Bud Grant passed away this weekend at the age of 94.
There was simply nobody like him: he grew up without a father, as I recall, and I believe his mother had to resort to an older profession to help support the family when he was young. Grant was a THREE-sport star at the University of Minnesota.
He’s the only man to play in both the NBA and the NFL.
The only man to intercept five passes in a pro football game (in the CFL), though he had played wide receiver part of the time in the NFL.
A few years ago I heard that Grant staged an annual yard sale at his home on Memorial Day weekend. I asked Grant if I could speak to him about that, and I was surprised that the then 88 year-old grant accepted the offer. He invited me to spend an afternoon at his home in Bloomington, Minn. It was a Saturday in May (the week before the yard sale) and we spent four memorable hours in his living room, downing endless cups of coffee and discussing his life.
Despite that gruff exterior, Grant had a wicked sense of humor. Dry, but wicked. An exceptional person. Thank you for that day, Coach Grant. Rest in peace.
Something a teacher (Mr. Gilligan, 8th grade math) told me long ago and that I’ve never forgotten: you may be remembered for that one infamous moment in your life, no matter what you do all of the rest of your life. So try to avoid it.
On the same night a year ago in which Will Smith won a Best Actor Oscar (something that fewer than a handful of black men have ever done), he slapped Chris Rock onstage at that ceremony. And, alas, 50 years from now, that’s likely what Smith will be remembered for most.
Ironically, Rock had taken the high road about the incident for nearly the entire year afterward. And continued to do so for the first 45 or 50 minutes of his unprecedented live Netflix special, “Selective Outrage,” two Saturdays back. Rock’s set had a few peaks– the “Americans being addicted to attention” and “racist yoga pants” riffs stood out—but there was also more of a sense of anger than comedy to much of what he was spewing. Hostility.
Then he finally came around to The Slap. He started out fine, reiterating that he was not a VICTIM. But then his harangue became ugly, and not particularly funny. When he aired, onstage, the extremely dirty laundry that had been a part of the Smith-Jada Pinkett marital problems, he went too far. And, just like Smith, he cannot have that moment in time back.
I wish that Rock had consulted his good friend Jerry Seinfeld before he ran with that material. The one good joke in the riff that he had (the idea of Smith starring in “Concussion” and then giving him one), he flubbed. The rest, I believe, Seinfeld would have told him to scratch in order to maintain a semblance of dignity. All Rock did was lower himself to the same level where Smith was a year earlier.
Tom Cruise seems sanguine about the fact that he may never win an Oscar (or he’ll pull a Henry Fonda and win one on his deathbed out of sympathy for all the times the Academy overlooked him during his career). In the meantime, the actor whose first catchphrase was “Sometimes you gotta say, ‘What the f***'” is going to live his best life. Or kill himself doing so.
What is the largest lake entirely bordered by states in USA?
What two current coaches have taken three different schools to a Final Four?
Name a Civil War battle—not Fort Sumter—that the Confederacy undeniably won.
What is the basic molecular structure of any sugar?
Perhaps the most thrilling and incredible sporting event of 2023 thus far occurred in London on Saturday morning at Emirates Stadium. Arsenal, in first place in the Premier League, ahead of Manchester City by just two points at kickoff (three points for a win, one for a draw, zero for a loss), hosted AFC Bournemouth, which was in 19th place.
The clubs that are in 18th, 19th and 20th place at season’s end are relegated down to the Championship League (not to be confused with the Champions League), the second level of English soccer.
So here’s what happened:
° The lowly Cherries scored just 9.1 seconds into the match. It was the second-fastest goal in Premier League history.
°The Cherries added a second goal shortly after the half to take a 2-0 lead. No team had overcome a 2-0 second-half deficit to win in the EPL in four years.
° The Gunners erased the deficit with goals in the 62nd and 70th minute. The atmosphere at Emirates was electric. The Cherries were holding on for dear life.
°In the final moments, nay, the final play of stoppage time, in the 97th minute, the Gunners scored the game-winner off a corner kick. No matter what happened after Arsenal’s Reiss Nelson touched the ball, the match was going to be over. He flared it into the low right corner of the net. Bedlam in London.
The Gunners, in search of their first Premier League championship since 2004, retained their 5-point lead over Man City (who’d won earlier in the day to trim the gap to two points). Bournemouth, looking to avoid relegation for the second time in the past four seasons, may have been dealt a death blow. It’s almost impossible to take a 2-0 lead in the home pitch of the Premier League’s top side. It’s unforgivable to squander it.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, the two most successful sides in Premier League history, Man United and Liverpool, met at Anfield. The Reds scorched Man U, 7-0, the most lopsided win in their long and storied rivalry. It’s the most lopsided loss in Man United history, period. The club was founded in 1878.
This Jordan Also Rules*
*All of this info, and just my knowing about it in general, is credit to sports brain
I haven’t watched a full episode of SportsCenter in years, so I’ve no idea if they even mentioned over the weekend what U.S. teenager Jordan Stolz accomplished. It was a landmark feat.
The 18 year-old speedskater from West Bend, Wisconsin, ventured into Europe and swept gold in the 500, 1,000 and 1,500 meters at the World Speedskating Championships in Holland. It is difficult to fathom the enormity of Stolz’s weekend.
First, Stolz became the youngest world champion in this sport—ever.
Second, Stolz became the first person to ever sweep those three events at a world championships.
Third, Stolz is American. Not Dutch, not Danish, not Scandinavian, not even Russian.
Stolz’s mom is a dental hygienist. His father, a police officer, is originally from Germany. He was inspired to try speed skating after watching the 2010 Winter Games with Apolo Ohno and Shani Davis. Since 5th grade he has been home-schooled. The family annually takes vacations to remote sections of Alaska to hunt moose and fish for halibut and salmon. The NBC Olympics feature writes itself. Yes, we’re three winters out from the next Winter Games. But Stolz, not quite 6’1″, is positioned to be the greatest American speed skater since the GOAT himself, Eric Heiden.
Ow! My Cheeks!
If you’ve seen Mike Judge’s 2006 film, Idiocracy, which with each year becomes less of a comedy and more of a prophecy, you remember that in the film, set 500 years in the future (way too optimistic), the most popular television show is called, “Ow! My Balls!” The program is nothing more than a reality show in which different contestants are punched, kicked or hit in their genitals. And America loves it.
So here comes Slap Fighting, a.k.a. the Power Slap League, promoted by Dana White, one of the principal architects of American Dystopia, and next comes the New York Times think piece on it. Our thoughts: We’d never watch Slap Fighting (okay, not more than once), but we see no reason to ban it.
Yes, it’s—what’s that word?—deplorable. And it’s not a good omen as to where society is heading. But it’s only a symptom; it’s hardly the cause. Moreover, this is not cockfighting or dog-fighting. The participants have a choice. We do not espouse protecting people from themselves.
If you’re going to ban this, then ban MMA and football, too. And if you’re not, then give a cut of the proceeds to Barney Stinson, who originated the Slap Bet on How I Met Your Mother (which is likely where White obtained the idea).
A Horror Hidden Gem
I love movies (don’t we all?). But I especially love older ones, and learning about the history of the film business…all of the off-screen drama that goes into the making a film. So the other night I was looking at a list of Greatest Films of The Seventies (a particularly rich decade what with The Godfather flicks, Network, Rocky, Annie Hall, All The President’s Men, Star Wars, The Conversation, Animal House, Dog Day Afternoon, The Sting, Deliverance, Jaws, The French Connection, Mean Streets etc. and so on) and I came across a title I’d never seen: Don’t Look Now.
Here’s what the author of the list, Marc Chacksfield, had to say about it:
One of the scariest movies of all time. One of the most beautiful movies of all time. One of the most fractured movies of all time. One of the most heart-breaking movies of all time. One of the greatest movies of all time. Director Nicolas Roeg never bettered Don’t Look Now – a stunning piece of cinema that keeps you guessing until the terrible end. Go Watch Now.
That’s quite an endorsement for this 1973 British film starring Donald Sutherland (at the height of his cinematic powers) and Julie Christie (one of the five most beautiful woman to ever appear on film, who at the time was dating Warren Beatty). Here’s what we can say: Sutherland and Christie play a comfortable English couple who lose their daughter in a bizarre drowning incident. They’re soon off to Venice, where Sutherland, an architect of sorts, has been hired to restore a church. From there we delve into prophecies, people who have the power of “second sight,” an unbelievably raw and unadorned love scene between the two leads (Beatty threw a fit and it’s difficult to blame him), and a sense of foreboding that is always present.
The movie is a puzzle of sorts, fractured and fragmented, with recurring themes or images of water and the color red and broken glass. It doesn’t make much sense, until it does. And you always have the sense of foreboding…this is not going to end well.
They knew how to make horror films in the Seventies: This, The Exorcist, The Omen. Even the TV miniseries The Dark Secret of Harvest Home (an older Bette Davis is in on the terror). This wasn’t torture porn. The sense of what was coming was more palpable than the actual horror itself. And there’s always a sense of isolation. And maybe someone with a British accent who is blind.
A couple more items: 1) How versatile was Donald Sutherland? He starred in this and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (a remake), both horror films, but also in M*A*S*H and Animal House. 2) The man who played the police inspector did not speak a word of English. He had no idea what he was actually saying, which may have helped in the scene. 3) The stuntman refused to do the scene in the church (you’ll see), so Sutherland did it himself. He used a hidden wire as a safety precaution. But an experienced stuntman later told him that with all of the twisting he’d done as he hung 30 feet above a marble floor, he’d rendered the safety wire useless. Had Sutherland let go of the rope, he would have fallen to his death. Which would have been the ultimate irony of this film.
What finally struck us about Don’t Look Now? Two things. First, Christie’s most famous role is from Dr. Zhivago, and after you see this you’ll have a sense of deja vu about one of its final scenes and one of this film’s final scenes. Second, this film was released in Great Britain in October of 1973 as a double bill with The Wicker Man, of all films. It’s impossible to find another picture that better parallels this one. No one planned it this way, but once you’ve seen both, you’ll understand why I write that. If you’ve never seen this, or the original Wicker Man, get to it.
Why was the original opening of Fenway Park delayed?
What is the largest body of water (contained) in South America?
What was the title of the first film to win the Oscar for Best Picture?
What is the landmark decision involved in Plessy vs. Ferguson (a phrase or clause will do)?
Who had the longest hitting streak in baseball last year or how many games long was it?
Times like this, I’m happy to remind people that not only are Jon Stewart and I homphones (it’s 2023; get over it) but that we have both called Middletown, N.J., home for more than a decade at some point in our lives. And that we both love Bruce Springsteen…and pretty much there the similarities end.
By the way, how many times has the person opposing you in a political discussion retreated to “That’s your opinion” in an argument since Donald Trump declared his candidacy in 2015? It’s maddening and something I’ve dealt with often. And my reply is exactly what Stewart’s is here, but we both know that the person across from us isn’t listening. They’ve got no interest in enlightenment. Just in holding onto their precious beliefs. Hyprocrisy does not shame them in the least.
Send Liars, ESG Bills and Money
I’m not a Democrat. Really. It’s just that how come every time I see a politician lying, it turns out to be a Republican? The coup de grace here is when Becky Quick says, “So you know Schumer’s biggest donors, but you don’t know yours?” Game, set, match.
Antoine Davis’ chase of Pete Maravich’s NCAA career scoring record was always fraught with qualifiers. First, Pistol Pete never played as a freshman at LSU because in the 1960s frosh were not eligible to play varsity (blah blah blah acclimate to college life yada yada yada interest of the student’s welfare blah blah blah). Second, the 6’1″ guard from Detroit-Mercy is in his FIFTH full college season, due to Covid rules.
Third, he’s played in 144 games compared to Maravich’s 83.
Fourth, made 588 three-pointers to Maravich’s zero.
Fifth, played with a shot clock.
Sixth, played his entire career in the Horizon League, not the SEC.
Still, former Indiana coach Mike Davis’ son needed just 26 points last night in the conference semifinal versus Youngstown State (the Penguins!) to break Pete’s record (and three to tie). Or he needed his team, which has a sub-.500 record, to win so that they’d play at least one more game.
Davis and the Titans fell just short. Trailing by three in the waning seconds, Davis launched a three that missed. Detroit Mercy would lose, 71-66, as Davis finished with 22 points. The Titans are now 14-19.
That keeps them out of both the NCAA and NIT tournaments. Would they pay the $27,500 entry fee just for Davis, who is leading the nation in scoring at 28 points per game, to find those four points he still needs? An already compromised record reaching yet another layer of compromise?
My former student and friend, SportsBrain, did point out that we nearly had (and may still have) both the NBA and NCAA career scoring records, marks that each have been around more than 33 years, broken in a one-month span. Wild.
Shots and Shots and Shots
Something’s happening here/What it is/Ain’t exactly clear….
But let’s pay attention anyway, okay, kids?
—Arizona State defeats Arizona last weekend (above) on a past-halfcourt jumper at the buzzer (as SportsBrain noted, Arizona should have missed its second free throw; what difference did a one- or two-point lead make when you know the Sun Devils’ final shot is gonna be a three?).
—Philadelphia nearly defeats Boston on a Joel Embiid three-quarter court shot that splashed through the net, but was released a fraction of a second too late.
— Then Paul George and the Clippers nearly defeat the team with the NBA’s best record, Denver, on a similar shot that goes through the hoop. The refs correctly point out that the shot was released late while conveniently ignoring, as they always do with All-Stars, that George traveled.
—By the time we reached Sunday afternoon, Caitlin Clark’s buzzer-beater three for Iowa over No. 2 Indiana seemed like child’s play (How do you let the best ‘baller in college hoops get the ball going to her strong side!!!????).
The point? Could it be that because players are practicing threes so much more often than they ever used to that range in general is improving? Or are these random anecdotal moments with no connection whatsoever? We report. You decide.
Kind Of A Strong Take
What individual is identified with victory at the Battle of Hastings?
What is the connection between the first NCAA basketball championship game and the first college football playoff championship game?
Who scored the most points in an NCAA tournament game (one person)?
If a solution has a pH of 13, is it an acid or a base?
Supply a Wordle answer that has no vowels (and is not a plural).
Your Humble Correspondent recently turned 69 (no wisecracks, please). Age brings experience and (some) wisdom. In my four years of self-declared retirement, my perspective has sharpened regarding the current state of affairs in our country. Like the old Reese’s commercial where peanut butter collided with chocolate, my current world view bumped into my love of movies. There are some movies that did not intend to predict the future but are prescient in viewing them now. YHC would like to offer Five Flicks that are worth watching and/or have a pivotal scene “ripped from today’s headlines.” These movies all are worth viewing because of crackerjack casts. By happenstance, these wonderful actors appear: Frederic March (three times), William Holden, Spencer Tracy and Burt Lancaster (twice each).
Executive Suite (1954)
The plot centers on a successful manufacturing company in crisis after its founder and president dies suddenly. The climax involves a board meeting to select a new chairman. The company controller, played by Frederic March, touts his worthiness for the role by pointing out his leadership in maximizing profits and growing shareholder dividends. William Holden’s character, in a somewhat cheesy, scenery-chewing speech, claims the profits chase is killing the company. His message is that the assembly line workers need pride to go with their paychecks. Holden, representing underdog true believers, inspires the board members – even a reluctant March – to nominate and unanimously vote him as the new chair. (Apologies: spoiler alert.)
Relevant because: The major U.S. companies that produce goods and services are money-making monopolies. Airlines, rail carriers, oil, groceries, meat, medicine – the corporations involved in each of those commodities/services can be counted on one hand. Corporate greed is rampant, aided by a Congress with its palms open and greased with payoffs. Since being freed from government oversight in 1978, the major airlines have turned air travel into a NYC subway at rush hour. Profits grew and shareholders dove into their money piles like Scrooge McDuck. Improvement investments were aimed at growing the bottom line. American, Delta, United and Southwest control 66% of the market. During the pandemic, the nation’s airlines received $54 billion in bailout money to “remain solvent.” A large percentage of that cash was used in stock buy backs. Southwest Airlines received $7 billion but it didn’t bother spending any of it to update an antiquated computer system that just before Christmas caused one of the worst passenger nightmares in airline history. (Big shareholders fly private, natch.)
Inherit the Wind (1960)
The movie is based on a 1955 play that was written as a parable based on an event, the infamous “Scopes Monkey Trial” in 1925. The title comes from Proverbs 11:29: “He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind.” While religion and the debate over evolution vs. creationism is the main theme, it’s also about intellectual discussions of thorny topics, the concept of thinking and discussing conflicting ideas. The playwrights had McCarthyism as inspiration.
A high school teacher is on trial for teaching Darwinim to his students, a violation of state law. Spencer Tracy is his lawyer, Henry Drummond (based on real-life lawyer Clarence Darrow) while Fredric March is Matthew Harrison Brady, who assists the prosecution. March’s character was based on William Jennings Bryan, a three-time presidential candidate as a (gasp! Horrors!) Democrat. The courtroom drama has Drummond being denied his scientific witnesses on evolution; the prosecution’s objections are upheld. Drummond is cited for contempt by judge Col. Potter (just kidding; the wonderful Harry Morgan). Faced with no basis for his defense, Drummond decides to use the Bible and calls Brady as a witness. Side note: Drummond’s client is Bertram Cates, played by Dick York, the original Darren on “Bewitched.” This Perry Mason moment is elite acting as Tracy/Drummond verbally and intellectually jousts with March/Brady. My memorable takeaway from Tracy/Drummond: “The Bible is a book. It is a good book… but it is not the only book.” The entire movie is well worth finding and viewing.
Relevant because: Time to get all political and religious up in here. The GOP has been coopted by zealots descended from the John Birch Society. Republican rhetoric relies on propaganda and appeals to the Bible Belt. “We’re a Christian nation.” Never mind the Founding Fathers wrote a Constitution for a country where people came to escape religious tyranny. A new term that is a blinking red light: Christo-fascism. The movie: It’s based on a 1955 play that was written as a parable based on an event, the infamous “Scopes Monkey Trial” in 1925. The title comes from Proverbs 11:29: “He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind.” While religion and the debate over evolution vs. creationism is the main theme, it’s also about intellectual discussions of thorny topics, the concept of thinking and discussing conflicting ideas. The playwrights had McCarthyism as inspiration.
Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)
The epitome of an all-star cast. Spencer Tracy. Burt Lancaster. Montgomery Clift. Maximilian Schell (won Best Actor Oscar for his performance… and no actor was ever more deserving).Richard Widmark. Marlene Dietrich. Judy Garland. Abby Mann won an Oscar for his screenplay, which turned a dull trial about a familiar, horrific event into compelling drama.
Were the Germans who “went along to get along” guilty for the Holocaust they didn’t directly participate in? Should they have taken a stand? How could they have ignored the Nazis, the Gestapo, the SS, Hitler’s madness? Lancaster, one of four Germans on trial, tries to explain and answer those questions when he testifies… for the prosecution. Lancaster’s powerful presence and passionate speech, in YHC’s opinion, was worthy of a best supporting actor nomination.
Relevant because: Double relevancy. This recounting of the Nazi war crimes trial shortly after World War II displays the power of a false prophet fascist (Hitler) who convinced Germans to “love their country” so much that six million Jews were exterminated. War crimes is an ongoing topic as Vladimir Putin tries to exterminate Ukraine. This cynic bets Vlad will never face a trial in The Hague.
Seven Days in May (1964)
Published early in 1962, the novel on which the movie is based told the story – set a decade in the future – of a military coup. President John F. Kennedy read the book and was supportive of the idea of the movie (which would be released after his assassination… fill in your own ironic twists). Frederic March, the fictional president, negotiates a nuclear disarmament treaty with the Soviet Union to end the Cold War. The treaty is unpopular and the president’s approval rating plummets. Military hawks on the Joint Chiefs of staff, chaired by Burt Lancaster’s character, put together a covert military unit. During a staged “alert” the unit is to take over the nation’s communications, seize the president and install a military government. Lancaster’s character in the book and movie was based on two real-life generals. Major general Edward Walker resigned at JFK’s request. Walker was what YHC likes to call “a piece o’ work.” Air Force general Curtis LeMay (a World War II hero in the Pacific) was the model for the second character. LeMay counseled JFK to carpet bomb Cuba during the Missile Crisis. He also favored the sustained bombing campaign of North Vietnam and was the vice-president nominee running with George Wallace in 1968. YHC’s assessment: See, Edwin Walker. Kirk Douglas is Lancaster’s top aide and becomes suspicious of the plot. He works with the president and his closest advisors to try and gather the evidence to expose the plan. March confronts Lancaster in the oval office. Again, it’s a master class in acting pitting two foes committed to their causes.
The relevancy: Can our government be overthrown by a coup? Jan. 6, 2021 proved that question isn’t theoretical. We’re still a democracy only because of good fortune plus the fact that the organizers were incapable of planning a one-car funeral.
(Ed.: Also, a weathered-looking Ava Gardner plays the honey pot… as she also does in 1959’s On The Beach, a film that suggests that nuclear disarmament did not occur, that the major powers dropped nukes on one another, and only the beautiful people—she and Gregory Peck—survive)
A satirical black comedy brilliantly written by Paddy Chayefsky (he won an Oscar for best original screenplay), it was considered “over the top” by YHC when he saw it in the theater but much of what was portrayed has become reality. (Side note: it won three acting Oscars. Beatrice Straight won supporting actress for her only scene that last five minutes and two seconds; a brevity record for an Academy Award.) A network (UBS) losing the ratings war tells veteran anchor Howard Beale (Peter Finch, who won Best Actor but before the awards ceremony) is told by his boss, world weary news producer Max Schumacher (played by William Holden…a wonderful circling back to Executive Suite) that he’ll be fired. Beale is mentally unstable; he announces on his newscast that in a few days his farewell will be an on-air suicide. Schumacher convinces his bosses, who naturally want to immediately fire Beale, to give the anchor a final appearance to apologize and leave with dignity. Instead, he launches into a rant about life being “bullshit.” Viewers dig it and ratings climb but then crater again. Ambitious programming chief Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway, winner for Best Actress) sees her chance. First, she seduces Schumacher. Then she lobbies the network to move Beale’s news show to her control in the entertainment division. Her bosses agree when one of Beale’s rants features a catch phrase that galvanizes the nation (as it did in real life). “The Howard Beale Show” (Beale is billed as “the mad prophet of the airwaves”) is blend of current events and entertainment. Beale appears in front of a stained-glass backdrop so his rants seem like sermons – delivered before a life studio audience. Other segments include Sybil the Soothsayer, who predicts the next night’s news, and a gossip specialist called Miss Mata Hari.
The second half of the movie spins faster, covering topics of corporate greed (that again), global economy and even terrorism. It includes a second iconic scene where Ned Beatty’s character, who runs the corporation that owns the network, chastises Beale and explains The New World Owner (which sounds familiar today).
Film critic Roger Ebert wrote in 2000 that the movie, “Seen a quarter-century later it is like prophecy.” Pity Ebert isn’t alive to provide an updated opinion.
Relevancy: Dominion Voting Systems is suing FOX News for defamation and $1.6 billion. Winning a defamation suit is a tough nut to crack, but this nut (FOX) is effing crazy. Recent information made public from evidence uncovered by Dominion shows that FOX news hosts (and even owner Rupert Murdoch) knew they were spouting lies about The Big Lie, the 2020 election. A “news” channel knowingly reporting “fake news” to retain its viewing base of Qanon qrazies? Well, who would believe that fictional poppycock?