Because Tinyletter is mostly for mail, it’s nearly impossible to find old newsletters. So I’m posting all my old newsletters here so they can be searched, indexed, all that. You’re still better off just subscribing.
Don Zimmer died at the age of 83 on June 4, 2014.
June 4, 2016
I have just spent a whole week at the beach. It’s a lovely beach, Folly
Beach, in Charleston, South Carolina, one of my favorite cities in
America. People down here at the beach are unfailingly friendly — in
person, anyway, though I sure do see a lot of Trump bumper stickers,
most of which actually feature the name TRUMP printed as if it is
encrusted in diamonds — and my family is having a blast and it is
really all you could ask of a vacation. But it’s still the beach.
I’m sure there are countless examples to the contrary, many of which will emerge within a matter of moments of hitting SEND on this newsletter, but I honestly don’t know a native Midwesterner that loves going to the beach. Lemme rephrase that. The beach itself is fine, if you use that beach to sit down, or to read, or to drink beer, or to grill some sort of meat. The beach is not a bad place to do things you ordinarily do in different, less exotic settings. But what it is not great for — for me, and for, I suspect, many other people who grew up in land-locked places — is swimming.
In short: I don’t get the ocean. It’s muddy and usually cold and there are strange animals in there, many of which can sting you or eat you or both, and when you take a step back from it, there’s really not much to do. Every time I get in the ocean, I have a brief whoa I’m in the ocean, awesome, I am not usually in the ocean moment. It lasts about five minutes. I can spent five more minutes or so moderately enjoying the different heights of the waves coming in. But then I’m done. It’s not like I’m scared or anything — though it is worth remembering that the ocean is a constant death machine — as much as I am baffled as to the appeal past 10-15 minutes. So this is all you do? Just bob around for a while? What happens next? This is it? My sons and my wife (none of whom were raised in the Midwest) can spend hours out there, just floatin’ around, doing whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing after the first 15 minutes, but I just don’t think I’ll ever understand it. Is there a board game out there to play? An rigorous intellectual debate to be had? A fart joke to be told? Floating around in the ocean is just like real life, minus everything interesting or stimulating or social but plus things that can kill you and, even worse, sand everywhere.
The point is: If you go in the ocean you will die. Also: I am a very fun person who is a blast to have along on family trips.
Also, R.I.P., Muhammad Ali. It feels inappropriate to toss in the death of an American legend to flippantly after a dumb story about not liking the ocean, but if you do not acknowledge a famous person dying on all your social media platforms, I’m pretty sure you have to go to jail. Anyway, my only Muhammad Ali story is that I went to a random Louisville basketball game at Freedom Hall one time, and at halftime they announced that Ali was in attendance, and it absolutely blew my mind that I was in the same building as Muhammad Ali. Certain people don’t even seem to occupy the same physical plane as the rest of us.
The Roger Ebert piece on Ali that has been going around this morning is well worth your time.
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.) This is a truncated week because of the holiday, as you might have noticed.
1. Get Excited About the USMNT in Copa America, Sports On Earth. As I’ve mentioned before with movies, it is considerably more fun to write about things you love unconditionally (and thus have to justify it) than it is to write about things that are awful (because anyone can just pile on). I love the US Soccer teams more than I have any right to and will accept no contradictory evidence. We should all write like yokels more often. It might be my most marketable skill. (Also: That game last night did not go well!)
2. Be Relieved the Warriors’ Journey Isn’t Over, Sports On Earth. On Zack Lowe’s podcast this week, Jeff Van Gundy said that if the Warriors had lost, he would have needed “grief counselors” for the media. I am absolutely one of the people he was talking about.
3. The World Cup of Corruption, The Wall Street Journal. I love reviewing books for the WSJ, because they’re one of the rare places that encourages — even solicits — negative reviews. I’d say most of my reviews for them have been positive (though this one wasn’t), but it is understood there that book criticism is meant to be a contact sport. This would seem obvious, but I find most book review sections are sedate and congratulatory anymore, which isn’t inherently a bad thing; I read a lot of books that deserve legitimate congratulations! But as book reviews have become scarcer, there is a sense that we all need to be nicer, even if the work doesn’t deserve someone being nice to it, as if writing about a book is supposed to be polite and praising, no matter what. I love that the WSJ discourages this. It’s sort of sad that they’d deserve special notice for this, but they do. If you don’t tell people when something isn’t good, how will they ever believe you when you tell them something is?
4. A Rematch With the Warriors Was What LeBron Needed, Sports On Earth. Straightforward, here-are-the-narrative-stakes sports columns aren’t necessarily my strike zone, but from time to time, they have their utility. I think this was one of those times.
5. Culture Caucus Podcast: Heilemann, Leitch on “O.J.: Made in America,” Bloomberg Politics. This is my writeup of a particularly enjoyable podcast. By next week, I will have talked about O.J. Made in America on three of my four podcasts. Go see it, that’s what I’m trying to tell you.
6. So Many Dumb Stories This Month. We Ranked Them, Sports On Earth. My monthly dumb sports stories column. I know I joke about this a lot, but seriously, it is batshit insane that we’ve been talking about Deflategate for 500 days now. Babies born on the day of Deflategate can walk and talk now.
7. Choosing Divisional All-Star Teams Based on WAR, Sports On Earth. My version of Summer Fridays is doing labor-intensive baseball statistical research columns.
8. Vote in the Final of Our Best MLB Jersey Bracket, Sports On Earth. Royals fans are insane.
Three podcasts this week. 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 four (!) podcasts I do. Here they are:
The Will Leitch Experience, talking with Ezra Edelman, director of O.J.: Made in America.
Grierson & Leitch, this week discussing “X-Men: Apocalypse,” “Alice Through the Looking Glass” and “Midnight Run.”
Culture Caucus, with John Heilemann, also talking with Ezra Edelman, director of O.J.: Made in America. (Ezra is very sick of me by now.)
Waitin’ Since Last Saturday, no new episode, probably won’t be for a while, but I’ll keep listed it here so you will subscribe.
Also, congratulations to my friends at The Ringer on a successful launch this week. That site was excellent on day one, a scary proposition.
Have a great weekend, everyone, and USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA!