Weather has forced us to take flight tomorrow instead of today, so a brief item or two….
Rule No. 7*
*Any baseball game offers the opportunity to see something on the field (no, we’re not talking about Saturday night’s Padres-Nats contest) you’ve never seen before
Is it strange that two of the most bizarre plays in baseball this season have taken place within 15 feet of home plate at PNC Park?
The Mets fell behind 6-0, in the first inning, on this bizarre play. They rallied to win 7-6 on a go-ahead two-run Michael Conforto homer in the top of the 9th. A day earlier, the Mets had blown a 6-0 lead to the Pirates and lost. That has only happened (teams trading blown 6-0 leads and losing on consecutive days) four times before: 1889, 1968, 2019 and this weekend.
*This will be our final post…at least for the next three weeks.** We’ll be working with that five-ring circus known as the Tokyo Olympics and it’s best for the two to not overlap. See you in, or slightly before, September.
**I may do a short post here or there. We cannot let the Suns winning an NBA championship go unremarked upon.
A few thoughts we had and we doubt anyone will agree with all four of our notions here (maybe one, tops):
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if one day in the near future President Biden announced that any state that purports to wish to secede from the union be allowed to take a popular vote (not a vote in its state legislature) and be granted emancipation? You want to exit, Texas? Kentucky? God bless you. All the social security payments stop now. The medicare stops now. The military bases are relocated. And if you want to travel from Dallas to Branson, you’re gonna need a passport. Enjoy your freedom. No two states pay more in federal taxes than California and New York. Okay, so you do wanna stay, Florida and Texas, but you don’t like that you don’t always get your way? You sound like every entitled teenager threatening to run away we’ve ever met. Go. Or stay, and clean your room.
Another reason I’m an independent: the child tax credit. Why are we giving money to people for making financially irresponsible decisions? If you have more children than you can afford to care for, why are the rest of us paying for it? The reason: because politicians know they will never strike out extolling family values. But I submit this: if Earth were to hire a consultant to advise on how better to run this little blue ship, I imagine the first thing the consultant would come back with is, Stop making people! You have a surplus. In a world that thinks clearly and is not blinded by emotion or antiquated Biblical aphorisms (Be fruitful and multiply–HA!), you’d be giving tax credits to the people who do not procreate. As a thank you. And I don’t want the government’s (your) money for having decided to not have children. I just don’t believe a government governs best that rewards those of us who make irresponsible decisions by placing the burden on those who did not.
Okay, do I have this correct: if you’ve been vaccinated, you are just as like to carry the virus and the variant as someone not vaccinated? You are just as likely to pass it on to someone who is not vaccinated? The difference is that you will not get sick or barely sick? So the principal consequence to the general population is that hospital staffs will continue to be overburdened by the illnesses of those who are unvaccinated? And while that’s enough of a reason, for this scribe, to get vaccinated (to relieve their burden), isn’t this some intelligence-based Darwinism playing out? Those most likely to suffer the consequences of failure to vaccinate (besides hospital staffs) are the willfully ignorant and, mostly, morbidly obese? I hate to sound like a Newsmax anchor, but that’s just thinning the herd. Now, I’ve been vaccinated. And I’d get vaccinated if I weren’t. But other than concern for those in the health-care field (and that’s a HUGE “other than”), I say play on. Let those who refuse to get vaccinated suffer the consequences of their decisions. It is, still, a free country (thanks, Capitol Police). UPDATE: The White House reports that 1 in 5 new coronavirus cases this week were from Florida. Make it rain, Florida!
Finally, if I have not lost all of you yet, here’s a thought I had: What if someone attempts to follow all of the teachings of Jesus without necessarily believing in the existence of God? Is this person any less holy than the most devout follower of any Christian church? I’m trying to imagine the conversation if such a person dies and discovers that there is actually a heaven with all the fairy-tale pearly gates, etc. God meets him at the gates. I’m trying to imagine a Supreme Being who acknowledges that few people lived a more devout and selfless life but, alas, because that person did not believe in God he or she will not be granted entrance. I’m sorry, Heavenly Father, but what kind of outfit are you running here? Is your ego so fragile that You need me to worship You more than You want us to love one another and love thy neighbor as thyself? If this is the best You can do, then maybe I don’t want to be part of this Eternal Life show you’ve got going on anyway. It sounds a lot like some Jim Harbaugh b.s. where you’re more about players supplicating to you than you are about winning games. Isn’t winning games the entire point? And if someone’s decency and kindness is performed primarily because they’re trying to ace the class (i.e., get into heaven), isn’t that like telling a child she has to be nice or Santa won’t visit?
Okay, now if I’ve lost absolutely everyone, on to some other items…
Staying In Character
For England, the final of last Sunday’s EuroCup played out like a season-ending episode of Ted Lasso. The Three Lions took Italy to penalty kicks but in the PK phase missed three shots. All three misses came at the feet of black players and, as you can imagine, they received a wave of racist-tinged hate on line for their failure.
Hence, last night in Los Angeles at the Season 2 premiere of Ted Lasso, star Jason Sudeikis wore a shirt with their names on the front. In support of them, of course. Now if everyone in English can just be little goldfish, we’ll be good.
How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?
Submitted: Maria Taylor is the third most valuable tool in ESPN’s belt after Scott Van Pelt and Rece Davis. I realize the numbers would claim that Screamin’ A. Smith ranks above her, but he’s just a caricature that fools some of the people all of the time. Taylor is a versatile and valuable asset, just entering the prime of her career, and for a MAJOR media company seeking to ring the inclusivity bell, what personage at ESPN is more valuable in the decade ahead?
And yet it looks as if ESPN is about to lose Taylor to NBC. It may be about the money, it may be about a legacy of black female talent at ESPN being under-appreciated and mistreated. Earlier I tweeted that this was the greatest tug-of-war saga involving a Maria since Capt. Von Trapp took on the abbey, but then the always witty @MarkEnnis reminded me that the Jets and Sharks might have a thing to say about that.
Maria Taylor: at ESPN she had more than one job. Now she has more than one offer. Regardless of what offer Taylor chooses, she’ll be ESPN’s NBA Finals pregame host throughout the rest of the series. That’s leverage.
The Rain In Spain Flows Mainly In The Plain–But This Isn’t Spain*
*The judges will not accept “Rain, Rhine, Rhone” or “God, Blessem”
Torrents of rain in Germany, Netherlands and Belgium have put parts of central Europe under water and more than 125 people have perished and reportedly more than 1,300 are missing. Europe hasn’t looked this in disarray since the Fuhrer was in charge, no?
This is the town of Blessem, Germany, after the floods caused a massive sinkhole to form. I have no editorial commentary to add.
Quest For Knowledge
Move over, Zaila Avant-garde, there’s a new unicorn in town. This is Kashe Quest, barely 3 years old, who earlier this year became the youngest-ever Mensa member with an IQ of 146. A native of Los Angeles, Quest is already bilingual and can identify every element in the periodic table and every state. She also has cool hair. That Mensa membership card will be a unique item to bring to show-and-tell.
Meet America’s newest national park, New River Gorge in West Virginia. Certainly, it’s lovely but it must be said that the standards for what becomes a national park east of the Rockies are a little less stringent than those west of the Continental Divide. Somewhere Oak Creek Canyon is wondering what it has to do to garner similar status.
We still don’t understand how come Niagara Falls is not a national park. So we share it with Canada. So what? Canadians are very polite. Are they going to throw a hissy if we claim it as a co-national park? We think not.
The Suns played with poise, or at least Devin Booker did, through three and a half quarters. Booker had 38 after three but then picked up his 5th foul (ticky-tack) early in the 4th on the very play after a ball had been called out on him after it had clearly gone off P.J. Tucker’s shoe.
Still, with just under six minutes to play, and Booker having just returned, Cam Johnson hit a jumper on an inbounds play to put Phoenix up 95-90. From there it would all unravel. Milwaukee would outscore the Suns 19-8 the rest of the way and win 109-103. Failures by key players such as DeAndre Ayton and Chris Paul highlighted the Suns’ collapse, while Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton (40 points) played out of his mind.
People will remember Giannis’ block of the Ayton alley oop late, and it’s worth remembering, but it was just one of many plays in the final six minutes in which the Bucks came up big and the Suns, long on poise this entire postseason, came up short. Booker and Jae Crowder and even Cameron Johnson were heroic. The rest of the team was just playing hoop.
Best of three. Here we go.
Another book (I Alone Can Fix It) in which a former Trump White House insider reveals a startling revelation or three about the last months of 45’s term but again the question to ask, Why didn’t you speak up at the time? In this book authors Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker report that as former Chief of Staff Mark Milley saw Trump’s machinations following his defeat in November, he told his staff, “This is a Reichstag moment. The gospel of the Fuhrer.”
Milley and the other military service heads saw what Trump was planning, but at a time when it would have been beneficial for them to go public with the info, they instead hunkered down and discussed how “they’re not going to f**king succeed.”
Oh, but they came very close, Gen. Milley. And if only they’d have shown up to the Capitol with more weaponry, a stronger resolve as to what they came to accomplish, and a few lass jag-offs leading the way, they would have accomplished. And where would your backroom strategizing have left you then?
I’m a little tired of the post-Jan. 6 insider-hero series. Democracy dies in darkness, as WaPo rightly asserts, and all of these men had the opportunity to out their boss long before Jan. 6. Instead, they held onto their jobs, happy with their position and afraid to stand up to Trump. Do you think they would’ve said anything had Trump’s army of idiots succeeded last January? Not a peep.
The Heat Is Here
Two items came across the Twitter yesterday that should concern fans of wildlife. The first is a report that most of the salmon in the Sacramento River will perish because the water temperature is simply too warm now. Second is this video of a momma bear taking her cubs to cool off in Lake Tahoe. First, as a person on Twitter rightly asks, Do you realize how hot it had to be for that bear to risk her cubs’ lives by putting them in such close contact with (dumb tourists) humans?
Second, and this should be evident, you know what animals really depend on salmon in their diet (besides me)? Bears. So what do you think hungry bears will start going after next? And then officials will start shooting bears for being rogue when after all they’re just hungry and it’s man who has been depriving them their food supply.
We’re going down, down in an earlier round. The West, where temperatures are now routinely above 110 in many parts this month, is just the most vivid example.
The Virus As Cryptocurrency
If it will help you to conjure one or the other with more clarity, think of Covid-19 as Bitcoin. It was the first virus and the one that everyone used interchangeably with “coronavirus”, just as we used Bitcoin instead of “cryptocurrency.” But now here comes the Delta variant, which was seen in 92% of new cases this past week. The Delta variant is like Ethereum or Dogecoin. Once a side note to Bitcoin, but beginning to overtake it.
I think I read earlier this week that 94% of new cases (or was it deaths?) of coronavirus in Louisiana, or maybe of hospital admissions due to the virus, are among unvaccinated people. As a fan of Darwinism and as someone who opposes MAGA, there’s a part of me that’s thrilled that the disinformation spread by Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham is taking such strong hold in the reddest of red states. They’re practicing their own reverse-voter suppression by helping to kill of MAGA hat types.
We’ll see what happens.
Right now it sounds as if the counties that voted for Biden are mostly vaccinated and those that voted for Trump are less than half vaccinated. And more than 9 of 10 people who are hospitalized for Covid-19 or the Delta variant are unvaccinated. And getting the Delta variant doesn’t mean a death sentence, but if you have a pre-existing condition (most of which are related to obesity, which is anathema to say on TV because God forbid we fat-shame people), you could be in trouble.
Viva la natural selection!
Humanity Still Has A Chance
Been quite a dark MH today between the Suns’ losing, more reveals of Trump’s malfeasance, devastating heat waves that threaten species and, of course, the virus. So lets’s end on a positive note, shall we? There are still good people in the world. It’s a woman and a young African girl here. No rich white men around. What a surprise.
On the same day that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred announced that baseball might return to sanity—no more 7-inning doubleheaders or placing a runner on 2nd base to begin each extra inning—he allowed these uniforms to be worn during the annual Summer Classic. The All-Star Game.
Baseball is the one team sport where players on the same team do not need to wear the same uniform for split-second recognition decisions. In basketball, football and hockey they do. So it’s long been an aesthetically appealing aspect of the All-Star Game that each player represented his team by wearing his actual uniform during the game. And baseball had to piss on that tradition, too, last night.
Hopefully, it’s a one-off. Sometimes social media hates change for the sake of change. Other times, the rabble is correct.
Who won last night’s All-Star Game? That became a side note.
*The judges will also accept “Nuclear Fission”
In a scene inspired by the Thanksgiving turkey giveaway episode from WKRP In Cincinnati, Utah wildlife officials reveal that they are carpet-bombing lakes with live fish. Someone needs to get the fish’ perspective on this.
Eat Ship And Die
Yeah, I don’t know why anyone thought this was unsustainable. The city fathers of Venice finally got wise and told those big-ass boats that they are no longer welcome to dock there. Now if we can only get the helicopters to stop hovering over New York City.
The ban affects ships that weigh more than 25,000 tons and measure longer than 180 meters, so your yacht is probably still fine.
Blair Erskine Keeps Winning
Here she is playing the role of Texas governor Greg Abbott:
No word is wasted, no vocal inflection a mistake. Wonder how many takes this required.
And this was from earlier in the week, regarding billionaire rocket boys:
Sweet Baby Jesus
Has any group ever strayed further from the message and intent of its founder than white evangelical Christians in the U.S.A.? We think not.
In this illuminating piece by Michelle Goldberg in The New York Times, you learn that in every year since 2013 the largest “religious group” in the U.S. was the religiously unaffiliated. White evangelical Christians are down from 23% of the population in 2006 to 14.5% last year. Their median age is 56. Their numbers are dwindling, and their beginning to panic. And people on the verge of panic tend to do some crazy-ass sh*t.
Such as voting for Donald Trump and positioning him as their savior. “Adherents dream of what they call ‘the storm,’ when the enemies of the MAGA movement will be rounded up and executed, and Trump will be restored to his rightful place of leadership.”
This explains January 6th. The ballot recount in Maricopa County. The crazy proclamations at the latest CPAC. Sure, say white evangelicals, we believe in America, but only in an America that is Christian and that God ordains. So if we can’t have our white Christian America, then we’ll burn it down and reclaim it for our own. It’s our divine right.
I was at a community pool at my largely MAGA community a couple weeks back when a man, talking amongst friends, was criticizing Critical Race Theory (i.e., American History) because “they’re trying to mess with our world.” Our. I loved that. I kept quiet but I really wanted to ask him what the difference between our and American was.
Somewhat related to the previous post, here is a photo taken from the Hubble Telescope. As the caption reads, each blip of light is not a star or a planet, but an entire galaxy. Our little blue planet, the one that billionaires are so eager to escape, is just a small part of a single galaxy.
So it makes you wonder about the perspective of it all, about God and about man and our rightful place. If God created Earth as this home for his signature creation, you have to wonder why He bothered with so much other window dressing. It’s like building a 600-square foot home on a piece of property the size of the continental U.S. (actually the disparity in dimensions is far greater than that) and then claiming that that tiny shed is the entire reason for existence.
All but one of the following examples are from one game, Game 3, of the NBA Finals. And I understand: I’ve been a Phoenix Suns fan for more than four decades. Still, the evidence here is overwhelming.
Travels With Giannis
Let us begin with Cam Johnson’s dunk over former Sun P.J. Tucker in the third quarter of Sunday’s Game 3. We show it not just because it is glorious, but because it demonstrates what every player who has ever participated in youth league basketball already knows: on a drive to the hoop for a lay-up (or dunk), you gather the ball and then take ONE step before launching. Watch (particularly the view from behind):
Watch any player, any time, heading to the hoop for a layup/dunk uncontested or without a player directly in front of him. He gathers the ball, takes one additional steps and launches off his left (if he’s a righty) foot. That’s not only how players were taught, that’s the rules. If it weren’t the rules, if players could take an extra step after they gathered the ball, wouldn’t everyone?
Why is this important? Because if a player is allowed to take TWO (or more) steps after he picks up his dribble, particularly an athletic and sizable player, there is simply very little a defender is able to do to stop him. The second step allows the offensive player to change direction after he has picked up his dribble, which puts the defender in an untenable position. The defender is able to position himself to where a drive to the hoop might occur if the ball handler may only take one step (this is what Tucker did above, though he arrived a bit too late), but if he takes a second step, now he is able to change direction. And the defender is toast. Or must foul.
There are a plethora of examples in which Giannis drives to the hoop and takes an extra step or two. Here’s a signature play from Game 3 and because the defender, Frank Kaminsky, is a backup, there’s simply no way that he’s ever going to get this call:
Giannis picks up the ball, sees Kaminsky in his way and takes an extra step around him. No whistle. It’s impossible to stop a player that talented and large if he gets the extra step.
Here’s a play where Giannis didn’t have the ball, ran into the paint, plowed over the Suns’ Jae Crowder, and after the wreckage was sorted out, somehow Crowder was called for a foul. I honestly don’t know how Crowder has kept his cool all of this series.
Giannis has also mastered the casual travel, initiated by LeBron (or Hakeem?), in which a player with MVP potential flaunts his privilege to earn an extra step or three on low-post moves.
In this Game 3 highlight reel, you’ll see Giannis travel 1) at the :32 mark (3 steps, never dribbles) and 2) at the 1:27 mark (again, moves pivot foot, gets an extra step… and these aren’t even the egregious ones so far). But these are hardly his egregious travels and, credit to him, he plays with tremendous energy and is a pure force of nature.
Here’s a beautiful one from Game 2. How many pivot feet are on display here?
What makes all of this more than simply a post from a Suns fan bitching about how the referees no longer observe traveling violations is that indeed they still do. They demonstrated that on Sunday night. The difference is that they choose only to enforce it if the player committing said violation is a back-up, a non-MVP caliber player (to be fair, Chris Paul gets away with a lot, too, more in the palming realm, though). Here’s Suns backup forward Torrey Craig being whistled for a stutter-step at the start of a drive to the hoop after catching a pass.
Did Craig travel? A jayvee high school ref might call that to demonstrate he understands the letter of the law, but I guarantee-damn-tee you that will never be called on Giannis. Never.
For us, the most telling whistle came against Giannis’ own teammate, Bobby Portis. This call was almost as if the refs were trying to demonstrate that they were not in favor of one team (just cowed by Giannis). Here’s Portis being called for a travel, and yes he did travel, but he looks stunned. And why shouldn’t he? Giannis gets away with this on a nightly basis.
Last month Golden State Warrior head coach Steve Kerr was asked about the traveling violation on Rex Chapman’s podcast. Kerr, in case you do not know, won five NBA championships as a player and has won another three as a head coach. Eight NBA championships and Kerr has mostly remained in the league because of what he possesses above his neck, not below. So when he was asked about the NBA’s millennial perspective of traveling, he replied (and I’m paraphrasing here), “You’re going to get me in trouble… all I know is that when half the arena is making the traveling gesture and I’m sitting on the bench making the traveling gesture, and traveling isn’t being called, that’s a problem.”
Yes, it is. After Game 3 the Phoenix Suns (who shot one less free throw than Giannis in that contest) talked about the need to “build a wall” when Giannis drove to the hoop. If you’re talking about the need to build a wall to play defense, you’re really not talking about basketball any more. You only need to “build a wall” because the man-on defender alone cannot stop the driver, and the reason he cannot is that the driver is able to change direction after picking up the ball.
That’s not the way Dr. Naismith intended the game to be played. And that’s not the way Jerry West or Oscar Robertson or John Havlicek or Julius Erving or even MJ played hoops. But, sure, if you’re going to give a future Hall of Famer an extra step on the way to the basket with no repercussions, I cannot blame Giannis for taking it. That’s on the refs, not him.
There are those who will claim that Giannis is deploying a “Eurostep” or that players are allowed TWO STEPS after they gather. All I know is that traveling is like pornography: I know it when I see it. And I’ve been playing and watching basketball for 50 years now. I didn’t simply fail to understand the rules for five decades. Moreover, “Eurostep” is like “Critical Race Theory” only in reverse. Eurostep, as a term, intends to rebrand a violation as a practice. Whereas Critical Race Theory intends to rebrand a practice (history) as a violation (racist-tinged teaching).
I don’t know who will win this series. The sad part, though, is that referees failing to enforce a basic basketball rule that we all learned by the fourth grade may tilt the series in Milwaukee’s favor.
The final of the Euro Cup at Wembley. Italy wins 1-1, 3-2 in PKs.
The final of Copa America in Rio. Argentina and Lionel Messi defeat Brazil, 1-0.
The Wimbledon singles finals. Novak Djokovic wins his 20th Grand Slam in four sets, bringing him equal with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. The 20-20-20 Triumvirate, and that might have been our lead story. Ashley Barty won her first women’s singles title.
The Bucks defeat the Suns in Game 3 of the NBA Finals, 120-100. Milwaukee outplayed Phoenix and Devin Booker may have had his worst game of the postseason, but it’s worth noting that Giannis alone took more foul shots (17) than the Suns (16). And that Chris Paul has now lost the last 12 games in which Scott Foster was the referee.
The Yankees blow a 6-run 9th inning lead to the Astros and lose, their second such defeat in the past two weeks after not having done so in more than 20 years. The perfect cap to an underachieving first half of the season.
Conor McGregor breaks his leg and loses to Daniel Poirier in a UFC match.
MLB held its draft, finally noticing what the NBA has been doing for more than 35 years. Of course holding it last night during Game 3 of the NBA Finals wasn’t the brightest idea. Henry Davis, a catcher out of Louisville, was selected first by the Pirates. Jack Leiter, Vanderbilt pitcher and ace, was taken second by the Texas Rangers.
Oh, and Game 7 of the Stanley Cup woulda happened if the Canadiens had shown up.
God Save The Queen
Let’s revisit the Euro 2020 final, shall we? After a full match, plus stoppage time plus extra time, plus stoppage time in extra time, it’s knotted up 1-1.
During the second half England’s manager Gareth Southgate—a name straight out of The Office, BBC-version— substituted in 19 year-old forward Bukayo Saka. Then, with about two minutes left in extra time, or about 120-plus actual minutes into the match, he subbed in Marcus Rashford and Jordan Sancho for the express purpose of having both take shots in the PK round. Never mind that neither man actually even touched the ball in those final minutes of play (one of them might’ve; I’m not sure).
Anyway, we come to the PKs and all three men fail to convert. Maybe that’s a coincidence, but maybe putting in two players at the very, very end of a long match and asking them to into the moment was too much to ask. And maybe, since he took the fifth kick with the entire championship on the line, it might not have been the smartest ask to put the ball at the foot of the teenager Saka, the youngest player on the pitch.
All three players happen to be black, and the keyboard cowards have been vilifying them with racist abuse (I guess not everyone in the UK had access to the CPAC in Dallas?). But what really united them was all being subbed in after halftime and a manager who could’ve made better decisions. Too, Italy was the better team all afternoon and basically controlled the pitch after England scored just two minutes into the match. But that’s not a good Hot Take talking point, now is it?
Virgin Airlines CEO and founder Richard Branson joins the Bored Billionaires Club by jet-setting 52 miles above Earth on Sunday. It’s telling that when he landed there was a giant screen behind him airing England vs. Italy. Maybe he realized too late that he’d be sacrificing watching the Three Lions chase their first international title since 1966.
Anyway, he didn’t actually travel to “space.” Space is commonly accepted as beginning about 62 miles above terra firma, known as the Karman Line. I dunno. Look it up. But he did beat fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos to this 52-milestone.
Regardless, the next billionaire must-do will be actually landing on either the moon or Mars. All these escapades are, really, is just flying a little higher than the average citizen has ever been able to fly. Branson achieved a few moments of weightlessness and a full news cycle of cluelessness.
Now, if you visit the Twitters or other social media (we don’t do Facebook…ever), you’ll see folks excoriating Branson for using all that money to fluff up his ego when the same amount of dollars, according to them, could end world hunger. Our thoughts? 1) For how long? and 2) Is it Richard Branson’s duty to end world hunger? I don’t think so.
Yes, there are far more useful ways to throw away an extra billion dollars here or there. Let’s begin by actually paying your taxes. Or paying your workers a higher wage. I’d settle for that. The main reason we supposedly need so much philanthropy is because men such as Branson get to have their planes and fly them to space, too. Pay your taxes. Pay your workers. And then maybe just take a ride on Space Mountain. It’s about the same feeling, we imagine.
Having finished the best book I expect I’ll read all year (Frank Capra: The Name Above The Title), I moved on to the book above. For several reasons: I worked with the author at SI, and not only have a high regard for him professionally but also an affinity for him personally. Jon is one of the good guys. Finally, I was 17 years old in the summer of ’84, having just graduated high school. I still remember it so well and even went to the Olympics in Los Angeles as a fan.
The book, 2/3 through, is somewhat of a disappointment. It reads like a freshman survey course and while there’s plenty of good info and reporting, it rarely provides the reader the feel of what it was like to be in the midst of the summer of ’84, where the most delicious riff was the opening to Prince’s “When Doves Cry,” or when every time you’d turn on the radio you expected to hear Madonna. Prince, 227 pages in, is wholly absent from the tome.
Too, the book is too lawyerly (I’ve read “white-shoe law firm” at least four times) and focuses a little too much on the tennis. Jon has a law degree and tennis is his favorite sport (certainly to cover). The Summer of ’84 was a few things that Jon covers extensively in his book (the Olympic basketball team, and there, too, he has a personal connection, having been a tween in Bloomington, Ind., where the team practiced; the brilliance of Johnny Mac and Martina; TheKarate Kid) but it was also hearing “Sister Christian” all over the radio, it was Prince’s film, Purple Rain, it was Madonna, it was Bruce Springsteen becoming a sex symbol, it was Revenge Of The Nerds, it was the inaugural women’s marathon at the Olympics, it was the overwhelming talent, and hubris, of Carl Lewis. Barely mentioned thus far.
Jon devotes entirely too much time to asides about where and when people or things would wind up five to 10 to 25 years later. And I guess that’s part of the point of his book. A stone tossed into the pond in 1984 (e.g., Donald Trump’s entry into the USFL) becomes a cataclysmic wave in a new century. But spending all this time on where Trump’s entry into the USFL becomes the USFL vs. NFL lawsuit, which did not actually take place until 1986, strays from what, to us, should have been the beauty of this pursuit: taking the reader intimately into that magical summer.
One of the best chapters of the book I’ve read thus far was all about The Karate Kid. It takes you into the moment when the writer and director knew they had a hit on their hands (when Wall Street types exited a private screening practicing their crane kicks as they held their attache cases) and goes in-depth into the making of the film (none of the cast thought the film would be a hit). More chapters like this would’ve been welcome.
I know that I never do myself any favors giving honest appraisals of work that my former (more successful) colleagues do. We’re all supposed to raise the pom-pons to one another. And who am I to go full-Mitchum Huntzberger on someone else’s earnest effort?
Dig, I always applaud the effort. But, reading this, and knowing that Jon has a big job at SI and is now a correspondent at 60 Minutes, it read a little like a guy who was trying to shoehorn in his precious few free hours each week (he’s also a husband and dad) to finish this book. It doesn’t read like someone who completely re-immersed himself in that glorious summer and provided the apt feel for what it was like to live through.
I’ll never forget the summer of ’84. But this book did not go a long way in terms of helping me remember it. Sorry.
Fascist Times At Ridgemont High
We could’ve sworn they held a CPAC just last winter, but apparently the GOP has realized it needs to grift its biggest whales twice a year. So they held another one in Dallas (Florida and now Texas; of course) this past weekend. We made this analogy on Twitter over the weekend: the GOP is Herb Tarlek and the Democrats are all the other staffers at WKRP.
Anyway, here’s footage of Donald, Jr., attempting to be a comic but instead bombing on stage. And here’s his dad admitting to all that lying is exactly who he is and has always been.
Congratulations to Zaila Avant-Garde, a 14 year-old from Harvey, La. Yesterday Avant-garde spelled “murraya” correctly to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Avant-garde became the Bee’s first African-American spelling champion in its 96-year history.
Avant-garde is no stranger to greatness. She already owns three Guinness world records related to dribbling, bouncing and juggling basketballs. She has only been “spelling competitively” for two years.
Teamwork Makes The Dream Work
If the Phoenix Suns, who are 13-2 in their last 15 games against some of the NBA’s top clubs (Lakers, Nuggets, Clippers and Bucks) do indeed win their first NBA championship some time next week, we should return to this second-quarter moment from last night’s Game 2 victory. On one offensive possession, the Suns made 10 passes that culminated with a DeAndre Ayton lay-in and an and-one. Simply masterful.
All of this off a steal.
The Bucks played terrific defense here, too.
(Too, this moment from Game 1 was also pretty special and redolent of Jordan’s iconic move in Game 2(?) of the 1992 NBA Finals versus the Lakers)
It’s beautiful basketball (with no traveling or palming), reminiscent of vintage Golden State Warriors offense from the previous decade. The ESPN heads will take about what the Bucks need to do to get back into this series, but that’s because they (and the league) want it to go six or seven games. What the Suns do better than anyone, and this has been proven time and time again in the postseason, is move the ball well to find the open man and then have incredible shooters (Booker, Paul, Bridges, Johnson, even Ayton down low) who finish. l don’t think the Suns have won a game by less than 10 points since the famed Valley Oop play against the Clips.
The Giannis Rules
Last series it was Paul George, and this series it’s Giannis Antetokounmpo. Both are sublime basketball players, and both have gone for north of 40 points against the Suns. But here’s what really scratches my White Claw: you will never see palming or traveling called on these dudes when they drive to the bucket, and both literally use a lowered shoulder or forearm to push the defender out of the way. No call.
Last night, Giannis did not even have the ball but simply ran into the lane, plowed into Chris Paul and dumped him. Paul was standing stationary. Giannis happened to fall as he dumped Paul, so of course they called the foul on CP3. It’s ridiculous.
To be fair, and because he, too, is a future Hall of Famer, Paul gets away with a lot on a court and the refs ignored an early up-and-down against him last night. This two tiers of calls system, one set of calls for All-Stars and another for everyone else, is maddening. At least in baseball All-Stars still get screwed on strike calls.
Finally, the Giannis free-throw shooting routine is beyond egregious. First, I don’t know why the refs allow him to do that extended warm-up before handing him the ball. Second, he violates the 10-second rule. Finally, after all of that he’s still only a 50% free-throw shooter (last night he literally air-balled one), so why all of the pomp and circumstance?
Thank you for allowing me to get all this off my chest. I’m a nervous Suns fan who’s waited 43 years for this week.
Are Movie Theaters The Shopping Malls of the 2020s?
Remember how cool and thrilling it used to be to go to the movies? Have you been to a movie theater since the pandemic began? We haven’t. The last film we saw at a theater was the under-appreciated 1917 and maybe that’s an ominous sign, because maybe films at theaters are so last century.
Yesterday in an interview with NPR, Barry Diller stated that “the movie business is over.” Perhaps we should listen to Diller, who was formerly the CEO at Paramount and later 20th Century Fox. Or perhaps Diller is just another bitter old rich white guy who doesn’t like that it’s no longer 1975. I dunno.
But Diller is a smart guy, and the movie business does seem to have changed.
Which is why we shorted AMC back at $60. I don’t think they can make Fast and Furious films fast—and furiously—enough to save the hulking mansions of seats in the dark. Movie theaters are the latest shopping malls. Some are located inside them. If you look at the price target of AMC, even though it’s currently at about $48, you’ll see that experts have pegged it at $3.70. What happens when the meme-sters, Apesters, Redditors, Wall Street bettors, whatever, at last realize they’re betting on a horse that is beyond ready for the glue factory?
Forget It, Jake
If you’re up tonight—midnight on the East Coast, 9 p.m. on the West—we suggest a viewing of Chinatown on TCM (this goes back to the previous item…watching a film classic at home). It’s a classic neo-noir starring Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway, with an excellent supporting actor job turned in by famed Oscar-winning director John Huston (The Maltese Falcon, The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre).
Besides the fact that the story revolves around incest and the scandalous way in which the present-day San Fernando Valley came to be (denying farmers of their water so that they’d be forced to sell their land cheap to developers), the story behind the making of the film is fascinating. Writer Robert Towne had the germ of an idea (mostly, the title). Director and co-writer Roman Polanski was attempting to rebound from the grisly murder of his girlfriend and baby-mama-to-be Sharon Tate. Odd that Polanski gave himself a cameo in the film in which he wields a knife. Jack Nicholson was coming into his own as an actor (his next film would be One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest) and yet wasn’t so vain that he wouldn’t allow himself to spend half the movie wearing an unsightly nose bandage.
The movie has style, depth, humor and tragedy. It lost out to The Godfather II for Best Picture and I can’t fault the Academy for that vote, but this is one of those instances where a film that failed to win Best Picture in a particular year was so much more deserving than plenty of other Best Picture winners from other years. Chinatown doesn’t appear on the old idiot box all that often. If you’ve never seen it before, do yourself a favor. Nicholson’s in vintage form and the story pulls no punches.
I’m back! For now. The MH editorial staff (we still are without a publishing arm) has an assignment starting in about two weeks that will last for about three weeks. During that time, MH world headquarters will be fully unoperationable.
No people? No problem, or so say the Olympic organizers. The 2020 Olympics that are taking place in 2021 will be held without in-person spectators. We’re back to the bubble. You know what’s truly going to be weird? The Opening and Closing ceremonies.
Of course, it IS weird that the Euro Cup 2020 has been held in mostly full stadiums this past month, as have the NBA playoffs. And even in Canada, where fans were mostly not allowed in to watch Games 3 and 4 of the Stanley Cup finals in Montreal, there seemed to be no problem with having 10,000 or so crazed Canucks neglecting social distancing mores as they watched the game play out on big screens just outside Molson Arena. What’s up with that?
Here’s the unorthodox—Darwinian?—thought we had last week: If you say that 4 million people on the planet are going to die of a disease in just 15 months, while more than 50 times that will contract it, it sounds rather bad. But if you say that less than 1/10th of 1% of the planet’s population will die of that disease, it really doesn’t sound so bad. And guess what? We could use to thin the herd a little bit. That sounds heartless, but here’s the thing: humans are the only species that goes out of its way to protect the weakest and least apt for survival. In the short term, that is a kind and compassionate gesture. In the long term, it is against the laws of nature and in fact harms the species (and planet) overall.
Now here’s the twist: by believing in a God that elevates humans above other species (a God that, arguably, was created by Man), we allow ourselves to cut in line above all other species every time. It’s a bad way of doing business. Eventually, we’ll pay for it.
The Disappointment We Felt When We Realized That Each Car Did Not Carry An Attention-Starved GOP Elected Official
The Tampa Bay Lightning just won its second Stanley Cup in a row. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are Super Bowl champs. And the Tampa Bay Rays were one boneheaded managerial decision away (the lifting of Blake Snell) from at least forcing a Game 7 in the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Tampa does not have an NBA franchise. Also worth noting: Tampa Bay is not a city, but a body of water. It’s always been kind of odd that its teams add the second word. No one says Puget Sound Seahawks or San Francisco Bay Giants or even Boston Harbor Celtics.
Roger, over and out. If there’s one Grand Slam event that Roger Federer has owned over the past decade and a half, it’s Wimbledon. The Swiss Mister has won eight of the past 17 finals and appeared in another four of them. On the last day of The Championships, Federer has been their 12 of the past 17 years.
But yesterday, in the quarters, he went out in straight sets and got bagels—for the first time in his Wimbledon career—in the third and final set. At the racket of Hubert Hurkacz of Poland, the tourney’s 14-seed. Is this it for Federer, who turns 40 this summer? And when writers keep mentioning an athlete’s age every time they write about him or her, and you’re not Tom Brady, is this a sign to hang it up?
Novak Djokovic now is the only one among the Big 3 still in play this weekend and with a championship he’ll tie both Federer and Nadal with 20 career Grand Slam wins. Federer may play another year or so, but it says here he’ll never win another Grand Slam. He’ll finish third among the trio, even though legions of fans will insist that he is the greatest men’s player of all time. That may or may not be true. But he’s the most widely loved, or better said, the least polarizing.
Finally finished the Frank Capra autobiography, The Name Above The Title. It was a wonderful life, after all. Besides directing such classics as It Happened One Night, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington and It’s A Wonderful Life, Capra spent three years in the Army during World War II, being promoted to full-bird colonel and earning a Distinguished Service Medal (the highest honor a non-combat serviceman can receive). He also produced and directed, in the 1950s, a quartet of educational films that were shown on prime-time TV and perhaps later in your classroom. The one I remember best is Hemo The Magnificent.
What stood out most about Capra is that 1) he knew how to get things done and 2) he never let anyone take advantage of him, even if it meant walking away from a deal.
There’s also tons of philosophy in this book, from thoughts on authoritarianism and freedom to the nature of comedy. Brilliant stuff. One thing he also notes is that the age of 26 is the peak age for most people, where peak creativity and accumulated life knowledge experience. Before 26, you still have too much to learn. After 26, you become a little too conservative. He throws out a few examples, all of which took place when the following were 26 or just about…
Einstein…. announces Theory of Relativity
Alexander The Great… begins conquest of world
Lincoln… switched from itinerant life to law and politics
Shakespeare… wrote first major play, King Henry VI
St. Francis… converted from finery to a saintly life
Michelangelo… executed his Pieta
Churchill… elected to House of Commons
Pretty strong lineup. Makes you wonder why Jesus waited until He was 30 to get started. For what it’s worth, Capra was in his mid-30s before he really hit it big with It Happened One Night, which swept the Oscars in the four big categories.