The four NFL games over the weekend were remarkable -- all four games ended regulation on a field goal, either to win or send the game to overtime. And all the better, both Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady lost their games.
All of which leads to this tweet that I think is hilarious.
On this week’s ‘Not My Job’ segment of the NPR quiz show Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me!, the guests are Brook Lopez of the Milwaukee Bucks and Robin Lopez Orlando Magic – the first twin 7-footers ever to play in the NBA. Their good-natured chiding of each other – along with their mutual love of Disney – make for a fun interview with host Peter Sagal.
This the full Wait, Wait… broadcast, but you can jump directly to the “Not My Job” segment, it starts around the 18:20 mark.
This is from several weeks ago, so it's not the current story it was at the time, but it's still an interesting discussion. And at least it's timely for being in the final stages of the NFL playoffs. As Team Stewart puts it, "Fantasy football legend Jon Stewart sits down with real football legend Keyshawn Johnson to discuss coach Jon Gruden’s leaked racist emails and how the power structure of the NFL enables such behavior. Jon is also joined by Kris Acimovic and Kasaun Wilson, who don’t hold back on the Gruden controversy."
On this “Mystery Guest” segment of What’s My Line?, the contestant is Muhammed Ali. It’s fairly entertaining, most notably because of the effort he puts into a funny voice to disguise his – which in fact not only amuses the audience, but himself, as well. And it's obvious he's having a fun time playing the game, though with his competitive juices trying to win.
This comes from September, 1965, about a year after he changed his name, which clearly is still in a bit of flux to all of society, as can be noted in a couple of places here
This is the full broadcast, with commercials. If you want to jump right to the “Mystery Guest” appearance, it starts at the 21:40 mark.
This is about sports. But really not, so stick with it.
As readers of these pages know, I love the Olympics. I vegetate over them when the Games are on, spending most of my days flipping between the NBC Family of Olympic Channels. I’m unfortunately less than excited about the Games this year for a couple of reasons (lets call them socio-political), and don’t know how that will impact my viewing of the Winter Olympics, but I’ve nonetheless been watching the Olympic trial broadcasts. And therein lies the tale…
On Saturday, I was watching the women’s 500m speedskating event. Erin Jackson is not only the best American in that event, but the best in the world and current world-record holder. And on her final turn, she had the slight stumble but righted herself and won her heat. But in the 500m race, hundredths of a second matter, and so she finished in fourth place overall – and off the Olympic team.
This became a big controversy, because there is a rule that if a skater actually falls, they can get a re-race. But since Erin Jackson maintained her balance, there would be no re-race. With the point being that she was penalized for not falling. “I suspect the rule will be look at after the Olympics to change that,” one of the announcers said.
A bit later in the broadcast, they interviewed Erin Jackson about this and the rule. The TV reporter kept asking about the unfairness of the rule, and Jackson (the first black American woman to win the World Cup title) noted that, yes, the rule is “kind of encouraging people to maybe take the sit, you know, if they have a stumble kind of like mine. So, of course it flashed through my head that I should have sat down, you know,” and then laughed. “But I just think it’s a bad thing to encourage that.” Even though it would have gotten her a new race. She suggested that because the 500m race is so face and hundredths of seconds matter, maybe the rules should take that into special consideration. Which got the reporter, seemingly looking for a story, to then reply, “In other words, you believe that you were treated unfairly because of this rule.” “So, you feel right now that this is an unfair rule?”
And then Erin Jackson endeared herself to me eternally because replying in an almost matter-of-fact voice – “No, I feel like I messed up, you know. It’s definitely on me.”
I almost fell out of my chair. It was just a wonderful, decent, straightforward response. Later, I told a friend that I had a new favorite athlete.
Which only lasted a day. Because now I have two.
The following day, Sunday, I was switching the TV between football games and Olympic trials. But because I had the Chicago Bears game on the Internet, I kept the TV audio on mute. At one point, though, I saw them replay Erin Jackson’s stumble, and thought that they might be addressing the situation again, so I turned on the sound.
And the moment I saw both Erin Jackson and another skater, Brittany Bowe, being interviewed, I had an “Oh, my God” moment of hope pop up in my mind. And in fact, that’s what had come to pass. They were being interviewed together because Brittany Bowe had qualified for the Olympic Team in the 500m, 1000m, and 1500m races – and as a result, told the U.S. Olympic Committee that she was giving up her spot in the 500m race so that her longtime friend Erin Jackson could compete in the race and make the Olympic Team!
I didn’t almost fall out of my chair this time, because I was…well, too moved to move.
Bowe is a veteran of the team, this will be her third Olympics. It will be Jackson’s second. And in explaining her decision, she said, “It’s bigger than me. Yes, it’s Team USA. Erin has a shot to bring home a medal, hopefully a Gold Medal. And it’s my honor to give her that opportunity. She’s earned it, and she deserves it.”
Erin Jackson said everything you expected, “I’m beyond humbled and grateful. And happy”– but also that she wasn’t surprised because “I’ve always known what kind of a person she is. And now it’s showing” That they were from the same town (in Ocala, Florida, not where you’d expect speedskaters to come from…), had known each other almost their whole lives, “she’s always been there for me, as a mentor, as a friend” always had her back and as an older skater had always supported her. That’s just who she is.
There was a lot of hugs, and they walked off arm-in-arm.
And this is that interview, which can watch here. (I initially embedded the video, but for whatever reason the official NBC Olympics code starts running as soon as the page loads.)
So, now, I have two, new favorite athletes. And if you watch the Winter Olympics and usually don’t watch women’s speedskating, you now have a reason to.
As a bonus, this is the full 10-minute coverage of the race and aftermath. It starts with Brittany Bowe’s race in the 500m, but if you want to jump directly to Erin Jackson’s race (with the slip), that starts at the 2:00 mark and only runs for 40 seconds. But if you only want to watch her interview after the slip – and see how poised and gracious she is in the immediate face of great disappointment not making the Olympic Team despite being the best in the world – that starts just about at the 7:00 mark.
Today we have another podcast with Jon Stewart that's a companion to his new series on Apple TV+. Some are extensions of the Apple show, others are standalone. This is a standalone as Jon talks with Steve Kerr, who he describes as "The Nicest, Whitest Man in Basketball."
As their website describes the podcast, “Steve Kerr thinks he’s here to talk with Jon about his career, speaking out on social issues, and the racial and political dynamics of the NBA. And he does get to talk about those things, but not before enduring Jon’s pleas for him to coach the Knicks. Staff writers Jay and Henrik offer some color commentary as well.”
For what it’s worth, from other books on basketball (and from my years following the Chicago Bulls, when Kerr played with them during the Michael Jordan years), he has always been called as nice as they come. He’s also a bright, thoughtful guy, whose father was the president of American University of Beirut. (Kerr also has a very interesting personal story about this, and I was curious if they'd reference it. Though this conversation doesn’t get into that in much depth, they do touch on it around the 36:30 mark.) If you do tune in, know that although the show begins with a lot of talk about basketball – and much of it is pretty funny -- it eventually gets to a serious, and very interesting conversation about race, so you can jump to that at the 18:00 mark..
On this week’s ‘Not My Job’ segment of the NPR quiz show Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me!, the guest is NHL defenseman of the year P.K. Subban, who has been on the cover of the NHL video game. His interview is very upbeat, open and fun, only negatively impacted by the annoying, over-the-top giggly cheeriness by guest host Negin Farsad.
This the full Wait, Wait… broadcast, but you can jump directly to the “Not My Job” segment, it starts around the 18:00 mark.
Yeah, yeah, you don't like sports. Fine, whatever. This will take you 30 seconds. It's worth it. Be sure to turn the sound on.
Last year, ESPN released its acclaimed 8-hour documentary mini-series, The Last Dance, about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls’ final seasons together. It was wonderful, and I know non-sports fans who watched and were riveted by it.
But to Bulls fans, as meticulous and excellent as it was, there was a small hole in the story. That’s the near-total omission of center Luc Longley. He could be seen in a few clips, but wasn’t interviewed, and I don’t think was even mentioned – though if he was, it was only once or twice in passing. To be clear, Longley wasn’t a major player on the team, but was not an unimportant part, and he was a very popular player in Chicago, in part because he was the full person from Australia to play in the NBA – and had a relatively laid-back Australian attitude.
It’s never been quite clear why he was left out, but the story sort of revolves around that Michael Jordan wanting to focus on others. Though that doesn’t make complete sense, since it shouldn’t have stopped the filmmakers from simply talking to Longley. Basically, he was a low-key guy who didn't make headlines, and got left out.
But as a result of that, another documentary came into being. That would be One Giant Leap made for Australia TV specifically about Luc Longley, his life and long, unexpected journey to the NBA, and interesting aftermath. It’s an hour long, and was presented in two 30-minute parts. And it’s not only extremely good, open and very interesting -- with lots of footage of his Bulls teammates and coach Phil Jackson talking eloquently about him and his importance to that great team -- but the documentary is notable and got a great deal of attention for one special thing: Michael Jordan’s extensive participation.
Jordan, who isn't known for doing all that many long interviews, sat down for a half-hour talk with the filmmakers, almost specifically because he felt terrible that Longley wasn’t included in The Last Dance.
He talks openly about that (and as I noted above, discusses that while he made a mistake not discussing Longley and regrets it, there was no reason the ESPN documentarians couldn't have spoken with him -- something Bulls coach Phil Jackson confirms in the film, as well), and goes on how terrific Longley was, how integral to the success of the team, and how much he admired Longley. Obviously the full interview isn’t included in One Giant Leap, but a lot is, interspersed throughout.
Producer Caitlin Shea has said that when they set out to make the documentary, they had no idea if Michael Jordan would participate at all, let alone do a long interview. She said she'd never interviewed someone that famous and didn't know what to expect, and was even a bit scared when sitting down, not knowing what Jordan would want to talk about or avoid. And she was amazed by how open he was and gracious, and just went on talking at length, about himself and Longley.
For all that, there’s a wonderful moment near the very end that stands out, with about two minutes to go in the documentary, when Longley is given a copy of Michael Jordan’s full interview to watch, and they show him watching Michael Jordan say all these truly wonderful things about him, how much he mattered, and how if Jordan had to put together a team, he would never leave Luc Longley off of it. And watching this, not expecting to hear such glowing praise from the basketball legend, a surprised Longley beams – most-especially after having not been included in the ESPN film -- and says quietly, “Whoa, go M.J.”
Anyway, here are the two half-hour parts of the One Giant Leap documentary. And I’ve followed it with a bonus – the full 30-minute interview with Michael Jordan.
Here's Part 1 of One Giant Leap --
And this is Part 2 --
Finally, here is the bonus video of Michael Jordan's full interview with the filmmakers. I seem to have some problem getting it to start at the beginning, but I think that's because it's link is in the memory cache of my browser, so that shouldn't be a problem for others. If it is, though, you only have to drag the scroll bar back to the beginning --
The inveterate Chris Dunn brought this to my attention. It was a wonderful thread on Twitter. A bit of background first, though, which is about baseball, but bear with me because the story really isn’t. But it helps round-out the tale, getting to know the person involved.
Yu Darvish is a Japanese pitcher who signed with the Texas Rangers in 2012. He was considered at the time perhaps the best pitcher in Japan and has largely had a very good career since coming to America and playing in the majors here, but not without some bumps along the way.
In his first season with Texas, he finished third in the American League voting for Rookie of the Year. The following year he lead all of baseball in strikeouts and finished second in American League voting for the Cy Young Award as best pitcher. He also struck out 500 batters in fewer innings than any starting pitcher in the history of baseball. So, he's very good.
He moved to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and had a mixed career. His record was good, though there were some inconsistencies, and he had a famous flameout in the 2017 World Series against the Houston Astros. It later came out that the Astros cheated by stealing signs between the pitcher and catcher -– whether that impacted Darvish’s collapse in the World Series, it’s hard to say. But it’s certainly possible.
Anyway, the following year he was signed by the Chicago Cubs. I was thrilled.
I had a fellow-Cubs fan friend, however, who was very down on Darvish after he got off to a very bad start with Chicago his first year -– not helped by coming off his World Series meltdown, and bolstered by criticism by a Dodgers fan who was friends with my friend. We'd argue because I'd defend Darvish, despite his problems. I liked Yu Darvish from the start -- though was certainly bothered when he started poorly. But I sensed it was an anomaly since his career was far better than that. And I didn't hold his Dodger post-season blow-up against him. (Hey, by those standards you should hate a lot of great players who performed badly in the World Series, like Dodger star Clayton Kershaw.)
It turned out that Darvish had been hurt his first year, and even had to stop pitching, eventually missing the last third of that season. Though he did start the season, he wasn't up to speed yet, working himself back in to shape -- and so the debates between my friend and I continued. Darvish finally got fully recovered by mid-season of his second year, and from that point on he was absolutely tremendous. But because his great "second-half" numbers got lost amid his full-season stats, it took a while for many people to realize that, particularly since his first year had been so problematic. But as the remainder of the season progressed, my friend was open-minded enough to start giving my debating points some leeway and finally accepted that Darvish had good games in him, though he still needed convincing it wasn't a fluke and would hold through the next year. By the third year, though, he became convinced and was totally on board. Darvish had a great season, leading the National League in wins and having the second-best earned run average in the league, a miserly 2.01. It reached the point that when the Cubs traded him after 2020 to the San Diego Padres, my friend was disappointed. As was I.
Which brings us to the tale. This comes from a series of tweets by Annie Heilbrunn, who is a sportswriter for the San Diego Union-Tribune. I’ve edited them together here in story form, and tweaked some of the text for normal-writing style.
And here it is --
Wanted to share a quick story about Yu Darvish. It starts with a boy named Landon, who, for his 10th birthday, was gifted a trip by his grandparents to Truist Park in Atlanta to see the Padres play the Braves. Landon is a Padres fan.
Landon and his dad made the 3.5 hour trip from Tennessee, where he lives. But the game was postponed due to rain, which would bum any kid out. However, one player stood outside to sign autographs in the rain: Yu Darvish. Landon was thrilled when he got a ball signed.
Landon's mom is not a baseball fan, but she noticed how happy Landon was (despite the rainout) and messaged Darvish on Instagram. Didn't expect him to write back, but wanted to say thanks for standing in the rain and making her son happy with a signed ball.
Darvish wrote back the next day:
But the NEXT day, Darvish followed up, asking if he could gift Landon and his family a trip to Petco Park in San Diego to see the Padres, since his trip was rained out. Darvish offered to pay the flights, hotel and tickets. Landon and his dad accepted, blown away by the generosity.
Landon came to Petco Park earlier this week, courtesy of Darvish, and saw his Padres play. He got to chat in the dugout with Darvish before the game. Yu gave him signed cleats, a glove and an autographed [Francisco] Tatis jersey. Landon said it was the best day of his life.
His family hopes to host Darvish for a homecooked meal if he ever comes through Tennessee. They are still in shock this trip even happened, and that a chance encounter led to it. Landon will likely never forget this moment. The end.
As you might imagine, there were a lot of comments to this Twitter thread, all ravingly positive. But this one stood out, because it was sort of an addendum to the story. A father wrote --
"We were there as well. Yu made my boy's dreams come true, he’s such a good dude. First game my son has been to that a player signed autographs, and to do it in the rain was awesome."
So, yeah, that's the answer to anyone who asks, "Yu who?" That's Yu Darvish
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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