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The King’s Spieth

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Reporter: You haven’t missed a cut here in 25 years.”

Jack Nicklaus: “Really? We’re talking about missed cuts now?”

— Exchange before the 1992 Masters

* * *

Yes, we’re talking missed cuts now because there’s a point to be made, a point about the sheer awesomeness of Jordan Spieth, the singular golfer of the post-Tiger Woods golf world. It seems people around golf cannot have any discussion about Spieth without including a “talent” comparison between him and Rory McIlroy or Jason Day or Dustin Johnson or Brooks Koepka, a comparison that Spieth never seems to fare well in.

He doesn’t hit the ball as far as them, you know.

He doesn’t hit the ball as high as them, you know.

He doesn’t drive the ball particularly straight, you know.

(more…)

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50 things that make me happy

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1. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

There is no order to this list, no purpose beyond fulfilling a promise to a friend. “The Internet is so negative,” she says. “I go on there every day and see rage, I see racism, I see sexism, I see anger at the world. Even the jokes are cynical and angry.”

“Well,” I said, “what if I made a thoroughly non-cynical list of 50 things — people, places, things — that make me happy?”

“How long would that take you?” she asked.

“I think I could do it in a couple of of hours,” I said.

It took me closer to three, but that’s because I had to get the photos and videos and stuff. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are thoroughly delicious no matter what mood you are in. Two great tastes that taste great together is also a wonderful wordplay that perfecty describes chocolate and peanut butter.


 

 

2. The We Rate Dogs Twitter Account

Rate it 13/10. Makes me happy every single post. They’re good dogs, Brint.


 

 

3. Junk of the Heart (Happy) by The Kooks

Not sure how I came across this song … I think someone mentioned it when I wrote about songs that make you happy. I listen to it at least once a week every week, and I still have no idea what it means, and I don’t want to know — don’t tell me. I just know that it makes me happy.


 

 

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I’ve read them all myself, read them all to my oldest daughter, read the first four to my youngest daughter, and I still find myself every now and again picking up one of them, just to read a Dumbledore-Harry discussion or the amazing Snape flashback or the time turner sequence or something. And it makes me feel young, like a kid, and young like a new parent, and young in ways I never was young.


 

 

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5. Playing tennis

I’m 50 now, and I think I have tendinitis in my left knee — it hurts a lot, anyway — and I had some disturbing heat exhaustion/dehydration moment a few weeks ago, and all I can think about is how much my backhand has improved this year. I sometimes ask friends: “What is the thing that takes you out of your own head, the thing that makes the world go away for a time and allows you to just feel alive. Golf? Yoga? Playground hoops? Wine?  Beer? Running? For me it’s getting on a tennis court.


 

 

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6.  Arthur Bryant’s Burnt Ends

The best foodstuff at the best restaurant in the world.


 

 

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7. Casablanca

It doesn’t matter how many times I see it — I’ve probably seen it 50 times — it always makes me happy, and I always notice something new. I came to Casablanca for the waters.


 

 

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8. Steph Curry

He’s been making me happy since his days at Davidson. One of the greatest and rarest gifts an athlete can have, it seems to me, is the ability to not only feel joy when playing but to transmit it, to take us all into his or her world and make us feel what they feel. When I watch Steph Curry make one of those absurd long jumpers — even when I’m technically rooting against his team — I involuntarily feel that joy, as if I made the shot.


 

 

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9. Dreamland Bar*B*Que Ribs

The best foodstuff at the best restaurant in the world.

 

 

 

10. OK Go’s “This Too Shall Pass” Rube Goldberg video

All OK Go videos are awesome — the one with the treadmills is another favorite — but the sheer delight in this impossibly complex video makes me so, so happy.

 

 


11. Emma Stone’s dance to “I Ran” in La La Land

I don’t care if it’s not cool or anything else, I loved La La Land, and Emma Stone’s mock dance at the 1:20 second mark above is one of the most wonderfully gleeful movie scenes ever.

 

 


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12. Paying with my phone

I don’t know if this will ever really become the ubiquitous way to pay for stuff. All I know is every time I actually DO pay for stuff with my phone, the person behind the counter inevitably says, “Wow, that’s cool, I’ve never seen that before.” Makes me feel like I’ve transported from the future.

 

 


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13. I Will Follow You Into the Dark by Death Cab For Cutie

The song I sing most often with my 15-year-old daughter.

 

 


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14. Chocolate covered strawberries

Strawberry doesn’t need chocolate. Chocolate doesn’t need strawberries. Still amazing together.


 

 

15. Those Kristen Bell-Dax Shepard commercials

I don’t know if those commercials are still on, with Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard having preposterously cute exchanges regarding their new appliances, but I fell for them every time. And based on Twitter it seems like they really are like that. My wife desperately wants to be best friends with Kristen Bell. I think they’d make for good couple friends, a rare thing.

 

 


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16. The Great British Baking Show

Everything about this show, absolutely everything — a wise and kind chef with the perfect name Mary Berry, a slightly difficult but with a heart of gold chef with the perfect name Paul Hollywood, two saucy women who crack wise in glorious British accents, the gorgeous tent in the British countryside, the odd camera cutaway to sheep, the constant rain, the collection of bakers who are all wonderful and help each other so that you don’t root against any of them — all of it is entirely perfect. I wish life was the Great British Baking Show.

 

 


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17. Giancarlo Stanton

My 12-year-old daughter’s favorite baseball player. Those home runs …


 

 

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18. Daveed Diggs as Thomas Jefferson in Hamilton

You haven’t met him yet, you haven’t had the chance

‘Cause he’s been kickin’ ass as the ambassador to France

But someone’s gotta keep the American promise

You simply must meet Thomas. Thomas!


 

 

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19. The Runs Created Formula by Bill James

Baseball stats in general make me happy, but none makes me happier than this simple but beautiful little formula created by Bill James about 40 years ago.

Take times on base and multiply it by total bases.

Divide it all by plate appearances

And, like that, you have a remarkably accurate picture of just how many runs that hitter created. I don’t know enough about science to fully appreciate the genius of E=MC2. But I think I get the same kick out of runs created.


 

 

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20. A Skyline Chili 3-Way

The best foodstuff at the best restaurant in the world.

 

 


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21. The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

It used to be that you would come to the Museum and there was a good chance that the great Buck O’Neil himself would be there to give you a hug, take you on a tour, make you feel alive. Buck’s gone but he isn’t — you can still feel his presence here. The Negro Leagues Museum tells a story that has much sadness in it,  but it isn’t a sad story. It’s the happiest story imaginable, a story of triumph and baseball.

 

 


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22. Gary Gulman

“I’ll recommend a couple (documentaries) right now. Helvetica! Riveting. I’ve seen it twice, I gave it five stars. I loved it. And now you’re thinking, ‘Not the font.” Yeah the font. ‘Wait a minute, is it about fonts?’ It’s about fonT. Helvetica. ‘Hevetica bold?’ Oh no, no, they didn’t have time to cover the more exotic forms of the typeface.”

Genius. Everything he does: Genius.


 

 

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23. David Foster Wallace on tennis

Obviously David Foster Wallace wrote beautifully on everything, but he was especially wonderful on tennis and my favorite DFW tennis essay isn’t even the brilliant “Roger Federer as Religious Experience.” It is the review he wrote about Tracy Austin’s autobiography called “How Tracy Austin Broke My Heart.” It is funny and insightful and perfect in more or less every way.

 

 


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24. Utz Barbecue Potato Chips

Michael Schur makes the fair point that as an avowed Yankee loather, it’s not right to eat and love Utz chips since they are a famous Yankee sponsor. But they’re so good.

 

 


 

25. Lionel Messi

When you are feeling a little bit down, the day has got you, Twitter has you twisted up inside, your boss is being a jerk, just watch this video (or one of about a 1,000 like it on YouTube).

 

 


26. Jake Shimabukuro’s While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Or this video — now more than a decade old but still as amazing and wonderful as ever. Sometimes I just go to 2:40 or so when Jake starts going crazy on the ukelele, and that look on his face … gets me every time.

 

 


27. This is Spinal Tap

Funniest movie ever made. “I don’t think the problem was that the band was done. I think problem may have been that there was a Stonehenge monument on the stage that was in danger of being crushed by a dwarf.”

 

 


28. Card tricks

I love card tricks, they make me so happy. I’ve worked on a few — ugh, here’s that video I did for The Machine eight years ago — but I really prefer watching the masters at work, like my friend Joshua Jay.

 

 


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29. Wall-E

A perfect little movie.

 

 


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30. Pat’s King of Steaks Cheesteaks

The best foodstuff at the best restaurant in the world.

 

 


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31. Beef on Weck at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo

They’re famous for the Buffalo wings, of course, but this is the best foodstuff at the best restaurant in the world.


 

 

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32. Seafood Gumbo at Brennan’s in New Orleans

Best foodstuff at the best restaurant in the world

 

 


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33. Ice Cream cone at Eiffel Tower

I don’t care how cliche it is, how touristy it is, how ridiculous it is — getting a chocolate ice cream cone and walking around Paris is one of the happiest things I’ve ever done.

 

 


34. Bruce Springsteen’s Out in the Street

Put on your best dress baby

And Darlin’, fix your hair up right

‘Cause there’s a party, honey

Way down beneath the neon lights

 

 


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35. Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man

Different people play Batman, Superman, James Bond and so on, but I never want to see anyone else ever play Iron Man.


 

 

36. Dave Barry writing about women in sports.

This wonderful paragraph, written in 1985, is one of the inspirations for me to become a writer.

“As far as I can tell, our second basewoman is a pretty good player, better than I am, anyway, but there’s no way to know for sure because if the ball gets anywhere near her, a male comes barging in from say, right field, to deal with it. She’s been on the team for three seasons now, but the males still don’t trust her. They know that if she had to choose between catching a fly ball and saving an infant’s life, she would probably elect to save the infant’s life, without even considering whether there were men on base.”

 

 


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37. Becky Hammon

My daughters ask me all the time, ‘When will there be a woman playing in the Major Leagues.” I don’t know the answer to that. It will happen, I feel sure of it, and it will happen in their lifetime … and hopefully mine. In the meantime, I root constantly for someone in the NBA to hire Becky Hammon as their coach, not because she’s a woman but because she’s a smart, funny, tough and accomplished woman who commands respect and will break down walls. Her awesomeness makes me so happy.

 

 


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38. Graeter’s Raspberry Chocolate Chip Ice Cream.

The best foodstuff wherever you happen to be.

 

 


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39. Made in America, by Bill Bryson

Every single Bill Bryson book is awesome, but this is my favorite, a little gem that is a story of American English and also the story of America.

 

 


40. ELO’s Don’t Bring Me Down

Is it a great song? I don’t know. I do know that it’s impossible to listen to it without it bringing your happiness level up five spots. Mr. Blue Sky too, especially when you see Baby Groot dancing to it.

 

 


41. Diner Sinatra vs. Mathis scene

The whole scene is brilliant, but especialy at the end when a flustered Steve Gutenberg tells Mickey Rourke, “You’ve gone two steps below in my, my, uh, book.”

 

 


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42. Soft Pretzels

Another argument with Mike Schur … but he’s wrong. Soft pretzels are heavenly.

 

 


43. Here Comes the Sun

When my girls were very young, babies really, I used to hold them at night and very quietly, so only they could hear, sing to them “Here Comes the Sun.” There is, of course, no way they could remember that, and I have never told them that. The other day, I asked my 12-year-old what here favorite Beatles song is. She said “Here Comes the Sun.”

 

 


44. Barry Sanders highlights

I’ve written before that I don’t think Barry Sanders was the greatest running back ever … that’s a technical football argument. From an entertainment standpoint, yeah, no one has ever been more fun to watch.

 

 


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45. Table Tennis

Every time I play table tennis or ping pong or whatever you want to call it, I’m reminded how much I love it.

 

 


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46. Mechanical keyboards

As a writer who types all day, mechanical keyboards just make me so, so happy.

 

 


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47. McDonald’s Fries

Terrible for you, the very essence of junk food, gross if they’re left out too long, representative of all this is unholy about food … and utterly, entirely, competely and wonderfully delicious.

 

 


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48. The last two paragraphs of The Great Gatsby

I will never reach those heights, none of us will, but this is is the perfection we strive for, and knowing that it is out there, the perfect order of words, gives us hope on those days when the writing is hard.

 

 


49. The moonwalk

It comes at 1:30 of this video, the steps forward and then the perfect mooonwalk. But all moonwalks are perfect.

 

 


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50. The Mirror Cuffs

One day in 1904, Harry Houdini accepted a challenge from the Daily Mirror in England — they challenged him to escape from a pair of handcuffs that took a locksmith in Blackburn five years to build and design. It is one of the most famous moments in magic, a dramatic duel between Houdini and the impossible cuffs. You will get the whole story in this book I’m writing — did I mention that I’m writing a book about Houdini? — but here’s the part that makes me happy. It has been 113 years. And while there are countless theories from many of the smartest people in magic, the truth is: Nobody knows for sure how Harry Houdini escaped.

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You Lt. Weinberg?

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In my continuing obsession with the movie “A Few Good Men, I have another odd thought to add. We watched the movie as a family the other day, first time for the girls, and other than having to stop the movie about 394 times to explain the various plot twists to my daughters (“So, wait, which one is Kendrick?”) it was quite the success. They liked it. They instinctively understood that the Demi Moore character is a disastrous lawyer. They appreciated the lawyering skills of Kevin Bacon. It was great.

But there was another thing that bothered me in this viewing, and it’s subtle enough that I suspect it will be of no interest to you whatsoever. But what is the point of having this blog if I can’t post stuff that only I care about?

So in the scene where Jack Nicholson talks about the responsibility he has in protecting the U.S. from Cuba at Guantanamo Bay … well, here’s the beginning of the “You can’t handle the truth” speech:

“Son, we live in a world that has walls. And those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: That Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives.”

So my question: Why did he take that little cheap shot at Lt. Weinberg? What did Kevin Pollak ever do to him? As far as I know, the Weinberg character did not say a single word to Jack Nicholson the entire movie. He was sort of a minor character (“I have no responsibilities whatsoever”) and there mainly for comic relief and to take down Demi Moore after she “strenuously objected.” I have no earthly idea how the Jack Nicholson character even remembered his name, much less was able to retrieve it instantly in the middle of a furious speech about his important role in the world.

This has puzzled and bothered me more and more since I saw the movie. You Lt. Weinberg? What’s that? Was he getting Kevin Pollak back for doing all those Nicholson impressions when he was doing stand-up? What?

The other day, we were having a family conversation about something completely unrelated when one of my daughters suddenly — for no apparent reason and with no opening in the conversation for doing it — took a cheap shot at me for being old and bald. I told her she cannot do that, there are rules to this sort of thing. You can’t just take a shot without it relating to what is actually happening. I am now calling those “Lt. Weinberg” moments. The witness has rights.

 

 

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Dads, Daughters and Transformers

Dad: There will be spoilers, of course, because life is filled with spoilers, life and Transformers. Children grow up, they begin their own lives, Optimus Prime becomes Nemesis Prime becomes Optimus Prime. Whatever, the confusion overwhelms you. Knowing what is to come does not deter the bewilderment.

Elizabeth is almost 16 now, and she insists on doing things that suggest she will not live at home with us forever. She drives provisionally, studies subjects and topics beyond my grasp, talks about colleges as if she has some notion of attending one and, also, she knows and follows every YouTube star. That last part sounds unconnected, but it’s all connected. The promise I made to myself as a young father is the same promise every young person I knew made — that we would not fall behind, not lose touch, not become our parents, not grump about the kids with the way they wear their pants and the loud parties and the rock and roll music that all sounds the same.

“Do you like Smashing Pumpkins?” Heather Graham says to Steve Martin in Bowfinger.

“I love doing that!” Martin shouts back.

(more…)

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Father’s Day

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My childhood was spent discovering the many talents of my father. These talents would emerge unexpectedly, little moments of wonder. We were at an amusement park once, and there was a shooting gallery there, and I wanted to make the skunk’s tail go in the air, make the piano player start to play, make the duck quack, but those targets were so small.

Dad took the toy rifle with its warped sights, aimed it carefully and hit every target every time, shooting with such precision that after a while children from nearby began to gather around and shout out, “Shoot the deer! Hit the mirror! Knock down the beer can!”

It was, as I’ve written before, like finding out your father is Batman.

“Where did you learn to shoot like that?” I asked Dad, who disliked guns and was as peaceful a man as I’ve ever known.

“The army,” he said, and he left it there.

When I was very young, so young the memories come back blurry, as if underwater, my father showed me a magic trick. He took a coin, and he put it inside a handkerchief. He handed me the handkerchief and asked me to feel it and make sure the coin was still in there, and it was. Then he asked me to put the handkerchief inside both hands and squeeze tight and close my eyes and say “abracadabra.”

When I opened the handkerchief the coin had been magically replaced by a tiny toy skull about half the size of a superball.

“How did you do that?” I asked Dad, who worked long hours in a factory keeping knitting machines running.

“When I was little, we had a magician stay with us, and he taught me,” he said, and he left it there.

When I was 11, he took me and my brother David to a Cleveland-Boston baseball game. That was 1978, when the Red Sox finished a Bucky away from glory, when their lineup was just ridiculous — Rice and Yaz and Fisk and Lynn and Boomer and Dewey — and when Cleveland was pretty bad. It was a Sunday afternoon mismatch, just after the fourth of July, that patriotic time in Cleveland when everyone briefly acknowledged being Indians fans. More than 45,000 showed up at old Cleveland Municipal Stadium. It was bat day.

Everything went right. Everything. Duane Kuiper, my hero, had three hits including two doubles. And Buddy Bell, my vice-hero, hit the longest home run I’d ever seen; in the bleary vision of memory it might STILL be the longest home run I’ve ever seen. Buddy crashed it off the left-field upper deck, and it was a grand slam. “That was the first homer in my life,” he would say after the game, “that I ever KNEW was gone.”

Cleveland won 7–1. It was perfect, absolutely perfect. “They never lose when we come,” Dad said, and I believed him.

He would take me with him to the bowling alley sometimes when he bowled in his Sunday league. His team was made up of hard factory men who drank their coffee as black as the machine would spit it out, and Dad would bowl the anchor leg, routinely rolling 200s and turning his back on the pins whenever he picked up an easy spare.

And he would take me with him to the Arabica Coffee shop sometimes, there in the Coventry District in Cleveland, an edgy place then when hippies and punk rockers and motorcycle gang members mixed with ancient Eastern Europeans, and Dad would play speed chess against the best players in Cleveland. Swear words in a dozen languages blurted out as men angrily slammed around knights and bishops and queens and kings. My father was a man of distinction here. He had won the Cleveland Open Chess Tournament.

Well, he could do anything. Dads can do anything, right? He could fix anything. He could lift anything. He could handle anything. He also could juggle. One day, for no apparent reason, he just did. There happened to be three tennis balls around. “I want to learn how to juggle,” I said. And he promptly juggled the three balls with flair, as if on stage. I was probably 15 by then. He had been hiding this wonderful skill for 15 years, as if he wanted to unveil it only at the perfect moment.

Then, when I was older, he took me to the factory with him every day for a summer, and I moved boxes and wilted in the suffocating heat while he cheerfully kept the machines going on time. At the end of the day I would be so exhausted and angry that I did not want to see anyone, be around anyone, all I wanted to do was disappear into myself, like the Springsteen lyrics which I had not yet heard:

But your eyes go blind and your blood runs cold

Sometime I feel so weak I just want to explode

And somewhere along the way there it occurred to me that Dad had been doing this same thing for the full 18 years of my life, and that he had come home from the factory every afternoon covered in oil and sweat and no doubt felt those same things I felt. Yet, he would smile, and first thing would go to the garage and get his cheap little plastic baseball glove, and we would go to the backyard, and he would play catch with me, throwing impossibly high pop flies against the sky until the sun set.

“How did you learn play baseball?” I would ask him. My father had grown up in Poland, a young soccer star, he had not seen his first live baseball game until after his oldest son was born. That was the day when the commercials said that America was baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet. Dad wanted all of his sons to be Americans.

“I just picked it up,” he said, and he left it there.

Then we’d go inside and eat something, and he would sink into the couch and watch television until Johnny Carson said good night.

Then he would do it all again the next day. I still don’t know how.

When I was young, I figured that when I became a Dad I too would just know how to to do all these things, would just naturally start bowling 200 games and become a marksman and attain master status as a chess player and perform magic breezily and without effort and just know how to fix cars or broken appliances. I would be able to throw impossibly high pop flies like my father did. It doesn’t happen that way. My own kids are stuck with a Dad of limited talents.

The other day, though, there were three tennis balls lying around. I picked them up and, with my daughters watching, I juggled them easily. They were both dutifully impressed.

“How did you learn to do that?” our youngest, Katie, asked.

“My Dad taught me,” I said, and I left it there.

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RIP Jane

I never met Jane Bachman Wulf, but — like Jeff — she altered my life. When I was 18 years old and felt like every road was a dead end, I sent out a bunch of letters to a bunch of people who seemed to have answers. I wrote to people in radio, television and newspapers. I wrote to baseball announcers and talk show hosts and I wrote “To whom it may concern” letters to the magazines I loved.

The letters weren’t much. They were basically: “Help. I have no idea what to do with my life. How could I work there?” Some people didn’t write back but more people did than I ever could have imagined.

Jane Bachman Wulf was chief of reporters at Sports Illustrated, the biggest dream place of all, and she wrote back the most comprehensive letter of all.

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I’m sure Jane wrote similar letters — maybe even precisely the same letter — to many young people with crazy dreams of working at Sports Illustrated … but that letter meant something special to me. It was a connection. It was a sign that, yes, this crazy life you dream about might actually be possible. I did write for the campus newspaper. I did hook up with the local Charlotte Observer. I did get a summer internship.

And many many years later, I wrote for Sports Illustrated.

Maybe these things would have happened anyway … but maybe not.

I’ve said it many times … you never know what small gesture might change someone’s life. I obviously have kept Jane’s letter for more than 30 years. When I read it now, the feelings of excitement I got when receiving it come back. I’m sad that I never got the chance to thank her. And even though I never spoke with her, I’ll miss her terribly.

 

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The Warriors as modern art

This entire NBA season has been modern art. That, I think, is why people have such different and ferocious views about it. Modern art is meant to evoke strong feelings, even if those feelings are sometimes best articulated with: “Come on, that’s not ART. How can you call that art?”

The Golden State Warriors are that most modern work of art.

Let’s stop with the suspended disbelief; we all knew the Warriors were going to the win NBA title this year. We knew it the way we know that James Bond will win, that Batman will not be killed, that Meryl Streep will get the Oscar nomination, that Republicans will vote one way and Democrats another. We like to play around with such certainties because we enjoy drama and like surprises, especially in our sports. But we knew. The Golden State Warriors were the best team on planet earth last year. They breezed to an NBA record 73 wins, they made a record 150 more three-pointers than any team ever, they scored more points than any team since the league got serious about defense.

(more…)

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Baseball’s balance in math

Earlier today, I wrote a little piece about what I called the balance that baseball is finding with all the strikeouts and all the home runs. I will have an interesting follow (I think) tomorrow as Bill James weighs in.

But before doing that, I wanted to share a little cool math from Tom Tango.

In the piece, I point out that teams in 2017 are essentially scoring the same number of runs as teams did in 1993 … but in VERY different ways. In 1993, hitters did EVERYTHING better except hit home runs. They hit for a significantly higher average, walked more, stole more bases, struck out a ton less often and averaged 4.6 runs per game.

In 2017, with a bunch more home runs, teams are also averaging 4.6 runs per game.

Well, Tango can show us how it works in math. If you like math, I think you’ll get a kick out of this. If you don’t — yeah, you can pretty much stop here.

(more…)

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The Balance of Baseball

One of the many wonderful things about baseball is that it tends to finds balance. People talk about the beauty of 90 feet between bases — the faster runners get, the stronger arms get and so a ground ball to the shortstop was an out in 1923 and it’s an out today — but really the whole game that balances like that. There are times in the game’s history, like in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when pitchers dominate the game. And there are times in the game’s history, like in the 1990s and early 2000s, when hitters dominate the game.

But, enough years ago by, the counterbalance kicks in and the game evens out.

Yes, it’s true, sometimes, the game needs a little help, or anyway that’s what we think. Designated hitters are added. Drug testing is instituted. The mound is lowered. Maybe baseballs are altered. There is always talk about tinkering, changing this or that. But the game tries to balance itself out because hitters and pitchers are the yin and yang of baseball, the good and dark sides of the force, constantly pulling and pushing, pressing an advantage and then retreating. The genius of baseball is that, so far anyway, a pitcher with eight fielders behind him and a hitter with a bat makes for a fair fight. One cannot obliterate the other, at least not yet.

(more…)

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By In Stuff

Astronomical

A few years ago, I used to play this game called “Civilization.” It was actually called Sid Meier’s Civilization, and I’m aware that it still exists and is undoubtedly better than ever. But I don’t know much about it now. I used to play it a decade or so ago, maybe more. The point was then — as I’m sure it is now — to build the greatest civilization in the world. You would do this by building the greatest army, by building the wonders of the world, by filling your civilization with great things like libraries and colleges and aqueducts and, many years later, airports and baseball stadiums.

In any case, back then Sid Meier’s Civilization used to have a cheat mode. In cheat mode, you could advance much, much faster than any other civilization. It was quite comical, really. You would be sending in fighter jets against tribes with clubs. You would be working with nuclear energy when other civilizations were still discovering iron.

It feels like the Houston Astros at the moment are playing baseball on cheat mode.

I realize that can be read a few different ways; I mean it in the best possible one.

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