by John Walters

Humble Pie On The 4th Of July

In today’s New York Times, David Brooks with an essay on how 2020 and the pandemic has served up a long overdue double helping of humble pie to an America that is loud, arrogant and obnoxious. And he offers up a few insights:

It amounts to a refusal on the part of lots of Americans to think in terms of the social whole — of what’s best for the community, of the common or public good. Each of us thinks we know what’s best for ourselves.”

He adds:

 “In the same way as men cannot for long tolerate a sense of spiritual meaninglessness in their individual lives, so they cannot for long accept a society in which power, privilege, and property are not distributed according to some morally meaningful criteria.”

A lot of people look around at the conditions of this country — how Black Americans are treated, how communities are collapsing, how Washington doesn’t work — and none of it makes sense. None of it inspires faith, confidence. In none of it do they feel a part.

In America we make bold proclamations of our patriotism (Let’s display a flag that covers every inch of the football field!) and then go about stiffing the government by collecting unemployment checks when we already have jobs or stiffing our fellow citizens by not wearing masks in public. You visit other countries and they lack oversized flags but they do display a sense of sublimating their egos for the common good. Not here.

Happy Birthday, America.

A Burning Bush In Arizona

Let’s take a moment to (socially) distance ourselves from the idiots and morally repugnant political leaders in Arizona (below):

and find wonder in the natural beauty that the state provides (as a state, Arizona is a beauty pageant finalist: You’re gorgeous, babe, but just don’t open your mouth.)

That tree exists somewhere in northern Arizona and the photo was taken by Peter Pallagi, who discovered the tree on one of his perambulations. I’m almost fearful of posting these because then the Instagram crowd wants to track it down and pose in front of it. But fortunately I don’t have a viral following so I think it’s safe.

Screamin’ A Goes Off On ‘The Bubble’

I don’t know, how long have we been saying this? Three weeks, a month? The idea that NBA players would live in a quarantine situation for two months with only their wives or with only their top-rated girlfriend always sounded comical to us. Adam Silver really needs to watch an episode or two of ‘Ballers, ya know.

(You have to love how the female commentator—Is that Molly Qerim?— protests, “Stephen A., they’re going to have ping-pong tournaments.” The comeback SAS should’ve had to that shoulda been, “It’ll be the first ping-oping tournament to use blue balls.”)

Here’s the other thing that we’ve been thinking about recently: When/if (we still don’t see it) the NBA starts up in Orlando, the headline each morning won’t be who won which game or who scored the most points; the headline will be who tested positive (and players will test positive). And the follow-up story will be how the NBA and/or team plans to deal with that. And whether other players will want to face that player if he remains. And if he doesn’t remain, how it adversely affects his team/the postseason.

This will be the news cycle, day after day after day: how the NBA entered the Indy 500 with two flat tires and a half tank of gas and is shocked—shocked—to have conked out on Lap 38.

Mr. Silver, please. I know those TV contracts are gi-huge, but you’re uncharacteristically missing the forest for the trees here. Someone with decent PR knowledge should be telling you what a disaster this will be. And when it all crumbles you can’t just say, “We went in with the best of intentions.” Not good enough. Nope. You’re not allowed to be this obtuse.

UPDATE: Silver said as recently as two days ago that a large uptick in cases in Florida could delay the NBA’s restart in Orlando. Ya think? Well, the U.S. and Florida each set new coronavirus case records yesterday, Commissioner. So how big do you need to see?

Fall On Me

Here’s “Classic Rock Kid” covering our favorite REM tune and doing a fine job. He particularly nails the Mike Mills backup role, and not only because he’s wearing the specs.

I was a young reporter at SI and late on a Sunday evening, when most of us reporters had to work past midnight, sometimes as late as 3 a.m. or 4 a.m., MTV was airing the now-classic REM Unplugged episode. Maybe for the first time. A few of us were sitting on the couch and chairs in Bambi Wulf’s corner office (she has passed; yesterday was her birthday. Pour one out for Bambi, one of the legends of SI) and I was still, rightly, regarded as something of a poser and dilettante in this journalistic endeavor.

The staff’s ranking REM expert (and there were a few), Tim Crothers, tested me by asking what my favorite song from the band was. I think he expected me to say, “The One I Love” or worse, “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” or, even worse and potentially self-terminating, “Love Shack.”

But I replied, truthfully, “Fall On Me.” And I was permitted to remain among the bullpen cognoscenti for another week.

A Giant Fracking Mess

We made a lot of money off Chesapeake Energy (CHK) the past five years—and we lost some, too. This week CHK finally filed for bankruptcy and now the stories can begin to roll out.

Background: You may recall that the company’s bombastic and charismatic founder, Aubrey McClendon, ended his own life by driving into the side of a railroad overpass a few years ago. No skid marks on the road. Yeah, sure it was an accident.

This week comes word that the company had its own wine cave on-site, located behind a broom closet. Also on-site “a lavish campus that was modeled after Duke University, complete with bee keepers, botox treatments and chaplains for employees.” CHK also spent more on NBA season tickets (with the Thunder) than any single company anywhere in the NBA. Also, it had the largest tab of any single client with one of those private jet companies (Wheels Up! or Net Jets or Blade, I forget).

And yet, for all that, you could have bought shares of CHK on June 3 for $14 and by June 8 those shares were worth $70. You’ve just quintupled your stake in five days. That’s a Pump and Dump HoF moment, especially since the shares are now worth less than $5. If only we had a competent and legitimate federal government, someone from the SEC or Dept. of Justice might be looking into that curious uptick.

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