimes without a clear head, sometimes taking more risk than we know we ought. Is that how we always are? Maybe, maybe not.

We are all — Jimmy McGill, Mike Ehrmentraut, Kim Wexler, you, me— a product of the decisions we’ve made. Some matter more than others. We seldom realize how impactful some of them are at the moment we make them. I’ll think about that while I’m at work tomorrow. 🙂

RIP XFL

Also killed by the coronavirus: The XFL. Little did we know when we spent the first weekend of March tuning into four XFL contests for a Sports Illustrated story that we’d be watching the final weekend of the league’s existence. Six weeks. Not a bad run, but the XFL simply couldn’t stay afloat financially because of the virus. It filed for bankruptcy today, owing an awful lot of people an awful lot of money.

Here again is where you have to give Donald Trump credit. Some 35 or so years ago he helped kill off the first spring football league, the USFL. Now he helped destroy another.

The Clean Air Virus

Those mountains in the distance are normally not viewable from this spot

We went for a bike ride on Easter Sunday. We climbed to the top of a nearby promontory which put us about 50 to 100 foot above most of this area of the southeast Valley. We looked around. And what we saw blew us away.

Sometimes in the Valley of the Sun, after a particularly rollicking rain storm or monsoon, the skies will clear here and locals will see mountains at the northern edge of the Superstitions or north of Carefree, or even south beyond the San Tans, that they don’t ordinarily see. But it hasn’t rained in Phoenix, really rained, in more than two weeks.

So what was it? A Resurrection glow? We think it was two to three weeks of very little traffic and we have to say, It looks MAH-velous. Hate what the coronavirus is doing to individuals and how it is taxing health-care workers. Love what it is doing for the environment. We don’t need Big Oil. And the virus is illuminating how much better of a planet this will be without it.

Of course there is something ironic about a disease that robs its victims of the ability to breathe being responsible for such clean air, now isn’t there?

Sports Year 1873

Mike McCoole

At a hotel on 5th Avenue, representatives of the four major football schools (sorry, Stevens Tech) meet on October 19 and codify college football rules for the first time.

For the first time ever, the British Open is contested at St. Andrews. And the Claret Jug is bequeathed to the winner who, for the first time in four years, is not Young Tom Morris, but rather Tom Kidd. So, still a Tom and still implying youth, but different.

The Toronto Argonauts football club is formed for reasons that are not entirely clear. This is like inventing the space suit right after the Wright Brothers arrived home from Kitty Hawk.

The two big heavyweights, Mike McCoole and Tom Allen, meet outside of St. Louis on Chateau Island. Allen prevails in 7 rounds in a bare-knuckle bout.

The year only goes downhill from there for McCoole, who arrested for the shooting and murder of another pugilist, Patsy Manley. McCoole is acquitted when none of the witnesses show up to testify, but his career is over, his saloon soon closes, and while he avoids being sent up the river, he does move down the river to New Orleans, where he will work until his death in 1886.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Starting Five

Dow: 23,419

U.S. Covid-19 Deaths: 22,115

Those are the numbers as of this moment. When the bottom number surpasses the top number, Donald is gonna be angry. Oh, he’s already angry? We hear that he retweeted someone last night calling for Dr. Fauci to be fired. You may recall that we urged Dr. Fauci to quit two to three weeks ago. America will still listen to him. He can go sit in at Andrew Cuomo’s pressers. What’s up, doc? You are.

Also, the first sailor from the U.S.S. Roosevelt’s 500 or so who contracted coronavirus has died. Remember the ship’s commanding officer was fired —FIRED—for raising a stink about this a week or two ago.

By George, I Think He’s Got It*

*The judges will not accept “Good Mourning, America”

News out of Disney is that Good Morning, America co-host George Stephanopoulos has contracted the coronavirus, which is not surprising as his wife, Ali Wentworth (“No, you’re schmoopie!”, came down with it a week or two ago. Ali: “High fever. Horrific body aches. Heavy chest. I am quarantined from my family. This is pure misery… never been sicker.”

Down goes Ali!

Stephanopoulos is asymptomatic thus far. But if he passes it to Robin Roberts, we’re going to have a problem.

Saturday Night Home

With an assist from Tom Hanks, hosting from his kitchen, and musical guest Chris Martin, SNL staged a show Saturday night. The cast members did so from their homes and America learned that… Colin Jost has been lifting.

Anyway, from what we saw Larry David‘s Bernie Sanders was spot-on again (David never got on air as a writer for the show in the early ’80s and now he’s its most indispensable male member) and Michael Che and Colin Jost had us laughing at the end of “Weekend Update” with the Joke Swap.

Bocelli: O Solo Mio

The world’s most famous opera singer (how many others can you name), Andrea Bocelli, took solo to a heavenly level on Easter Sunday as he sang from inside an empty cathedral in Milan, the famed il Duomo. Bocelli, 61, sang to an empty cathedral, something he only ever does in rehearsal.

Sports Year 1872

Five schools compete in college football and you may get four of them but you’ll never get the fifth. Wanna try?

Yale Football

They are: Princeton, Rutgers, Columbia, Yale and… Stevens Tech. The last of which is located in Hoboken, N.J., and is still in existence though it does not play football. Yale, in its inaugural game and the first game played in the state of Connecticut, defeats Columbia 3-0. It is the Bulldogs’ only game of the season.

Young Tom Morris wins the British Open again.

In soccer, or “association football,” England and Scotland play the first official international match (the first actually took place in London in 1870 but was not recognized as such, more of a friendly, if you can call anything between England and Scotland that). Played in Glasgow, the match ends in a goalless draw, guaranteeing that Americans will mostly ignore the sport for the next 125 or so years.

Morty also played cricket

In London, Wanderers win the first FA Cup (noted Friday), defeating Royal Engineers 1-0 at Kennington Oval in London. Morton Betts scores the first goal and promptly marries a supermodel and buys a high-speed cigarette boat that he docks off the coast of Monte Carlo.

*****

Congrats to Susie B., who’s giddy about her AMZN stock this morning.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Starting Five

Mask Not What Your Country Can Do For You

This week’s cover of Time features an Italian anesthesiologist. Here are men and women going to work each day not only trying to save lives but putting their own lives at risk by doing so. Is there anything more heroic?

The MSNBC prime-time crew has been doing a good job of featuring doctors and nurses this week. Spreading a little positive news. You can only bang the drum of what miserable and wretched persons the President and his sycophants are for so long, so good for them.

The Ideas That Won’t Survive The Coronavirus

It’s like this. When my old college pal Andre suggests a book or an article (or even an appetizer), I’m going to try it. His taste is that impeccable and his wisdom is unimpeachable. So Andre suggested to me overnight this Op-Ed from The New York Times, penned by Viet Thanh Nguyen who, yes, is American. He’s also the author of The Refugees, which Andre tells me is a fantastic book so add that to the reading list as soon as I finish the Vampire Academy series.

Having read the piece, I must say (“must say” presages a statement in which I will give myself credit, seemingly reluctantly, but c’mon…) it parrots many of the thoughts expressed in this blog the past month. It induces me to harken back to yesterday’s CNBC “Halftime Report” interview with Chamath Palihapitiya, in which he also expressed similar thoughts on this topic. I remember Josh Brown disagreeing with him, saying it’s better to give money to large corporations, adding, “I don’t necessarily like it, but that’s the way it is.”

And in that moment I wanted to jump through the television screen and shake Josh, a wealthy Long Island boy with a head for numbers who probably has a second house in the Hamptons, at the very least a summer rental. I wanted to say, “You’re a guy with a daily platform nearly on ‘America’s Business Channel.’ If there’s something you honestly don’t like about America’s capitalist class structure and how it marginalizes all but the wealthy, who has a better opportunity than you do to stand up and say so?” But he didn’t.

Read the Op-Ed. Nguyen is correct.

Manhattan Melodrama

Sure, I can see it (he’s wearing the same jacket in Annie Hall, by the way)

So we watched about one hour of Woody Allen’s Manhattan last night before clicking it off because it was mostly not funny and also a cry for help. Allen’s character, Isaac Davis, is 42 and dating a 17 year-old. It’s not a perverse infatuation. They’re sleeping together. The character, played by Margaux iel Hemingway, is constantly telling Isaac (again, this is Woody Allen we’re talking about) how great he is in bed. Ewwww!

Meanwhile, Davis is cheating on her with Diane Keaton, whom we met because she’s the mistress of his best friend. We’re not exactly Puritans, but give us someone to root for, please.

The two moments we’ll remember that we liked: 1) When Woody’ character says, “I think people should mate for life… like pigeons or Catholics.”

2) The other, at a party at MOMA, the subject of Nazis organizing in New Jersey comes up. Allen, whose character is a writer, asks, “Has anybody read that Nazis are gonna march in New Jersey? Y’know, I read this in the newspaper. We should go down there, get some guys together, y’know, get some bricks and baseball bats and really explain things to them.

A pedantic literary pal replies, “There is this devastating satirical piece on that on the Op Ed page of the Times, it is devastating.”

Allen/Davis: “Well, a satirical piece in the Times is one thing, but bricks and baseball bats really gets right to the point.

Why H-O-R-S-E Will Be a B-O-R-E

If these two were competing, I’d watch

ESPN is planning a H-O-R-S-E competition between NBA stars in order to help us get our sports fix in this time of athletic famine. It’s better than nothing, I suppose, but not much.

Here’s how I succinctly try to explain the difference between competition and sport: Stand two people next to one another and have them each shoot at targets 30 yards away (like that early scene in Winchester ’73 for you film buffs). That’s a competition. Now take the same two people and have them stand 30 yards away and shoot at one another (like the climactic scene from Winchester ’73, involving the same two men). That’s sport.

SportsYear 1871

The year (almost) nothing happened. No college football games are played the entire season, the only year between 1869 and 2019 in which this happens (Will 2020 be a repeat of 1871?). The British Open does not take place due to a hosting controversy and the Harvard-Yale regatta is also called off. Mike McCoole, the American boxing champion, takes the year off as well.

The biggest sports news? The FA Cup is staged for the first time, with 15 clubs participating. The only club involved that presently exists under the same name in the Premier League is Crystal Palace. The tournament kicks off on November 11 and Wanderers (from London) will win it come March.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Starting Five

John, Ringo, Paul and George were the original social distance practitioners

We’re Number 2!

Overnight the United States surpassed 15,000 deaths and as of this moment has reached 15,634 deaths. We are now second behind only Italy (17,699) in deaths and, of course, number one worldwide in number of cases. Of course, no one knows for sure what the actual case and death totals are anywhere, in terms of accuracy.

But right now, we’re Number 2! Only five to six weeks removed from the infamous “When you have 15 people and, in a couple of weeks, it’s going down to close to zero.”

Give ‘Em Hell, Chamath

MH staff slept more than 11 hours last night (No, we’re not sick… or hung over… the new job is rather arduous and today’s our first day off in six) and so we woke up, on Pacific Time, to Chamath Palipitiya, a socially conscious rich guy investor (he’s worth $1.2 billion), as a guest on CNBC’s “Halftime Report.” In short, he was glorious and what was fascinating is how obtuse host Scott Wapner appeared to be.

First, and I wish I had the entire video, he noted that the government would have done a much better job of stimulating the economy, not to mention helping more Americans, if it had, instead of handing out $2 trillion to large corporations so they could manage their balance sheets, instead looked at every American’s W-2 form and given each what would amount to their monthly income. Downtown Josh Brown, with whom we normally agree, countered that you just can’t go around handing people bags of money. Oh, but you can hand grain sacks full of money to corporations?

Then Wapner asked his put-you-on-the-spot question: “Do you think the airlines should be allowed to fail?”

Chamath: “Yes!”

Wapner: “Why? When it’s through no fault of their own?”

Chamath: “Because, first of all, when the airline fails it isn’t firing all of its employees. It goes through bankruptcy and those employees wind up having a bigger stake in the company. And second, because that’s the rules. (Let us replay that for the people in back: because that’s the rules. How come dyed-in-the-wool capitalists gets so upset when Fortune 500 companies are subject to the same trials that mom-and-pop stores are).”

Wapner: “Why should they go under when it’s through no fault of their own (He honestly asked this)?”

Chamath: “Look around. Look at today’s unemployment figures. Millions of Americans are going under through no fault of their own. They don’t know how they’re going to pay their bills or feed their families. Now look at who owns the airlines. It’s large private equity firms like Blackrock. So the airlines go under and you don’t get your summer in the Hamptons, so what (he actually said this and at that point I may have begun clapping and a happy tear may have escaped from my cheek)?”

There was more and if I can find the video, I’ll post it. Kudos to CNBC for giving such a progressive thinker (but of course, only because he’s rich was he allowed to be on) that much space to talk, but it’s truly disheartening to see what hypocrites some of these guys are. They say they’re for capitalism, but really what they’re for is the status quo.

We’ll post this now since it’s late and continue working on the blog because that is what we do, America…

The Upside of a Pandemic Catastrophe: A Rai Of Hope

Early on I said I was rooting for the coronavirus and in a bizarre way, I still am. Certainly the death toll is tragic, and there’s no escaping that. But look at some of the residual effects. In no particular order:

–Average Americans are finally recognizing that doctors and nurses are the real heroes, not the military. I’m not at all against someone serving this country, but I’d grown past nauseous seeing ESPN and others glorify these “reunited at sporting events” moments for service members who’ve come home from abroad in nations where WE, the USA, initiated the engagement. WTF? Seeing New Yorkers clap and cheer every evening at 7 p.m. to honor health care workers is a sign that people are beginning to get their priorities in place (that and parents at last beginning to see just how woefully underpaid teachers are for watching their kids six hours each day).

–The air is cleaner in major cities.

–Animals are getting a better chance. I saw this video of cats and dogs being able to roam through an aquarium the other day and thought it was the coolest thing ever.

–Donald Trump is, daily, being exposed for the fraud and miscreant that he is. The virus doesn’t have a political agenda, but its numbers are stark and real. The MAGA cult will continue to attempt to absolve him from blame, but there’s no getting around it. A man and a cult who think that money and whiteness can overwhelm any problem or adversary are being brought to their knees. Intelligence matters. Truth matters. Science matters. God bless this pandemic for exposing that.

–The goodness in most people is coming out and being exposed. Last night Lawrence O’Donnell showed a video posted by a young anesthesiologist, Dr. Ajit Rai, who graduated from UCLA a year or two ago. He was working in Los Angeles but had done some residency work in New York City only a year ago. Dr. Rai was so overwhelmed by what he was seeing in Manhattan that he obtained a leave of absence from his residency at a Los Angeles hospital, bought a one-way ticket to New York (“flying into the inferno,” he called it), and got put on staff at his old hospital in New York City to be part of the fight. He said that the hardest part of this was telling his parents what he was doing.

To a lot of Red State America, this young man might not look “American.” But what Dr. Rai is doing is the most American thing you can possibly do.

Jane Says

Yesterday CNBC’s Jane Wells reported from a berry farm in Camarillo, Calif. (above is NOT that farm), about 60 miles northwest of L.A., I’m estimating. In a 2-minute report Wells touched on a number of things that could have all been turned into a John Steinbeck novel (or perhaps already have):

–First, she noted that the farmers are losing money because Americans are no longer dining out and simply not spending as much on food. They’re wondering if the government can’t step in and buy the food and donate it to food banks, which makes me ask, Why can’t the farmers just donate it to food banks? Oh, yeah, cuz they don’t want to lose money. So, welfare under another name, but at least they didn’t simply have their hands out.”

–Wells also noted that most, if not all of the workers, are there under special work visas (she never used the terms “Mexicans,” “Central Americans” or “Illegals) and would not normally be permitted to do so under this administration. In other words, they’re rapists, drug dealers and murderers until America has a job for them to do. Wells, who is nothing if not smart and shrewd, did point out that Hey, doesn’t America have this massive unemployment problem and aren’t these jobs that need doing but then just as quickly noted that the average American will make more in a week off his or her unemployment check than he or she will doing this back-breaking field labor. Funny how that goes.

–Finally, Jane brought up one final, ominous point. These workers are violating social distance rules constantly and are housed in dormitories. What happens when one of them tests positive? What she didn’t need to add is that none of them will because the moment someone gets sick they’ll simply be sent away or back across the border. As foreign workers go, Rudy Gobert gets tested. Carlos in the strawberry field does not.

TCM Has A Major Woody

Keaton and Allen, beneath the 59th Street Bridge, feelin’ groovy…

Tonight on TCM a Woody Allen double feature in prime time. First, at 8 p.m. EDT, it’s Annie Hall, his 1977 classic that won Best Picture at the Oscars. It’s the only comedy I can think of that won Best Picture and it’s undoubtedly Allen’s best picture or, as Roger Ebert noted, “everyone’s favorite Woody Allen film.”

Then at 10 p.m. it’s Manhattan, which is a sequel of sorts in spirit, though the characters have changed. Once again you get Allen and Diane Keaton, but also a young and captivating but cold Meryl Streep (buffs will note it’s one of two Streep films from this year in which she plays a Manhattan wife who leaves her Jewish husband) and an ingenue, Margeaux Hemingway, who serves as a harbinger to Allen’s real-life previsions to come, i.e., having sex with underage girls (a lot of that going on with Upper East Side millionaires and billionaires it seems).

The real star of Manhattan, shot entirely in black-and-white, is the city island itself. It’s never looked lovelier onscreen and yes, always looks better in black and white and gray.

Bye, Bye, Bernie

Bernie Sanders suspends his presidential campaign. Larry David doesn’t have to fly coast-to-coast any more.

If this even opens the slightest crack of a window for Governor Cuomo, we’re all for it.

THAT’S GREAT, BUT…

Just this morning I’ve seen that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is going to donate $1 billion to COVID-19 relief and that Dell founder Michael Dell is going to donate $100 million for the same cause. Hey, that’s great, but let’s assess a few things:

–If these two men can afford to donate that much, they’re not exactly digging into the bottoms of their pockets for this loot. Even if Dorsey is donating one-third of his net worth, and that’s incredibly generous (if you ignore the tax break he’s yielding from this), but he still has $2 billion more to get by on.

–Second, let’s look at the number of employees Twitter and Dell have, respectively, and then do a little long division. Twitter has roughly 5,000 employees. So, and I know this is overly simplistic, but if Dorsey had simply been putting that type of money into his employees’ pockets annually and not his own, he could give every single employee of his a $200,000 bonus. Imagine that. Imagine the type of work force, in terms of talent, you could assemble, if you treated your employees that well. Imagine how loyal they’d be.

As for Dell, he has far more employees and his contribution is one-tenth that of Dorsey’s, so his donation parceled out to each of them would only be $700 or so.

But here’s the larger point. The men at the very top of the food chain are stock-piling funds while scores of people who work for them are stuck in the middle class at best. And then something like this happens and they donate a huge chunk of cash and CNBC hails them as heroic. What I’d like to know is how come they weren’t paying their employees better and stimulating the economy the entire time as opposed to sitting on top of a mountain of cash?

True, Dorsey and Dell created businesses, created thousands of jobs, and for that they deserve credit. I’m just wondering what possesses men to be THAT rich when so many people working for them are still involved in class struggle. I hereby promise that when MH Industries is a a major conglomerate that we’ll pay executive assistant Susie B. at least $200,000 per year and even throw in free MH merchandise.