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Helen Keller died on June 1, 1968, at the age of 87.
June 1, 2019
School is already out in Athens, which means no longer can we just drop these two little humans at school at 7:30 in the morning and not think about them for nine hours. Their days now must be occupied, start to finish, either by us or plans we have set up for them. The first week after school gets out is always more fraught for parents than children; you forget every year, particularly when both parents work from home, how accustomed you had become to these children being gone all day. They are the center of my life. I love them. But I love them more when I see them at the end of a long, fruitful day at school.
You occupy their summers how you can, from vacations to weeks with their grandparents to, that old standby, camp. I know that some families send their kids off to sleepaway camp for the entire summer — it strikes me as more common on the East Coast, but that’s mostly anecdotal — but that strikes me as too much; if I’m shipping the kids away for an entire summer and then working like a lunatic when they’re in school, I would begin to worry when, in fact, I am parenting them. So we have a patchwork schedule, cobbled together in sprawling, unwieldy Excel documents, of various week-long camps, some tailored to their interests but mostly chosen for convenience and expedience. Wynn likes creative camps, theater, music camps; William just wants to play sports all day. Our focus is what gets them out of the house the longest.
The most convenient camp is a church basketball camp that essentially runs all summer. William went to the local high school’s basketball camp the first week out of school, and he was the smallest, youngest kid at a camp where they all played on regulation 10-foot hoops. (The coaches all called him “Will the Thrill,” which was the precise nickname I had when I was a kid. Hearing it in the wild 35 years later was disorienting.) He’s not old enough yet for Tom Crean’s UGA Basketball Camp — and the idea that my son is someday going to go to Tom Crean Basketball Camp is incredibly strange for this Illini fan to say — so he has to go to the church basketball camp with his little brother. After playing with fifth and sixth graders for a week, the “baby camp,” with kids his own age or younger, is frustrating him a bit. Every kid wants to be among bigger kids, so they can feel bigger themselves.
The good part about the “baby camp” is that, at last, William gets to be a giant. I understand the impulse. You are not reading someone who is above occasionally swatting the jump shots of seven-year-olds and wagging a Dikembe finger in their face. Being physically superior to a group of beings, for once, is a not-insignificant joy of having children. It’s the closest I’ll ever get to being Wilt Chamberlain, in every possible way. Anyway, the thing that William loves the most is that the hoop they shoot on is lower; in some cases, low enough for him to dunk. “Being able to dunk is cool,” he told me.
And being able to dunk is cool. I do not have the heart to tell him that this ability will not grow with him, at least not on any regulation hoops. I’ve never been able to dunk, and frankly have never been particularly close. Being able to dunk a basketball is one of those sports things that, if you’re able to do it, you’ll never truly be able to appreciate. What a feeling that must be! To dunk! Just to take a ball and throw it the shit down. One of the more demoralizing, emasculating things about writing about sports professionally is that you are describing and commentating on acts you are physically incapable of doing yourself. If I were an athlete, it would be extremely tempting to answer every question at a press conference with “I dunno, but let me ask you: Can you dunk? Because I dunk all the time, so often that it’s not even a big deal. I dunk like you brush your teeth.” It’s probably a good thing I wasn’t blessed with such athletic talent. I’d flex all the time like that if I had been. It’d be rather insufferable.
What would be the coolest sports thing to do? Dunking is pretty high up there. Some people would want the rush of scoring a touchdown, or hitting a hole in one, but I’m not sure either one of those should count in this discussion; they’re each physically possible right now, either in a backyard game or duffing on a Par Three course. The coolest things are the feelings of physical domination of a sport, the purest expression of a skill honed through training, something that billions of people cannot do but you can. For me it’d would be hitting a home run out of a Major League ballpark. To hit a pitch so hard and so far that a park could not contain it. What a sensation that must be. I’d flip my bat to the moon.
What are the other ones? Delivering a knockout punch? Scoring on a perfectly placed free kick? The best stuff all seems to be the ability to do things that no one else can do. That’s why William must like that camp so much. Everybody wants to be bigger. To be a superior athlete must feel like being a big kid among littler kids. When you’re an adult, everyone’s essentially the same size, doing mostly the same things. We all want to feel exceptional sometimes. Sometimes we want to hit the damn ball over the damn wall.
Here is a numerical breakdown of all the things I wrote this week, in order of what I believe to be their quality. You may disagree. It is your wont.
1. My Tale of Pushing a Stroller Around with Stephen Curry, NBC News. I’d meant to get around to telling this story for a while. I’m pretty sure if I did the same trip with him now, we’d be surrounded by military police and about 500,000 screaming teenagers.
2. Appreciating the Warriors, and Dynasties in General, New York. I am OK with either one of these teams winning: I find them both pretty likable!
3. Your Ideal MLB All-Star Ballot, MLB.com. I still get a dumb, silly thrill when I submit an All-Star ballot.
4. Debate Club: Best Performances in Monster Movies, SYFY Wire. Grierson and I had a mini-debate about whether The Babadook counted. We decided to go ahead and put it in there.
5. The Thirty: Best Player Still on the Team That Drafted Him, MLB.com. It turns out: The guys picked in the first round really are better. Huh!
THE WILL LEITCH SHOW
We taped the last episode of Season Two this week. It’s not up yet, but it was with “Saturday Night Live”’s Heidi Gardner, who then took the kids to her sister’s. Watch the old ones on Amazon or on SI TV until that one goes up.
Grierson & Leitch, Grierson is back from Cannes, so we recapped the festival, then talked about “Aladdin,” “Booksmart” and “Mad Max.”
Seeing Red, Bernie and I just don’t know what to do with these Cardinals.
Waitin’ Since Last Saturday, no show this week, but I love what Scott did with the studio.
GET THIS LUNATIC OUT OF HERE 2020 PRESIDENTIAL POWER RANKINGS
I’m probably kidding myself here, but I think you can make an argument that Beto O’Rourke’s campaign has bottomed out and is now slowly crawling its way back. There was a terrific piece in The New Yorker about him this week, he’s finally ceding to the world of cable news a bit (alas), and he finally got a little traction when he released his broad immigration plan. I know he has generational home-field advantage with me and I’m thus cutting him a little more slack than I should ... but I don’t think the guy is quite cooked yet.
1. Kamala Harris
2. Elizabeth Warren
3. Beto O’Rourke
4. Joe Biden
5. Amy Klobuchar
6. Pete Buttigieg
7. Cory Booker
8. Kirsten Gillibrand
9. Seth Moulton
10. Julian Castro
11. Bernie Sanders
12. Michael Bennet
13. Jay Inslee
14. John Hickenlooper
15. Bill de Blasio
16. Marianne Williamson
17. Steve Bullock
18. Tim Ryan
19. Eric Swalwell
20. John Delaney
21. William Weld
22. Tulsi Gabbard
23. Andrew Yang
24. Wayne Messam
ONGOING LETTER-WRITING PROJECT!
Send me a letter. Letters make people happy. Bring ‘em on at:
P.O. Box 48
Athens GA 30603
CURRENTLY LISTENING TO
“Get Better,” Mates of State. I made a big playlist for a party we all had last week and forgot how much I like these charming married couple. They’re not exactly cut from the cloth I usually, uh, cut cloth from, but I’m always surprised how hard their stuff hits me.
Book revisions have been turned in. I’m going to sleep like a tranquilized bear this weekend. Also, I think I might be the only person on the planet whose life is legitimately going to be disheveled because they’re getting rid of iTunes. It should have just stayed 2005 forever.
Have a great weekend.