If you didn't see "Last Week Tonight" with John Oliver last night, the Main Story was on the FIFA organization handing the rights to hold the World Cup tournament in Qatar, a nation widely known for its significant human rights abuses and repressive government. The report is very interesting, detailed and gives Oliver (who acknowledges his deep love of the sport) a continuing opportunity for humor.
In honor of Yom Kippur and the day of fasting, here is video of Usain Bolt setting the world record in 2009 with the fastest 100 meter race ever. The race begins just after the 5:00 mark.
The Daily Beast had a story yesterday – and had the “receipts” to back it up, literally. The story was about a former girlfriend of football great Herschel Walker who is running for the U.S. Senate from Georgia who said he paid for an abortion for her in 2009. But it’s not a “he said/she said” thing – she showed them receipts for the procedure from the abortion clinic, a copy of the $700 check Walker sent, and a "get-well-soon" card. And evidence of their relationship.
The Daily Beast also talked with a friend who helped take care of her after the procedure and confirmed her story.
To be clear, I don’t personally care one whit if Herschel Walker paid for a former girlfriend’s abortion. Or paid for abortions for a dozen former girlfriends. I do care about hypocrisy. And I care about lying. I care too when people hide behind how religious they are, how much they supposedly love the Lord as a protective excuse to cover their transgressions, but also just because it has no place in politics. And I most especially care that, although it’s absolutely legal for him to do so, Herschel Walker has no business being a United States senator because the job is really, really, really serious. And Herschel Walker is not.
Appearing on Sean Hannity’s show on Fox “News” – as cushy a venue to deal with the issue – Walker was asked if he'd ever sent a $700 check to the woman in question. I’d say that his answer was word salad, but that isn’t much of a description since it covers most answers that football great Herschel Walker makes.
“I send money to a lot of people,” he said – which is very nice (if true), though doesn’t answer the question. He added that the reason he gives money away to others is merely that he wants to help them. A lovely thought from someone who helped a woman get pregnant and kindly paid for her abortion. Which also explains the Get Well card. And then, of course, he brought up his Christian faith because…well, there it was lying on the table.
“I got into this race because I love the Lord Jesus Christ,” he intoned.
For most people, that’s the reason they go to church. Most people run for the U.S. Senate because they’ve been in politics for years and want to do something about health care and infrastructure and national defense and the national debt and sending the good air to China. Okay, in fairness, football great Herschel Walker at least got the last one right…
Again, I don’t care if he paid for an abortion or not. But I do care about how people answer questions. Even if their answer is “That’s personal, and it’s none of your business.” And the thing is, it’s really not a tough question to answer -- "Did you send $700 to pay for an abortion ever for anyone?" Yes/No are the options. “I send money to a lot of people and love Jesus” is not on the list to pick from.
Further, although The Daily Beast isn't giving out the woman's name because she asked not to be identified, Mr. Walker can agree to meet with them in private and be shown the check and asked, "Did you write this check you signed to your former girlfriend?" Yes/No. “I just like to help people” isn’t one of the options either.
Now, is it possible that this is all made-up? It is possible that a dog might perform Beethoven’s Piano Concerto badly at Carnegie Hall next month, so sure. Is it likely? With a signed check, abortion clinic receipt, Get Well Soon from Your Abortion card signed with his "H" flourish, and confirmation from a friend, no, not very. Especially when your answer to the "Is it true?" question is, "I got into this race because I love the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Later, Walker did pretty much the only thing he could do – he released a statement calling the story a "flat-out lie" and denied it in the "strongest possible terms.” And then, of course, as is obligatory in today's GOP, said he would sue – "I'm not taking this anymore. I planning [sic] to sue the Daily Beast for this defamatory lie. It will be filed tomorrow morning," he said.
Now, sometimes, it's very proper to sue. Of course, why he says he’s suing The Daily Beast” and not suing his former girlfriend who made the charge and provided the signed check, abortion clinic receipt and Get Well card is a question between him and his God.
But, of course, the lawsuit isn’t going anywhere. Not just because of the whole, y’know, First Amendment thing because The Daily Beast clearly made an effort to substantiate what they wrote – but because the very last thing Herschel Walker would want is to be deposed under oath and testify under oath in court.
Just like Trump’s threatened $475 million lawsuit of CNN for “defamation” is not going anywhere because the very last thing Trump wants is to be deposed under oath and testify under oath in court. But he can raise money off of it.
Just like Herschel Walker can raise money off his maybe-lawsuit. And it shows he Really Means It – except for the whole not wanting to be depose under oath thing. And it’s a great way to distract from the story. It can’t be true because I said so, and because I’m suing, and because I love Jesus.
Y’know what another good answer would be? “Yes, I paid for an abortion 13 years ago, and afterwards it sickened me when I thought so much about what I’d done, and what everyone does who gets an abortion, and growing from that is what helped me get closer to my Lord Jesus Christ. And made me want to run for the Senate.”
But instead, football great Herschel Walker came up with, “I send money to a lot of people. And want to help people. And I got into this race because I love the Lord Jesus Christ.” And then later realizes, “Oh, yes, I’m going to sue the publication that printed what my former girlfriend told them with documentation.”
What Walker's attorney came up with, even before the thought came to Team Walker about filing the lawsuit, is accusing The Daily Beast of trying to "target Black conservatives." Because, yeah, that's what the story is about. Now, if he had added "God-fearing" he'd at least have had something to hide behind.
What Hershel Walker does with his life is his business. What he does if elected to the U.S. Senate will be ours.
No matter how much he loves the Lord. While putting a gun to his ex-wife’s head and threatening to kill her. And putting a knife to her throat and threatening to kill her. Repeatedly. And threatening to kill girlfriends.
So, yeah, hypocrisy and lying fit in there, too.
But he loves Jesus. And Trump. And good air that we can send to China.
I came across this video yesterday on the Chicago Cubs website, but it was presented as looking like just a basic "thank you" video for the fans as the home-season ends today, so I didn't watch. But with much thanks to the inveterate Chris Dunn who sent it to me in case I hadn't come across it (which is far more impressive than it sounds, him being a -- dare I even say it -- St. Louis Cardinals fan and all that entails), I took a look. And it's spectacular. Even if you don't care the slightest thing about sports, it's an absolute Must Watch.
The four-minute video is a drone flight around the Wrigleyville neighborhood and through the nooks and crannies of Wrigley Field. But saying that doesn't do it justice. It's not just that it's spectacular, it's great filmmaking -- at times reaching, "Oh, my God, how did they do that?!!" level.
After home games when the Cubs win (which for much of the team's history hasn't always been a lot), the ballclub flies a flag with a big, blue "W" over centerfield. It was done so that passengers on the El train that passes a couple blocks from the ballpark could see at a glance if the team won or not. It's known as "Flying the W." Man, does this ever give new meaning to that.
They clearly did rehearsals -- for instance, when the drone went past a cop who didn't look up and later flew past All-Star outfielder Ian Happ, as if the team would risk injuring him without rehearsal -- but I almost don't know how they rehearsed it. (Even if rehearsed, people still seem unperturbed that a drone is zooming past their ear.) And some things likely couldn't be rehearsed properly, like the finale on the field. (I shall say no more.) But also, how small was the drone?? Moreover, while it looks like one, remarkable take, there are definitely a few edits in the video, which isn't remotely a criticism because even they are so artfully and seamlessly done.
And in addition to the video, I liked how they quietly, not to overpower anything, but to subtly augment it, had audio mixed in at the appropriate spots. The sounds of Ernie Banks and Harry Caray, and current radio announcer Pat Hughes, and the TV guys John Sciambi and Jim Deshaies.
Almost above all, it gave a great sense of the city...but even more (to people who haven't seen such a thing, which today is most everyone) it does a magnificent job showing what it's like having a professional baseball stadium quite literally in the middle of an old brownstone neighborhood.
For what it's worth, as a little side note, my dad grew up about a eight blocks away from Wrigley -- off to the lower right of this image below -- at 3530 Lake Shore Drive, by Belmont Harbor. (For that matter, so did my Aunt Joan, which is how she met my Uncle Richie, and they later married. How convenient.) He would often just walk over to the ballpark when a little kid and just ask some adult to let him walk in with them, because your children that young could get in free. (Man, does all that ever show you how times have massively changed. It was probably in the late 1920s.) Also, because the famous outfield bleachers hadn't been built yet, fans with outfield tickets would stand directly on the field -- where the brown "warning track" is now, that you can see in the image -- blocked off from the game only be a rope. By the way, the Chicago Bears also played their football games at Wrigley until 1971. And back then for halftime they wouldn't have marching bands, but instead the local neighborhood football clubs would have exhibitions against one another during the game-break, and so that's how my dad actually played at Wrigley periodically.
And now, with that bit of personal history out of the way, buckle your seatbelts. Here's Wrigley Field. As it says, like you've never seen it before.
Every once in a while, I write about a cousin, Andy Elisburg, who is General Manager and Senior Vice President of the Miami Heat in the NBA. (He's from a branch of the family that changed the spelling many years ago. Long story. It doesn't seem to have hurt them any...) As it happens, I didn't know that Andy was a cousin until about 10 years ago when my dad off-handedly said, for reasons not terribly related to what we were talking about at the time, "I think that we have a relative who might work for the Miami Heat." Ah, great, thanks for eventually getting around to letting me know, dad... (His explanation was, "I don't know, it just never occurred to me to mention it." You mean, like all those times when we relentlessly watched sports and went to games?) We've traded emails since, and had breakfast a few times when the Heat comes into town to play either the Lakers or Clippers. And I've been in touch with his folks a lot, as well. Well, better late than never.
This is another good update to pass along.
It comes from an article in the South Florida Sun Sentinel, written by Ira Winderman who has been covering the team for 35 years, since the team began. To mark that period, he's been doing a series of "Top 5" lists covering a range of topics on the Heat, and this one is about the Top 5 long-timers with the team who have been most impactful since the beginning of the franchise.
I should note, for people who don't follow basketball closely, that the Heat team president Pat Riley is one of the league greats and was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame as a player in 2006. I should also note that anyone who has stayed with a professional sports franchise for 35 years -- whether as a peanut vendor, let alone General Manager -- is doing something right.
For his list, Ira Winderman starts with the most impactful and works down from there. Not to worry, there isn't much reading to do, since we don't have to go down any farther than #1.
With the passing of Queen Elizabeth at the age of 96, after 70 years as monarch, I was trying to think of good stories I might have about meeting your. I ended up with zero. However -- I do have one tale with does deal with crossing paths with her in a way. I've told the story here a couple of times during appropriate World Cup Football matches, originally writing it on June 18, 2014. So, accepting that this is really drawing an incredibly tangential connection, here's the tale again, along with photos as proof. Besides, hey, it's the best that I can do for the occasion.
One of the Greatest Sports Miracles Ever
Now that the World Cup has started, and the United States has come up with a miracle victory, I thought this would be a good time to tell the story of not only one of the greatest, unknown World Cup miracles, but one of the all-time great sports miracles, period.
It's how my family and I got to see the World Cup in London, 1966,
And I'm serious.
Okay, no, it's not the upstart United States hockey team beating the Soviet steamrollers. Or the unknown Roulon Gardner defeating the unbeaten, invincible legend Alexander Karelin. It's not Kirk Gibson hitting a home run on one leg, or Doug Flutie's Hail Mary. But those are more remarkable physical achievements by talented athletic. This was an act of otherworldly intervention.
When I was but a wee kidling, my family took a summer trip to Europe. One of our stops was London, where as fate would have it, the British were hosting the World Cup that year. As maniacal as we know the rest of the world is over soccer, England might be the home of soccer insanity. In a land known for tradition, soccer riots are de rigeur there. If you're not rioting, you're not trying.
Nonetheless, my dad thought it would fun to see a World Cup match. (Note: The concept of it being "fun" to see a World Cup match is not relatable for most soccer fans, most especially those who are the aforementioned British. "Fun" is a nice get together for tea, or taking your dog for walkies. Being able to see a World Cup match in England is closer to being life-affirming.) And so, uncaring of the obstacles, my dad found out how to apply to the world lottery being held to get tickets He sent in his form and enclosed his check, and then went on with his life. Meanwhile, throughout England there was national prayer held nightly in homes throughout the country, if only the Almighty would grant them a ticket.
We got four tickets.
But that's not the story, it's not even close to the miracle. It's just the heavens warming up. Because, you see, we just get four tickets to the World Cup, we got them for...the Opening Match! Which would be filled with grand celebration and royalty. But thing is -- that's not the story, either. Because, again you see, featured in the Opening Match of World Cup 1968 was a team that it was likely British fans -- so knowledgeable of all the great teams in the world -- would dearly would love to see.
That team was England.
Yes, that's right. By just randomly sending in to the worldwide lottery, we got four tickets to the Opening Match of the World Cup between England and Uruguay, held in London at Wembley Stadium. And here's the thing: no, that's not the sports miracle, either.
I should note that we were very happy to get the tickets. Not "mad-crazy-happy, my life has been made whole" like anyone in England would have been to get those four tickets, but certainly happy. But happy as in, boy, this will be fun. I mean, to be honest, one has to put this in perspective. Wembley Stadium is huge, after all. It seats 90.000 people, which is 80,000 more than the town, Glencoe, we lived in. So, the chances of seeing the match very well were small. And not being mad-crazy soccer fanatics, not being able to see the game very well in the nosebleed section would certainly lessen the majesty of the moment. But still, that didn't matter all that much, since I was pretty young and didn't know the rules of soccer all that well. (I can't speak for the rest of my family, though I suspect I knew more than my mother. You kick the ball and hope it goes in the net.) But just being there in the massive crowd, somewhere, anywhere, amid all the excitement, that would be cool. Just to be able to say we were there. Wherever "there" was.
Where "there" was turned out to be -- okay, are you ready: mid-field, center line, halfway up, directly across the field from where the Queen of England was sitting in the Royal Box.
Okay, that's the sports miracle.
Let me repeat. With the entire world of sports fanatics converging on London, England, for the World Cup, we got four tickets to the Opening Match in which the host country England was playing, seated at midfield halfway up Wembley Stadium across from the Queen of England.
And to be clear, this isn't the fuzzy memory of a little kid recalling things far better than they actually were. Exaggerating for posterity. No, I have photographic evidence.
I took pictures.
(Sorry for the guy's head. I wasn't great at composition at that age.)
Look directly across the field. Do you see that "box" just below the horizontal white line, marking the upper level? That's where the Royal Family is sitting. Directly opposite us. If you look closely, I believe that Queen Elizabeth is waving at you.
I told you I wasn't lying.
It was pretty remarkable. As I said to my dad just a couple days ago, reminding of the story, if he had decided to sell these tickets it would have paid for the entire trip. "And," he added, "your college education. And your brother's."
The crowd, the ceremony, the excitement, the game, it was great. Memorable to one's bones. Absolutely wonderful, historic. There was only one disappointing thing about the match. Ever since I knew we had the tickets, one of the things I was looking forward to seeing was England score a goal amid that maniacal crowd going soul-bursting wild for the home team. (Even at that age, I grasped the concept of such drama.) And the final score of the game between England and Uruguay was...0-0.
Zippo. Or as the soccer folks like to say, "Nil." Or more accurately, nil to nil.
(More action photos from the collection of photo-journalist Robert J. Elisberg. Notice the compositional improvement after many minutes of experience represented here by the lack of heads getting at least completely in the way. Hey, when you're a little kid, people are bigger than you are.)
So, no bursting of massive cheers by the heart-loyal English crowd at the site of the goal for their beloved home team. No cheers over a goal from anyone. On the good side, at least we weren't there to see England lose. In fact, just so you know, the zero goals were not the result of a mediocre team. Indeed, host England went on to win the world championship. They just didn't choose to get any goals that particular day.
Hey, that's the way some miracles go. Sometimes, the fates decide to put the miracle in perspective. After all, you shouldn't take the good and miracle for granted.
But a dozen years before Al Michaels asked the question of sports fans at the Lake Placid Olympics, I had already been able to answer the sports question. Yes, I do believe in miracles.
When I next get together with the Queen, I'm sure we'll swap tales of that day. No doubt it wasn't as much a sports miracle for her -- I'm sure she had an in, or went to a scalper -- but it was nonetheless quite a day of national pomp and circumstance, so I'm sure she had to have written about it in her journal. For all I know, she's got snapshots of me in return.
When talking with my dad about this the other day, he noted one other thing. "How did I get those seats??"
It was a miracle, dad. The greatest sports miracle ever. At least to some people.
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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