The plethora of poor-taste puns possible involving the Brandon Miller situation and his 41-point performance last night are too numerous to consider here (the number alone reminds us of Springsteen’s “41 Shots”). Miller also scored the game-winner in overtime at South Carolina.
If you’re not aware, the Alabama forward is a legit first-team All-America who last month provided his teammate, Darius Miles, with the gun that would be used in a murder that night.
This is possibly the Tide’s best basketball team ever, and Miller its best player. So, unless Miller is charged as an accessory—and he hasn’t been—head coach Nate Oats is going to let him play. Which he did and then some at South Carolina last night.
We don’t know what the right answer is. We do know that Oats said he reached out to Ray Lewis for guidance immediately after the incident, which seems a little strange. We also remember when first-team All-American Steve Alford was suspended for a game for posing for a poster whose proceeds went directly to charity.
As a “sports nation,” we lost our way decades ago. All that’s left now is to measure the degrees of degenerate behavior, both by players and “leaders” alike.
Thoughts On Wordle
Over the weekend we passed the 100 Games Played mark on Wordle. If you do not play Wordle, The New York Times makes one game available daily. The object of the game is to correctly guess that day’s five-letter word (e.g., GUESS) and you get six chances. After each guess, the board tells you if the letter appears in the word in the right spot (green box), if it appears in the word but in the wrong place (yellow), or if it does not appear in the word at all (gray).
A few thoughts on Wordle, and you’re invited to share yours:
A) I like to use a different starting word each day to keep it fun. Sure, you can use “AUDIO” each morning, as it may be the only five-letter word with four vowels (and every single word has a vowel or “y” in it), but where’s the fun in that? So I like to mix it up. You?
B) The scariest words are the ones that by changing only one letter have many possibilities. Example: “NIGHT” could also be “RIGHT,” “MIGHT,” “SIGHT,” “TIGHT,” “LIGHT,” or “FIGHT.” If you find yourself at “_IGHT” after a couple of guesses, your best next guess is to use a word with as many as those possible first letters in it, as opposed to hoping for the correct guess.
C) Occasionally, Wordle is going to provide a word you never use in everyday parlance. Or almost never use: “CHARD” and “RIPER” have tripped me up. “MUCKY” almost did. And “RIPER” reminds me: any word that has two of the same letter always has the potential to wreck you.
D) It’s an addictive game. Thank God there’s only one a day. I find myself thinking of five-letter words far too much. Thinking of possible starter words with three vowels (QUOTE, VOICE, IRATE, VAGUE, RAISE) and also of words that would make great answers, such as ABYSS or GHOST.
E) I like that Wordle provides one’s personal stats: % of times the player has gotten the day’s word as opposed to missing out on all six tries, as well as where player has guessed correctly (for example, how many times on the 4th try, or the 3rd try, etc.). If your Wordle % is 99% or higher after 100 games, let us know in the comments.
The best film of 2023 opens tomorrow: Cocaine Bear. Above is the only promotion you need to see.
Oddly enough, this same weekend TCM is canceling its TCM Underground series, which runs each week at 2 a.m. EST Saturdays. Odd, because this movie is perfect for its lineup.
Hollywood Death Irony (Add To Cart)
Remember when we did that item a week or so ago about Hollywood legends presaging their deaths in film (Carole Lombard, James Dean, etc.)? We have another to add to list: John Cazale. In the 1975 film Dog Day Afternoon, Cazale plays a bank robber/hostage taker along with his The Godfather brother, Al Pacino (weirdly, Pacino’s character is named Sonny, their other brother in the two classic films).
Anyway, there’s a scene where a female hostage is about to light a cigarette, and Cazale’s character, Sal, says he does not smoke because he does not want to die of cancer. “Your body is the temple of the Lord,” Sal says. The irony being that Cazale in real life was a chain smoker who would be dead two years later, at age 42, from lung cancer.
In Greek mythology, who stole fire from Mount Olympus and gave it to mortals?
Movie that features “Guido The Killer Pimp?”* Extra credit if you can tell what landmark series the actor later appeared in.
True/False: Frank “Home Run” Baker never had a season in which he led the majors in home runs.
Provide a wild animal that is a 3-letter word, 4-letter word, etc., up to a 9-letter word.
The last northeastern school north of State College, Pa., to win a college football national championship (voted on by at least two news services) was?
I used to walk past a newsstand just like this one on my way to catching the downtown 1/9 train every morning on my way to work (first, at Sports Illustrated and then later at NBC Sports, The Daily and eventually Newsweek). If the tabloid newspaper (one of three available to me in NYC) had a photo and headline juicy enough (“Headless Body In Topless Bar!”), I’d purchase it for the ride to midtown or, later, Wall Street.
Now, if someone had told me back then that I could have all of the stories in all of the publications pictured above available in a device that I could hold in one hand, I’d have probably thought, That’s bonkers! But also, HOW COOL! Would I have realized, though, the calamitous effects such an advance would have on my industry?
The trouble with the internet, social media and devices is not that everyone has access to reading news. The trouble is that everyone has access to providing it. Just in the past 24 hours I’ve seen death-knell moments for my industry, particularly sports writing:
° News that Barstool Sports, founded by Dave Portnoy— a brilliant and tireless businessman but not a journalist—was sold for $551 million. Meanwhile, just one week ago Sports Illustrated laid off a dozen or so editors, including all of its beat editors.
° Yesterday my friend Bruce Feldman’s piece on Jalen Carter, the former Georgia nose tackle who should be the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft, ran on The Athletic (a site that, estimably, is attempting to thrive by having readers pay for its content directly). Then, this morning, someone with a Twitter feed called “NFL Rookie Watch” parroted Bruce’s original content without crediting him. It was left to Bruce, who likely has better things to do, to call the tweep out for it. But there will be no repercussions, other than shame, which let’s face it, went out of fashion with lemonade on the front porch.
° This morning someone on Twitter named David Zabinsky produced one of those threads about something cool you may never have heard of (“Sealand”, a “country” comprised of two people). Then he mentioned that if you liked this story, you should follow him. This thread is in the vein of those written daily by Joe Pompliano and Kendall Baker, each of whom have built massive Twitter followings by showering their followers with cool nuggets of info.
About half an hour later Zabinsky tweeted….
In other words, this story was written by Dylan Taylor-Lehman and Zabinsky simply lifted that author’s work. I don’t know if Pompliano and/or Baker work this way, honestly. What I do assume is that someone from “Narratively,” or the author him/herself, contacted Zabinsky and was none too happy about having his/her hard work lifted without credit being given.
As a journalist, the idea of reproducing someone else’s work and sharing it without ever giving them credit…well, that’s tantamount to a Catholic priest standing up in front of the congregation on Sunday and announcing that Jesus was a fraud. In short, why even call yourself a journalist? Or even come close to the enterprise?
°Finally, yesterday the Cronkite School at Arizona State University (not to harp on this—I’m about to harp on this—but this is a school named after a newsman who not only did not attend ASU but never even himself finished college) awarded its annual Cronkite Award to Gayle King of CBS This Morning. Last year’s honoree was Al Roker, who at least was candid enough to acknowledge at the luncheon that half the reason he’d won was because they knew he’d pay for an entire table or two (at whatever the cost is). The award/luncheon functions primarily as a fundraiser/self-promotional tool. I’m not sure what message Cronkite is attempting to send to its journalism students other than “Just be famous, baby.”
It’s weird. The year is 2023 and many of the best writers with whom I worked at Sports Illustrated, names such as Steve Rushin, Tim Crothers, Alexander Wolff, Austin Murphy and Jeff MacGregor, to name a few, writers who are still close to their primes and should be the elder statesmen of sportswriting today, are either minimally writing or not writing at all. Sports Illustrated really does not even have dedicated office space these days (there is a common work area shared with non-SI folk). Your coffee table at home is your desk.
I’ve thought a lot lately about a kindly old man named Jeremiah Tax. Born in 1916, Tax came to his professional peak just as Sports Illustrated was launching into orbit in the late 1950s. He became a writer for SI, then an editor (at the time, all editors were first writers, because it was believed—correctly—that an editor needs to understand the grind), and later an executive editor. Jeremiah Tax was one of the top names on the masthead when SI was in its 1970s prime.
By the time I arrived in 1989, Tax was in his early seventies. Retired. Kind of. Except that he’d still take the train in from Long Island one day a week and, not unlike Gandalf, roam the halls to provide sage advice to reporters and editors alike. The “Tax Man,” as we called him (because at SI we witty folks never failed to Use Your Allusion, I & II, as I just did again here), was never an intrusion. He was a warm and welcome presence.
This small, kindly old Jewish (am I allowed to say that?) man with a warm smile would pop his head into your office (yes, even at the age of 22 I had my OWN office in a midtown Manhattan skyscraper… something the top editor there no longer has). He’d be holding paper copy of the story you were fact-checking (or, if times were flush, had written), and a pencil. He’d ask if he could sit down and, once welcomed, would ask if it was okay to go over with you some concerns that he might have. Questions that had popped up in his mind. The Tax Man was so friendly, so grandfatherly, that you were only too happy to welcome him in.
Why did Jerry Tax do this? To get out of the house? Perhaps. But also, I’ve come to believe, because the culture of SI was so important to him. The wise elders pass on their knowledge to the next generation(s). It’s what takes place in any thriving family or company.
That was the Sports Illustrated I stepped into in 1989.
Today, SI and most of legacy media only thinks of the moment. The editorial decisions are made by men a level above and a floor removed (speaking figuratively these days) from the folks who are actually on the ground writing and editing. These same generals are “earning” (because I must wonder, How exactly are they earning their salaries?) exponentially more than the infantry who are on the front lines (writers, editors) and their solution to any lack of growth (not lack of profit, lack of growth) is simply to cut staff… even if 10 staffers probably don’t combine to earn the salary that one of them does.
But, the worst offshoot of all of this is the lack of continuity at SI or any legacy media workplace. There is no Steve Rushin occasionally roaming the halls to offhandedly provide wisdom and insights to the Gen-X’ers and Millennials who sorely need it (and who often don’t believe they do, which is Exhibit A of why they sorely need it).
I recall Thursdays and Fridays at SI where the coolest hang would be the Scorecard office. Jack McCallum, the editor and as affable a person who ever worked at SI, had a larger office and was a natural as a host. Rich O’Brien and Steve Cannella (two distinctly different generations from Jack and each other) also worked on Scorecard. They’d be seated on the couch. Jack would be holding court, the banter would flow, and the occasional guest (Merrell Noden? Alex Wolff? Franz Lidz?) would stop by. Overtly, ideas were being tossed about—this was organic Slack, farm to table—and laughter was being shared. More subtly, the way that it happens at a family’s Thanksgiving table, the rites of being part of the SI family were being passed down to the next generation.*
*Thinking deeper on that Scorecard office, it was SI’s unofficial Algonquin Round Table. Whenever an out-of-town writer would visit the 18th floor, he (unless it was Sally Jenkins) would pay the obligatory visit to either Mark Mulvoy or Peter Carry (our top two honchos) or both, and then also to his primary editor. With those out of the way and time to kill before lunch or happy hour, he’d plop himself into the Scorecard office to partake in the banter.
McCallum, O’Brien and Cannella (the last, the youngest, is now the top name on the magazine masthead) all had similar traits: personable, far from self-absorbed, kind but, if attacked, could be caustic. Team players. The Scorecard office was a litmus test of not only a writer’s (or reporter’s) wit but also general character. Would you do a road trip with this person? Some visitors were simply so entertaining and funny–Rushin topped them all, but Franz Lidz was simply so out there—while others, such as Noden or Bill Nack, were passionate and deep thinkers but, again, never took themselves too seriously. As a young reporter, you understood not to stay past your welcome time and to listen more than talk. That room was like the cool kids’ quad in every dorm in America.
True story: one day an editor walked into the Scorecard office with a fax (!) he’d just received. It was a pitch from someone associated with his beat, an idea that he did not believe merited a stand-alone story in Si (in its print-only era) but that “might make a nice Scorecard item.” Jack & Co. were used to being handed off an editor’s hand-me-downs (this allowed the editor to tell the pitch man that he had not outright rejected the pitch). After the editor left the room, and this was an editor everyone liked, Jack took the fax, gave it a cursory read, and then stuck it down the back of his pants, mimicking the act of wiping his tush with the fax.
The fax may still have been in Jack’s trousers when the editor returned. Turned out there was a phone number on the fax that he needed. Could he have the fax back? Thinking quickly, Jack told the editor that he’d not been in the office. He must’ve given it to another editor. Rich and Steve quickly backed him up. The editor looked confused for a moment, but it was three against one. And editors were always rushing from one office to another. He bought it.
That story is about 30 years old and I remember it. I don’t know if anything that happens at anyone’s home coffee table in media today, whether it happens on Zoom or in Slack, will be remembered 30 days from now.
Is this why legacy media is dying on the vine? It’s more of a symptom, an example of what we are losing.
But don’t get me wrong. I lament what we are losing, but I’m also extremely grateful that I was at least around to experience what there was. We had quite a time. I truly feel badly for the twenty-somethings who are coming up in the journalism world today, who equate being a talented journalist with owning burner phones and breaking trades and transitions on Twitter. That’s important, too, to a degree, but the moment you break that news there’s a David Zabinsky who’ll retweet it and within minutes no one will remember that you had it first. Or care.
I’d love to have been some young reporter’s Jerry Tax. We all need them. But now all the Jerry Tax’s are playing pickleball. There’s no office to visit.
What year did Custer’s Last Stand (itself a misnomer) take place?
Who threw the last complete game in a World Series (you can provide pitcher or team or year and I’ll take it)?
Name a god who had the same name in Greek and Roman mythology.
If you missed just-arrived-in-the-NBA-in-time-to-win-the-Slam Dunk Contest Mac McClung over the weekend, we have you covered. The 6’2″ G-Leaguer from Virginia provided sport with its mightiest upset since Saudi Arabia defeated Argentina in the World Cup last November.
Should we just rename the contest the “Max McClung?” Like the Gus Macker?
Above, McClung’s 2nd 50-pointer.
Something To Consider…
Jon Rahm won the Genesis (formerly L.A.) Open Sunday, his third PGA Tour already in 2023. So, updating the rankings (subjective):
World’s Best Golfer…. Spaniard
World’s Best Tennis Player… Serbian or Spaniard (Novak or Rafa)
World’s Best Soccer Player… a Frenchman (Kylian Mbappe) or an Argentine, Spaniard or Norwegian
World’s Best Baseball Player… Japanese (Shohei Ohtani)
World’s Best Hockey Player… Canadian (Connor McDavid)
World’s Best Basketball Player… Serbian (Jokic) or Slovenian (Doncic) or Greek (Giannis)
Don’t worry, America. You still have football. For now.
Cross-Country Is A Fall Sport, After All
G’day, mate! is a classic Aussie phrase. But, “Gidey! Mate!” is not.
At the World Cross-Country Championships in Bathurst, Australia, over the weekend, a wild finish in the women’s race. Ethiopian Letesenbet Gidey, the current world-record holder in the 5,000, 10,000 and half-marathon (that’s mighty impressive), held the lead in the final 50 yards of the 10-K race. Then she turned around to gauge how close behind Beatrice Chebet of Kenya was to her.
Don’t look back, as Boston once advised.
Gidey lost her footing and fell as Chebet raced to break the tape. Then a bystander ran onto the course to help Gidey up, which resulted in her receiving a DQ.
Name (at least) three bands that should appear on a President’s Day playlist.
What was Doris Day’s connection to Charles Manson?
What state has the most national parks?
What does the endocrine system do or deal with (a one-word answer may suffice)?
Who was the first president to have seen the Pacific Ocean (not necessarily as president)?
*My good friend Adam Duerson has no idea that I am writing this, and so if I know him as he knows me, I imagine that he’s reading this with more than a tinge of trepidation (“What is Walters going to say? I wish I could edit this first…”). But I will do my best up front to assuage all of his fears.
It was a snowy Sunday night in mid-March of 2004. Adam Duerson, Jamie Lowe and I were inside Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Connecticut. The NCAA tournaments—men’s and women’s—were only days from tipping off and UConn had decided, if memory serves me correctly, to make both of its highly-ranked teams available to the media in a mostly informal presser on the court (cktk with Mike Enright).
This was also the first day of a grand expedition. The three of were about to embark on a two-week, cross-country pilgrimage, charged with seeing as many NCAA (and NIT) tournament games as humanly possible from a fan’s perspective. Adam was an editor at a newly formed publication, SI On Campus, which had launched the previous September. I had been hired as its back-page columnist and write-as-much-else-as-you-are-able guy, and Jamie was a newly added hire that winter whom our top editor, Chris Stone, had taken to because her prose had a certain age.
On that chilly Sunday morning the three of us had piled into a modestly priced RV rented in Rockland County, N.Y., and then made our way across blustery central Connecticut until we reached Storrs. The journey was quite familiar to me. Three years earlier I had spent an entire year living near UConn’s campus, attending every practice and game I could, for a book I’d write on Geno Auriemma’s amazing program, The Same River Twice (it seems bizarre to write now, but that team had Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi and lost before advancing to the championship game… in fact, neither was considered the team’s top player).
All of this is to lead to the exchange from that night that I’ll never forget. The UConn women were on the cusp of winning a third consecutive national championship, and fourth in five years. Someone in the press asked Auriemma how he had known that his three long-time assistants—Chris Dailey, Jamelle Elliott and Tonya Cardoza—would turn out to be such great coaches. “I didn’t know if they would be great coaches,” Auriemma answered. “I did know they were good people. I figured the rest would take care of itself.”
If there is a better epitaph for the SI career of my good friend Adam Duerson, whose tenure at the magazine ended earlier this week after a nearly 20-year run, I’d love to hear it. A Midwesterner through and through, Adam has proven a trusted confidante, friend, editor and mentor to countless staffers over the years. He may be the most ego-free person I’ve ever known at SI and unlike a few other people with whom I worked there, every word Adam tells you, you can take to the bank. He’s honest.
I remember the first day we met. SI On Campus had its first staff meeting, called by our managing editor, Chris Stone. This was exciting. SIOC was going to be this cool indie label of SI, and Chris had managed to cobble together more than a few of the cool teens (representationally) from the main mag: Maureen Grise (now Cavanagh) would be our photo editor; Mark Bechtel would also help when the editing bay became too full. I had just been hired back after being laid off by the mag two days earlier. We were all in our thirties.
Then there was Adam. Thrift store T-shirt, checkerboard Vans, scruff on the face. SI editors were known for making insider references to “Old Nassau” or out-Brooks Brothers’ing one another. And here was this hipster who was probably hiding a Pabst Blue Ribbon in his backpack. He was from Wisconsin; had attended school in Madison. To Chris’ credit, he saw something. And he was right.
Adam and I spent that first fall with out desks near one another and a slow, deep friendship blossomed. I was the prodigal son come back to the mag who was a pariah to some of the more entrenched SI editors. Adam was this maverick that did not meet the dress code. But we both got the job done, and I learned quickly that Adam was an incubator of outstanding ideas and that he saw them through, A to Z.
We’re about 12 years apart in age. Adam clued me in to the music of the present, from The White Stripes (he took me to my first Jack White show) to The Shins. He showed me that Radiohead had actually made albums since The Bends.
By the time Adam, Jamie and I piled into that RV on a cold and raw March morning, the kind northeasterners are far too familiar with, we had attended many SIOC staff meetings, exchanged too many knowing glances at things others had said (and Adam had rolled his eyes enough at my corny attempts at humor), to not be pretty decent friends. But two weeks together in a van? That would be the test.
The RV trip deserves its own long-form story. From Storrs to Bristol (a quick stop at ESPN) to Penn State to Columbus to South Bend to Carbondale to Kansas City to Denver to Missoula to Spokane to Reno to Las Vegas to Phoenix and finally, back to Las Vegas. In South Bend we woke up in a Wal-Mart parking lot on St. Patrick’s Day. None of us had showered or slept in a proper bed in three days and Adam had the inspired idea for us to have our “family portrait” taken at Wal-Mart (I wish I could show you the picture; we are hideous). That evening Adam and I staged a “Shamrock Shake-down” at a local McDonald’s: a 7-minute chugging contest of Shamrock shakes (the manager kindly asked us to leave as soon as it ended). At a bar in Missoula Adam and I realized that the locals might have thought we were a couple–they certainly realized we did not belong— and we headed out before matters deteriorated. At an eatery in Spokane, we gawked as recently retired NBA legend John Stockton walked in on a weekday afternoon to speak to his father (who owned the place). In Arizona we stopped at my parents’ home just long enough for my mom to do Adam’s and Jamie’s laundry and feed us a proper Italian meal.
That trip cemented the friendship. In the ensuing years, as many of my contemporaries got married, had kids and moved out of the city, Adam and his tight-knit group of friends informally adopted me. Adam’s apartment, which overlooked Tompkins Square Park in the East Village, became the epicenter of social activity. Adam was never the life of the party—though he could be—but more so the organizer. Weekly poker games. An annual trip to Belmont Park in which Adam and his friends rented a bus and dolled up as if they were high society (while still not being too posh to play flip-cup on the grounds of Belmont). A winter race across three boroughs and over two East River bridges in shopping carts that was dubbed, “Idiotarod.”
This Midwestern kid who was never easily pigeonholed—a Wisconsin native who openly roots for the Chicago Bears—brought a refreshing enthusiasm to living in New York City. Adam was always fun, but never loud or overbearing. In any social situation, he let the game come to him. And I don’t know if he’s ever seen “Auntie Mame,” but he lives the adage: “life’s a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.”
(And even though Adam is now married with two small children, he still embraces that philosophy.)
It was Adam who organized a trip for about a dozen of us to visit South Africa for the 2010 World Cup. I’d have never done that on my own. It was Adam who turned innumerable game watches or other NYC happenings into communal events. Adam knew the name of every speakeasy and every soccer bar in Manhattan or Brooklyn. I cannot tell you how many games of all kinds I watched at various joints in those two boroughs where Adam welcomed me amidst his gaggle of friends, all of whom were at least 10 years younger.
I wouldn’t call Adam an extrovert, and yet he is never alone. He toils to create community in whatever he does, wherever he goes. And because he is so genuine and so honest, there are scores of present and former SI staffers who think of Adam as that one true friend they have at the magazine.
While there remain a few folks at SI today whose tenures predate Adam’s, no one was a more formidable bridge to the flush past at SI that people like myself lived and to the stark present. No one that I know cared more about the legacy of this wonderful enterprise, begun in 1954; was a more ardent student of the mag or a more passionate historian. If you point out a long-form story that ran in the 1960s that you recently unearthed to Adam, chances are either that 1) he’s already read it, 2) he’s spoken to the author about it or 3) he’ll read it next chance he gets.
Adam never wanted to be an SI writer (extremely rare for someone who enters SI at such a young age). He always wanted to be an SI editor. Didn’t want his name on the marquee, more content to produce and direct. And he has never, ever, ever taken that route as a power trip. He sincerely cares about the stories. He creates relationships with writers and implicitly understands all the suffering and anguish that went into it, as well as the excitement you have about it. Too many editors, particularly those who have never written, never develop those traits. They are inherent in Adam.
In January of 2020 Adam and I met at a bar in the Dumbo area of Brooklyn. I was working mostly as a waiter but my restaurant had just been sold. Covid was not yet on anyone’s mind. Adam had this idea for a story on the New York Press Softball League, a once-mighty staple of Wednesday summer afternoons in Central Park. Expectations for a “Where Are They Now” story on this were low, but Adam offered me a crack at it. I said sure. I literally had nothing else to do.
Over the course of six weeks in March and April, just as the pandemic was sweeping the country, I reported the story. A 90-minute phone conversation with a subject after which I put down the phone, my neck cramped, and just giggled at the anecdotes being tossed my way. Waking up at 3 a.m. after four hours of sleep to write (by then I’d taken a job at a supermarket). You reach a point, if you’re lucky, where you realize you’re working on the most wonderful story of your career. And, if you’re smart, you don’t share too many of the details with your editor (Adam), because you want the story to knock him off his feet. Never oversell your story before you file; it’s a lesson I try to pass on to every aspiring journalist I know.
And just to reiterate: no one but no one is letting this writer back in the pages of SI except Adam. There’s no political upside to doing so. Adam never cared about that.
Finally, I filed the story. Anxious for the response text or call I’d receive from Adam in a day or two (it was a 10,000-word piece). Went for a swim to try to return to the land of the living. About an hour after I’d filed, I’d finished swimming laps. I checked my phone, which I’d left within arm’s reach of my lane. There was a text waiting from Adam. It’s the kindest thing any editor ever wrote to me. Adam knew exactly what to say.
Adam’s not dead, of course, just unemployed as of earlier this week. Pardon the Interregnum, as this condition will not last long. It’s not just that he’s too talented to be out of work. It’s that too many people in this often thin-skinned and petty industry (guilty on both counts from time to time myself) admire him and trust him and respect him. Like working with him. Yes, he’s a fantastic editor, but before anyone knew that, they knew that Adam Duerson was a good person.
Adam was never content to allow SI to become soft on its past reputation. He was always about finding new peaks for SI to ascend. He never wanted SI to become Fat Elvis in Vegas, writing checks off its readers’ sense of nostalgia. He has always strived to make the current incarnation of SI live up to the high bar established the previous century. When established names such as Steve Rushin and Jeff Pearlman return to write for their alma mater, Adam has almost always (maybe exclusively always) been their editor. He seeks them out and they know he’s going to do his damnedest for their story.
I don’t feel sorry for Adam. I feel sorry for Sports Illustrated. And I don’t mean that vindictively. I always want to see them both thrive. I don’t know whether the excision of Adam and a dozen or so other editors will make SI more profitable in the short term. But I feel pretty confident that it will take SI further away from being the true bastion of sports journalism that it had been for decades.*
*Adam, I wrote this on the fly. Please have Bechtel give it a blue pencil and Meesha a strong copy read. Ask Schropp to find some photos of us on the March Madness trip. Please run any interference between Stone and I, as you’ve always been so deft at doing.
In her prime…and that was an extended period of time… Raquel Welch appearing onscreen in anything more revealing than a Hefty trash bag was at least an R rating by default. She was to the fairer sex in the 1960s and ’70s what Chris Hemsworth is today. Pure molten sex appeal.
It helped that Welch (given name: Jo Raquel Tejada… her father was Bolivian), who passed yesterday at age 82, never took herself or her bombshell status too seriously. She was as comfortable lampooning her sex appeal and supposed diva status on The Cher Show as she was on The Muppet Show as she was on Seinfeld. Her poster, the iconic image from One Million Years B.C., made a relevant appearance in The Shawshank Redemption (that poster replace the one of Rita Hayworth, whose father was also of Latin descent: Spain).
Welch was always fated to be more of an iconic figure than she was an actress (she was once referenced in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, with Rhoda noting that the voluptuous beauty would never die due to drowning). Welch (her first husband’s surname) seemed to take it all in stride.
Before striking it big, Welch, who was born in Chicago and then moved to Los Angeles, had jobs as a weather presenter in San Diego (there’s a Ron Burgundy joke to be made) and as a cocktail waitress in Dallas. She auditioned to be Maryann on Gilligan’s Island but did not land the role.
Her first major role was in Fantastic Voyage (1966), in which she plays a member of a medical team that is miniaturized and sent into the body of a politician who has been gravely wounded. It was a terrific idea for a film (perhaps you watched it in high school biology class), but it failed to showcase all of Welch’s talents. One Million Years, B.C., released later that year, would be the film that changed all of that. The secret sauce? Welch spent the entire film in a prehistoric bikini.
The concept of “less is more” was never more fitting.
Name at least four movies in which Tom Hanks urinates.
Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, commemorates what event?
True-False: Nevada borders Montana.
Name three starters from the 1975 Golden State Warriors NBA champions.
In what country will the 2026 Winter Olympics be held?
Revealing that your pregnant before more than 100 million people at once, well… Rihanna gave them something to talk about. We were fascinated, if not necessarily entertained, by all of it. The levitation opening was cool but, Rihanna being one of the world’s highest grossing artists and sex symbols, we assumed the bulbous red parachute onesie was just the outermost layer of what would eventually be a highly revealing costume.
It turns out, we are told, that the dancers were meat to represent sperm, which could only mean that Rihanna’s costume was a stand-in for—the Super Bowl, Fun For The Whole Family!
And this got us to thinking…Rihanna was showing, and while pregnancy is far from our area of expertise, she must be at least five or six months along. No? And the NFL revealed that she’d be the halftime performer late in September. She was already pregnant then and she knew it. Did the NFL know it?
So imagine you’re Roger Goodell and Co. Are you saying, Who cares if she’s pregnant? She’s Rihanna. Or are you quietly hoping that she opts to cancel (“Anyone have Lizzo’s cell number?”). Because you know what you cannot do, not in 2022 or ’23, is “fire” Rihanna due to her pregnancy. Even if that was in the contract. Because imagine the uproar that would cause: firing a woman of color because she’s pregnant.
Never mind that 1) Rihanna was not being paid a penny for the performance and 2) she’s already one of the wealthiest females in the world.
K.C.’s Secret Weapon? Pre-Snap About Face
If you were paying attention, both of the Chiefs’ fourth-quarter touchdowns, from deep in the red zone, came on passes near the pylon where the receiver was WIIIIIIDE OPEN. How did that happen?
It happened because of a wrinkle that exploited defenders in man coverage taking for granted something that has been occurring the same way for decades. What is that? A wide out who goes in motion toward the line of scrimmage pre-snap will continue in that same direction (Newton’s—Cam Newton’s— 2nd Law of Thermodynamics). Except that on both of those plays the player in motion reversed direction as soon as the ball was snapped.
As the Eagle were in man coverage, as that receiver heads toward midfield, or away from the sideline, the responsibility for coverage usually switches from a corner to the linebacker. Then the ball is snapped and he’s already headed back toward the sideline he had come from. In the confusion, the defenders lose him. And he’s wide open for a TD.
While this play may predate my personal memory, I first saw this ploy attempted—and with similar success—in the BYU-Notre Dame game in Las Vegas last October. The Cougars deployed it in the first quarter and scored an easy six. I recalled thinking that 1) I’ve never seen anyone try that and 2) that was a weird time to pull out that trick; I’d have saved it for a last-minute situation or a must-have two-point conversion.
Anyway, it worked. Two weeks later Notre Dame copied it—Tommy Rees was taking notes—in a game at home. I believe it was on a fourth down play in the first quarter. The Irish were successful, but it did not go for a TD. If some team used this play before BYU did, I’m not aware of it. But it is genius. Because it’s curious wrinkle of a part of the game most of us had just come to take for granted.
Why does all of this matter on a larger scale? Because everyone losing their minds on the holding call that sealed K.C.’s victory is failing to notice that the Chiefs tried the same ploy yet again. If you click the “Watch on YouTube” above, you’ll see that JuJu Smith-Schuster is in motion, yet again, toward the interior of the field. While his about-face is not as abrupt—SS continues toward midfield after the snap for two steps—he does once again, as with the previous two TDs, do a 180 and head toward the sideline.
This time the Philly defender, James Bradberry, becomes aware of it just in time to make a desperation move and grab SS’s jersey with his right hand. The original Fox replay showed the play further along, and from the wrong angle. Greg Olsen focused on Bradberry’s left hand, not his right. It was left to Kevin Burkhardt to point out that they needed to review the play from a few seconds earlier.
Tough call. Correct call. An anticlimactic finish to an otherwise exciting game. But it was the right call and the “let ’em play” crowd needs to return to their sandboxes.
What is the capital of Paraguay?
Name three Alfred Hitchcock films in which at least a couple of scenes are staged on a train.
Who was the first Super Bowl starting quarterback to not eventually land in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
What company had the largest market capitalization (market cap) in 2022?
The world’s tallest building is found in what country?
The news started pouring in around 1 a.m. Eastern time. The Phoenix Suns were shipping two starters, Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson, plus disgruntled former starter Jae Crowder, plus four future No. 1 picks to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for Kevin Durant.
This Suns fan will dearly miss Bridges, who never missed a game and whose on-the-move mid-range jumper was a surer thing than blue skies in Phoenix. But, the opportunity to land KD, who has the fourth highest scoring average in NBA history (only MJ, Wilt and Elgin’s are better than his 27.28), puts Phoenix as the team most likely to emerge from the West. If everyone stays healthy.
Chris Paul and Devin Booker are both future Hall of Famers. So is KD, of course. Booker is in his prime and DeAndre Ayton just went for 35 and 15 two nights ago—versus the Nets. Ayton remains maddeningly inconsistent, but if he’s playing to his ability the Suns have the best foursome in the NBA.
The Suns just mortgaged their future, but new owner Mat Ishbia (this is only the third day of his tenure) just put the Suns in the best position to win their first NBA Finals since they led Milwaukee 2-0 in the ’21 NBA Finals. And announcer Al McCoy, with the Suns since the beginning, is almost 90. If they’re ever going to win a championship in McCoy’s lifetime… well, this trade was a wham! bam! slam!
Legendary Composer Now Decomposing
Farewell to Austin Powers’ favorite artist, Burt Bacharach, who has passed at the age of 94. Reported cause of death: He watched the Grammys on Sunday night.
Bacharach provided the soundtrack for some of the loveliest, most lush pop songs of the 1960s and 1970s. At his best, no one could touch Bacharach for songs that evince that sense of, what did Don Draper call it? Nostalgia.
These songs were more than just a part of my childhood, and maybe yours. They were the best possible soundtrack we could have had: “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head,” “What The World Needs Now,” “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again,” “The Look Of Love,” “Close To You,” “Walk On By,” “I Say A Little Prayer For You”…
Bacharach, who grew up in Queens, won three Oscars, six Grammys and was married to Angie Dickinson for 15 years. That’s not an EGOT, but it is a DOG.
What was the name of Charles Foster Kane’s estate in Citizen Kane?
What musical engineer who worked on the last two Beatles albums, as well as Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side Of The Moon,” went on to form a band that had a fair level of success itself?
Joe Pesci turns 80 today. Name another actor who portrayed a defense lawyer in a trial set in Alabama.
Name a country that is the only country that begins with that letter of the alphabet.
Do the stars in the sky help sailors figure their latitude, longitude, or both?
LeBron James needed 36 points to surpass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (in attendance) as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. He reached that in three quarters, and finished with 38 as the Lakers lost to the OKC Thunder at home, 133-130.
James now has scored 38,890 career regular-season points. He remains behind Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain and contemporary Kevin Durant in career scoring average. Something curious to behold: at the moment James passed Jabbar, his career scoring average was 27.23 points per game—and the date was 2/7/23.
The SOTU and The STFU
The State of the Union address? Didn’t watch. Trying to avoid being triggered in any direction these days. What?!? It’s a Cary Grant marathon on TCM? We’re gonna party with C.K. Dexter Haven, thank you very much.
Cam A Lot
The winner of the Kyrie Irving trade? Nets rookie Cam Thomas, who last night versus Phoenix recorded his third consecutive 44-points-or-more game. The 21 year-old just became the youngest player in NBA history to pull off a trio of consecutive 40-point games (reread that sentence once more, please).
Thomas, a 6’3″ guard out of LSU, still has a career average of below 10 ppg despite this past week’s scoring barrage. Which sort of lets you know why he was muzzled before this week.
It’s nice to see a player from LSU suiting up for the Nets who can actually score.
Well, that was an uncomfortable movie with a wallop of an ending. To think that this film based in San Francisco came out as the Zodiac was also out there terrorizing the city is something else. Also, another film we should have added to the early ’70s mystery/thriller/paranoia genre: The Parallax View, which is even more discomfiting than this.
The lesson of this film, which Gene Wilder learned but later Dustin Hoffman would not: never break Teri Garr’s heart.
An experienced climber yesterday took to the sunny streets of Phoenix and ascended the tallest structure between Los Angeles and Dallas, the 40-story Chase Tower in downtown Phoenix. He’s a pro-lifer trying to gather support for the cause. Repeatedly he was enjoined to terminate his ascent but, in keeping with is beliefs, refused to abort the mission.
Which NBA player, who is both retired and eligible for the Hall of Fame, scored the most points in his career (>20,000) without being inducted into the Hall?
This is a toughie, but you know the names: What non-quarterback was named to the most Pro Bowls (one of three players are possible), 14?
Eleven human beings have walked on the surface of the moon. Neil Armstrong was the first. Who was the last?
Both Slovenia and Slovakia border this country. What is it?
What is the chemical symbol (one letter) for Tungsten?
To answer faithful reader’s question from yesterday’s comments section, Yes, I have seen both Call Northside 777 and The Mortal Storm (the latter for the first time just a month or so ago). If you’ve ever seen George Kennedy’s tribute to Jimmy Stewart on TCM, I believe he hits it right on the nose. Stewart embodies the ideal American, that version of ourselves we’d most like to think ourselves as being (though we all fail). and Kennedy even pointed out that while many would answer “John Wayne,” it was Wayne who fancied himself (and no small number of his characters) a war hero but it was Jimmy Stewart who actually was, having flown two dozen or more combat missions over the English Channel and into Europe.
I remember enjoying Call Northside 777, but it has been a few years. But I will highly recommend The Mortal Storm, a 1939 film about the encroachment of Nazism on a peaceful Austrian college town. Stewart is terrific as is Robert Young; Marcus Welby, M.D., is a little too convincing as a Hitler Youth. Then there’s Robert Stack, very handsome as a young man, and Margaret Sullavan, who for some reason a lot of folks thought was the paragon of beauty but to me, more than a little overrated (she’s that era’s Kirsten Dunst). Anyway, it is a film that reminds you a little of The Sound Of Music minus the happy ending. Well worth seeing.
A few other Jimmy Stewart gems beyond the obvious ones such as The Philadelphia Story (for which he won an Oscar), Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (for which he should have won an Oscar, but his best friend Henry Fonda did… the TPS Oscar was a makeup call), Rear Window, Vertigo and It’s A Wonderful Life:
• Rope… his second-best Hitchcock role.
•Anatomy Of A Murder… arguably the film that taught all TV courtroom procedurals how to do it. Lee Remick is sin in tight pants.
*Harvey… his Forrest Gumpian role.
•After The Thin Man… no spoilers! (But it’s killing me)
• The Shop Around The Corner… which bequeathed us You’ve Got Mail
• Winchester ’73… an underrated Western with a young Rock Hudson as an Indian brave, a newcomer named Tony Curtis and Dan Duryea doing his best Dan Duryea impersonation.
•Thunder Bay… a Yukon/Alaska western
•The Naked Spur… a High Sierra western with a young Janet Leigh who never takes off her overcoat—what were the producers thinking?
There are more, and I’m sure Faithful Reader will scold us for not including The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (title character played by…?) or Destry Rides Again or even The FBI Story or No Highway In The Sky ….
A Shot Of Sanity
Here’s Bill Maher ranting about how ridiculous and intolerant the woke crowd can be. I have a ridiculous story of my own to add to his anecdote here, and maybe some day I’ll share it. I promise the details are no less ludicrous than what The Real Time host is spouting off on here. The administrators who believe they are doing our youth and the next generation a favor by being ultra hyper-sensitive are actually doing the exact opposite: They’re teaching them how to be good little Nazis, just at the opposite end of the shallow pool. And they’re doing it because either deep down they need the approbation of these kids to further their self-esteem (as opposed to knowing that good parenting or good mentorship involves the capacity to say “No” and to stick to it) or they’re doing it over some self-imposed guilt about how the world works that they in fact had no part in causing.
Related: I just had a job application for a teaching position at a prestigious university forwarded to me. The only thing the school asks of me besides a resume and basic facts about how I identify, whether I’m a veteran and ethnicity is an essay about why I feel diversity and inclusion is important. It’s like asking me to explain why I feel water and air is essential. The fact that I have to dignify the question by pretending to take it seriously as opposed to simply answering, “I believe that common sense is important and that as an educator I treat everyone equally regardless of gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, political leaning or ethnicity.” The fact that I simply cannot use that as my response, particularly as a white male in his fifties, well, that’s wrong. Never mind that they don’t seem to care too much about MY ACTUAL QUALIFICATIONS.
I’m not someone who agrees with much of anything Joe Rogan has to say, but I will point this out…
Now, you might agree with Mr. Sherman here. I’d say that reducing any one ethnic group to a stereotype as if to say ALL are like this is just stupid. I’m Italian and I’ve never whacked anyone (though I did have a cousin who met his end this way… no lie… which is kind of the point).
Anyway, if you venture onto Netflix, find the episode where Jerry Seinfeld’s guest is comic Hasan Minhaj. At one point, late in their date, Jerry looks across the table at his young Indian-American colleague and says, “I’ll tell you one thing Jews and Indians have in common: we both love money.”
No one canceled Jerry for saying this. Maybe not enough people on Twitter saw it. Or maybe it’s like when Chris Rock or Dave Chapelle talk about black people. I can say it; you cannnot.
By the way, I loved this line from Chapelle when he hosted SNL last November: “a group of Italians together in business is a mob, a group of Mexicans is a cartel… but a group of Jewish people is… a coincidence.” LULZ.
Executive Suite Wisdom
Yet another reason to love TCM… tuning in to learn about a film you never even knew existed. In this instance, on Sunday, Executive Suite from 1954 with an All-Star lineup of William Holden, Barbara Stanwyck, Fredric March and Walter Pidgeon. So here’s the climactic scene, and remember this if nearly 70 years ago, but it’s even more true today than it was then. This is why capitalism is broke. The Fredric March types won. Tune in. Again, from 69 years ago.
Name two six-letter states that border one another.
Who played Liberty Valance in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance?
Name a film in which a female is never seen nor given a speaking part off-camera.
Name a country whose capital city is the exact same word, same number of letters (there’s more than one).
An earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale rocked eastern Turkey yesterday, taking more than 2,300 lives in that country as well as Syria and Lebanon. Chances are that the fatality figure will at least double as more bodies are found in the rubble.
In another epoch, someone might have found a way to twist this tragedy’s cause into God’s wrath, but as the geography clearly shows, Whoever or Whatever caused this was ecumencial in His/its treatment of the religious faith of its myriad victims. We are reminded of the sage words of that ’60s philosopher, Don Draper:
Hip Hop? Hooray!
We’ve been aged out of watching The Grammys (nobody’s fault…just time’s winged chariot, etc.), but we heard they did a 50th anniversary tribute to hip hop. So hip hop is officially an OG. And it may need Hip Replacement Hop soon. This video, we think, captures it…
We like that L.L. Cool J placed a date (August 11, 1973) and place (1520 Sedgwick Ave., the Bronx) and person (DK Kool Herc… still thriving at age 68) for hip hop’s origin. Let history show that the Yankees lost at home that Saturday to the best team in baseball, the Oakland A’s, 7-3. The starting pitchers were Vida Blue and Mel Stottlemyre; Reggie Jackson went three for four).
Growing up as Wonderbread as I did, I was only vaguely aware of hip hop, even through the rise of the Sugar Hill Gang and even Run-DMC. The first time hip hop’s full thrust really hit me was in the opening credits of Spike Lee’s 1989 classic Do The Right Thing. Public Enemy’s “Fight The Power.” You could feel the power. You?
Rosie Perez, you are an immortal.
Kyrie Irving, Texas
Lana Turner was married six times. It wasn’t because her husbands found her unattractive. Kyrie Irving just moved on to his fourth NBA team, even though he’s a legitimate Top 10 NBA talent when he’s fully healthy and engaged.
Irving, who will turn 31 in March, joins Luka Doncic, who is tied for the NBA scoring lead at 33.4 points per game (with Joel Embiid) and is probably one of two players (Nikola Jokic) with a realistic shot to win MVP this season. Does Dallas’ record (28-26) improve? Does Kyrie play nice in order to secure that final max contract and does he even remain in Dallas?
Kyrie’s former teammate had this to sub-tweet, but you know, it’s worth noting that LeBron has jumped teams just as many times in his career as Kyrie has.
Death Foreshadowed On Screen
Maybe you’re like me (hopefully, you’re not). You watch a film on TCM and you want to learn more about an actor so you Google them. And if you see that they died, say, before their 50th birthday, you are obliged to dig further. So you see the gorgeous Carole Landis (above) in a film and then see she died before her 30th birthday and you shovel further and learn that she committed suicide, heartbroken that Rex Harrison would not leave his wife for her (and then he still had the gall to make My Fair Lady... GAW!).
Then there’s the even more tragic story of Susan Peters, who was both stunning and a fine actress with a bright future ahead (both of these actresses were ’40s era, Golden Age of Hollywood sirens). On New Year’s Day, 1945 (coincidentally, Landis’ 26th birthday), Peters was on a hunting trip with her boyfriend. A bullet discharged accidentally and left her a paraplegic. Two years earlier she had earned a Best Supporting Actress nom for her role in Random Harvest. Now here career was essentially over… though she did wonderfully as a wheelchair-bound villain in The Sign of The Ram (1948).
The reality of her plight eventually consumed Peters, who plunged into a deep depression and starved herself to death in 1952, at the age of 31.
Now, sure, this is all morbid and depressing, but it fascinates me. Taking it to yet another level are actors whose means of death is forecast, or at least foreshadowed, in a movie in which they appeared. And, after watching Hangover Square this weekend, I now have the obligatory grouping of three to provide you:
James Dean, who died in a car wreck as you know (I drove past this rural intersection in central California last October). Dean only appeared in three films, but in at least two of them, he’s driving at unsafe speeds (Rebel Without A Cause and Giant). The latter film was released after Dean’s deth.
Carole Lombard, who died in a plane crash just outside of Las Vegas. The ’30s starlet and wife of Clark Gable was homeward bound to Los Angeles from a goodwill war bonds tour that had ended in Indiana. She and her mom had taken the train all the way from the Hoosier State to Vegas, but then they were anxious to be home and opted to fly the final leg. A tragic choice. Lombard appears in at least two films where she appears in a scene in a plane’s cabin (Nothing Sacred and To Be Or Not To Be). Lombard was just 33 when she died. The latter film was also released after she died (and is highly recommended by MH judges and editors).
Finally, Linda Darnell, a buxom beauty from the ’40s era who would tragically die in a house fire. In Hangover Square she is first strangled to death by the main character, George Harvey Bone (Laird Cregar), who then deposits her wrapped corpse atop a large bonfire pyre (celebrating Guy Fawkes Day in London). Darnell was 41 when she died.
Completing this large circle, Cregar would die tragically at age 31. He was obsessed with losing enough weight to be considered a leading man, eventually undergoing gastric bypass surgery… in the prehistoric cosmetic surgery era of 1945. Nine days later, Cregar died of complications from surgery. Hangover Square, his signature performance, was also released posthumously.
Conclusion: I watch too much TCM.
Name every populated continent that did not experience a direct armed conflict/attack during World War II.
The first NBA slam-dunk contest was held in Denver in 1984. Who won?
Name three Best Picture winners from the 1980s that are set in Asia.
Name these Biblical characters in order, from first to appear to last: Moses, Abraham, Noah, David, Joseph.
How many offensive players must line up on the line of scrimmage, minimum?