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Ernie Kovacs died on January 13, 1962, at the age of 42.

January 13, 1962

It has been a loooong week. I’m working on a video project that I hope you’ll all be seeing very soon, and two weeks ago, its producer told me we’d be ready to tape as soon as I could get out to New York. I told him, “all right, I have to cover the college football national championship game in Atlanta on January 8, so we can’t do it until after that.” He called me the next day: Studio hit time was 10 a.m. January 9. This was a most literal interpretation of “after that.”

So, the day of the most crushing loss in Georgia football history — just about the most painful way a football team can possibly lose a game; I can’t think of anything worse — here was my schedule:

  • 5:30 a.m.: Write that day’s Sports on Earth column
  • 7 a.m.: Take son to school and hug him goodbye because I won’t see him until Thursday. (“Go Dawgs,” I say, and he says, “They’re gonna win, Daddy!”
  • 7:15 a.m.: Sneak in morning run.
  • 8:30 a.m.: Pack.
  • 9 a.m.: Write scripts for next day’s taping.
  • 10:30 a.m.: Kiss wife goodbye. (“Go Dawgs,” I say, and she says, nervously, “Man, I hope so,” and at that moment I was pretty certain Georgia was going to lose.)
  • 10:45 a.m.: Drive to Atlanta.
  • Noon: Park at Atlanta airport and leave luggage in car so I don’t have to drag it around all day.
  • 12:15 p.m.: Grab taxi to Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
  • 12:30 p.m.: Get in security line for media area.
  • 2 p.m.: Finally make it in stadium. (It sure was delightful that Trump showed up. Totally worth it for everyone involved.) Set up in press box, delighted to discover that I was sitting next to Rodger Sherman.
  • 3 p.m.: Leave stadium, check into AirBNB across the street from the stadium.
  • 3:30 p.m.: Return to stadium.
  • 4 p.m. Get back through security. (It was quicker that time because I didn’t have a bag.
  • 4:30 p.m.: Buy National Championship Game swag for the boys that now I am certain neither will ever want to look at again.
  • 5 p.m.: Write second-day Sports On Earth column about tortured College Football Tortured Fanbases, which is so much harder to do than professional teams that I should probably just stop trying.
  • 7 p.m.: Meet some friends from Athens pregame to scream out all our jitters.
  • 8:15 p.m.: Game starts.
  • 12:20 a.m. Tuesday: Game ends.
  • 12:30 a.m.: Begin writing Sports On Earth wrapup piece.
  • 1:30 a.m. File Sports On Earth wrapup piece.
  • 1:45 a.m.: Pack up and walk to AirBNB.
  • 2 a.m.: Head hits pillow.
  • 3:45 a.m.: Alarm goes off.
  • 4 a.m.: Shower.
  • 4:30 a.m.: Uber takes me to Atlanta airport.
  • 4:45 a.m.: Grab suitcase out of car and drop off now worthless swag.
  • 5:20 a.m.: Make it through security.
  • 5:35 a.m.: Board plane.
  • 6 a.m.: Flight takes off.
  • 8 a.m.: Flight lands.
  • 8:15 a.m.: Grab taxi to studio.
  • 9:30 a.m.: Arrive at studio.
  • 9:45 a.m.: Go over notes for show.
  • 9:50 a.m.: Get makeup. (I honestly would put on makeup every day if you let me. I apologize for nothing.)
  • 10:15 a.m.: Tape show.
  • Noon: Eat lunch.
  • 1 p.m.: Check into NYC hotel.
  • 1:30 p.m.: Answer all the emails that have piled up in the last 12 hours.
  • 3 p.m.: Return to studio.
  • 4 p.m.: Tape more segments for show.
  • 6 p.m.: Head back to hotel to drop off paperwork and laptop.
  • 7 p.m.: Dinner.
  • 9 p.m.: Back to hotel.
  • 9:30 p.m.: Head on pillow. I hit the bed like I was dropped out of a plane.

I’m so lucky I get to do this. Someday I physically won’t be able to pull off something like this. I gotta take advantage while I can, while they let me. But I’ll confess: I hope you’ll forgive a newsletter that waxes a little less philosophic and wistful this week. I can barely lift my head from my desk.

Also, the day after this, back in Athens, where it was raining even when it wasn’t, my wife got food poisoning and spent about 30 hours on the bathroom floor, assuring me that my reward for all this was being a bad husband and father. And then the President of the United States called Haiti a shithole and there’s really not a goddamned thing we can do about it. I’m going to crawl back into bed and watch David Letterman talk to Barack Obama again. Maybe I’ll sleep until 2020. It actually seems possible that I might.

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Side note: I’ve been proud of Athens this week. That sort of loss could kill a town, but I’ve actually seen more Georgia G Logos up since I’ve been back than before I left. I was joking to people in New York that it felt like I should be wearing an Athens Strong ribbon. People are banding together and supporting their team, and their school. It is amazing how much sports can feel like a tragedy sometimes.

Here is a numerical breakdown of all the things I wrote this week, in order of what I believe to be their quality. (This is an attempt to have an objective look at the value of my work in a way that I suspect will be difficult to sustain.)

1. A Guide to Georgia Fans to Making It Through This, Sports On Earth. I tried to approach this piece as if I were talking to someone who had just been in a car accident and it was my job to tell them that, someday, they will be OK.

2. How Do You Watch the Olympics in the Shadow of Nuclear Apocalypse? New York Magazine. This week’s magazine column was about South Korea and, well, how freaking happy I am that I don’t have to cover the Winter Olympics again this year. Sochi was fun, but once, yeah, once was enough.

3. How Much Do MLB Top 10 Home Run Hitters Get on the Open Market? Sports On Earth. Just a straightforward baseball piece when nothing’s happening, but I like writing those.

4. SyFy Debate Club: Spider-Man or Iron Man? SYFY Wire. I think we’re going to be doing these every week now.

5. Tortured College Football Fanbase Rankings, Sports On Earth. It might be time to accept that I can’t just figure out a way to make college rankings work.

6. Confidence Pool, Divisional Round, Sports On Earth. I think I’m rooting for the Eagles? What has happened to me?

7. Dive Dive Dive, Sports On Earth. Dive Dive Dive.

As I say every week: If you are the sort to subscribe to a weekly newsletter, I would have to think it wouldn’t be too much of a hassle to subscribe to one of the three podcasts I do. You don’t even have to listen to them! Just download them. Here they are:

Grierson & Leitch, our big annual mailbag show, and also “Cloverfield.”

The Will Leitch Experience, no show this week, but back with Alyson Footer next week.

Waitin’ Since Last Saturday, we choked out a postgame podcast about four days after the game, and it was still probably too soon.

Have a great weekend, everyone. More effort, more energy next week, I promise. And fight on, you Dawgs. And if you can’t do it, William has a Dawg who can.

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Best,
Will