by John Walters
Yesterday, August 16th, was our 9th anniversary.
It’s funny. I’m re-reading Once Upon A Distant War, by William Prochnau, at the moment. It’s all about the young reporters in Vietnam, the early years, who exposed the folly of the conflict and the countless lies that the White House and the Pentagon told in order to sustain it. One of the most telling quotes, from an army colonel to Peter Arnett: “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.”
So now the U.S. is exiting Afghanistan and leaving it to the Taliban. Charlie Wilson’s War, II. We all know that the war began with a lie, a lie that people will pin on George Bush (at least those who don’t tune in to Newsmax and OAN and blame it on Joe Biden) when really the blame belongs to Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, the puppet masters.
Is Afghanistan moving backward? Probably. But how many American lives are supposed to be expended to attempt to rescue it? And after nearly 20 years, maybe it’s time to admit nation-changing and war-fighting are not the same thing.
…. Speaking of tough defeats for the Yanks. Now that’s what we call a Midsummer Classic. Everything about the Field of Dreams game was perfect, right up (for a Yankee fan) until Tim Anderson’s walk-off blast. The Fox production was sublime and the producer understood the importance of the sunset beauty shot. Honestly, we thought Kevin Costner was unintelligible at times, and we’re not saying he was drunk, only that a few of his sentences didn’t seem to make all that much sense. Just us?
The Yanks have won three straight since losing 9-8 to the Sox.
Tim Anderson, a black player, hit the walk-off home run. There were no black players in baseball, of course, at the time the players who materialized from the corn rows in the original Field Of Dreams played. And how perfect would it have been if Anderson were sporting corn rows! Anyway, the first White Sox player to hit a walk-off home run versus the Yankees? Joe Jackson. You can’t make it up.
*The judges acknowledge this is a bit of a stretch
On Saturday night, Tyler Gilbert made his first Major League start. For the Arizona Diamondbacks. Versus the potent bats of the San Diego Padres. Gilbert, 27, tossed a no-hitter. Something that had not been done in 68 years (a pitcher making his first start) and something that had never taken place at Chase Field (a no-hitter in general).
One Major League start, one no-hitter. Grover Cleveland Alexander started 600 games, won 373 of them, and never tossed a no-hitter. Greg Maddux never threw a no-hitter. Pedro Martinez tossed a one-hitter versus the Yanks in the Bronx, but never a no-hitter. Tyler Gilbert has already thrown a no-hitter before his first five-days-between-starts rest.
Certainly not what we expected to see in Tokyo. Emma Coburn, the reigning Olympic silver medalist in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, simply bonked in her race. And then, as you see here, tripped coming over a hurdle and was DQ’ed for leaving the track. Some days/nights your body just does not come to play. No matter what the stakes.
We’ll have plenty of Olympic memories/highlights in the coming weeks. For the record, we were stationed in romantic Fort Lee, N.J., and writing for the nightly CNBC studio show in Englewood Cliffs.
Good news for Emma, others: The Prefontaine Meet in Eugene, Ore., is happening this weekend. Cool beans. Lots of Olympic athletes will be there.
We just finished reading Shoe Dog, which is Phil Knight’s autobiographical story of how Nike came to be (ghost-written, expertly, by the incomparable JR Moehringer). In the blurbs section, you’ll see some big names tout this as the best business bio they’ve ever read and, having read it, I wouldn’t disagree. It’s captivating and at the same time it tells you just how tough the road was for the men behind the swoosh. The company was more than a dozen years old in the late 1970s and still missing deadlines on payments to its lenders because the cash float was negative.
Another telling thing about the book: Phil Knight might have created Nike, but the man above, Jeff Johnson, was its most valuable employee. It was Johnson who opened the first Blue Ribbon (they weren’t called Nike for the first seven or eight years) store in Santa Monica; it was Johnson who uprooted his life and relocated to Wellesley, Mass., after Knight lied to his Japanese suppliers and told them he had an East Coast distributor so send the shoes there. Knight even told Johnson’s successor at the Santa Monica store that he’d gotten Johnson’s gig before he told Johnson he was leaving (the new guy burst into the store and informed Johnson); it was Johnson who re-relocated to Oregon when Knight needed him at the home office; and it was Johnson who re-re-relocated to New Hampshire when Knight decided they needed an American factory.
Oh, and when Knight wanted to name his company’s first homegrown sneaker “Dimension Six,” it was Johnson who came up with another name… Nike.
Phil Knight is the main character of Shoe Dog. Jeff Johnson, now retired and living amongst thousands of books in New England, is the hero.
By the way, two little-known facts: 1) Nike and Apple had their IPOs within 10 days of one another in December of 1980. NKE was issued on Dec. 2nd and AAPL on Dec. 12. I challenge you to think of another American brand that did not already exist before, say, 1970, that has been more influential the past 40 (not 20) years. 2) The last four digits of Nike phone office lines throughout world spell out “NIKE” (6453) and if you put that number backward, 3:54.6, it is Steve Prefontaine’s best mile time.
TCM today (all times Eastern). It’s a fantastic lineup. We don’t deserve it.
4 p.m. Odds Against Tomorrow: Ed Begley, Robert Ryan and Harry Belafonte in a bank heist.
8 p.m. The Big Heat: Classic film noir starring Glenn Ford and Gloria Grahame
10 p.m. In A Lonely Place: Another film noir classic, with Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame. GG had IT, and she would’ve gone on to an even bigger career… but, well, the director of this film was Nicholas Ray, who happened to be her husband… and soon after she had an affair with her step-son, Nicholas’ biological son, who was still a teenager and underage.