Week of June 10, 2016

Ali 1

Rest in peace, Champ.

The Man Who Shook Up The World

As we all know, Muhammad Ali passed away last Friday, at age 74. Phil and I happened to be hanging out, watching Eddie Murphy’s “Raw” on Netflix, when I glanced at my phone and read the sad news. We immediately turned on ESPN and watched the retrospectives pour in. ESPN continued the coverage late into the night, with Jeremy Schaap, who knew Muhammad Ali better than most because of Ali’s relationship with Jeremy’s dad, the great Dick Schaap, leading the way with some great anecdotes. We laughed at the clips of Ali’s best trash talk:

And his in-ring exploits (this is at the end of his career, in 1977, and he dodges 21 punches in 10 seconds!!)


We also shook our heads at how early he was obviously showing signs of Parkinson’s, and wondered aloud why he was allowed to fight as long as he did. I considered suggesting a special edition 1-2-3 Sports edition on Saturday morning, but decided against it: one of our guiding philosophies for this blog is not to bring sports news, but to bring you the best sportswriting we find, and throw our own take in for good measure. This approach also allows some perspective. Over the last week, I read a lot of words written about Muhammad Ali – almost all of them interesting. Like this old article by Roger Ebert, about watching Rocky II with Ali back in 1979, with some very funny anecdotes, observations, and insights from the Greatest. I also really enjoyed this retrospective. It touches on what made Ali great in the ring, and so beloved out of it; but it addresses his shortcomings, both in the ring and out, as well.

Aerial of Muhammad Ali victorious after his round three knockout of Cleveland Williams during the World Heavyweight Title fight at the Astrodome. Houston, Texas 11/14/1966 (Image # 1002 )

And that’s an important part of the Muhammad Ali story. The man was not a saint, and that’s ok. He can still be loved, even if he wasn’t perfect, and even if he was not really the greatest heavyweight boxer, let alone in any weight class, of all-time. Ali was so beloved because of who he was and what he did: he was generous and kind and made our world a much better place. Ali was funny. He was a great fighter. He was a man of principle. But he could be kind of a jerk, too. Truth be told, I’ve always been a Joe Frazier guy. He was tough and he was great, and he was the underdog. I was born 7 years after their last fight, but I watched plenty about it as a kid, and I could not escape the thought that Muhammad Ali was a jerk to his former friend Joe. But the world is not that black and white, either. And so I thoroughly enjoyed this old Sports Illustrated article, written about Ali and Frazier and their final fight – The Thrilla in Manila, their respective mornings after that fight, and the respect that two vicious enemies earned from each other.

“In his suite the next morning he talked quietly. “I heard somethin’ once,” (Ali) said. “When somebody asked a marathon runner what goes through his mind in the last mile or two, he said that you ask yourself why am I doin’ this. You get so tired. It takes so much out of you mentally. It changes you. It makes you go a little insane. I was thinkin’ that at the end. Why am I doin’ this? What am I doin’ here in against this beast of a man? It’s so painful. I must be crazy. I always bring out the best in the men I fight, but Joe Frazier, I’ll tell the world right now, brings out the best in me. I’m gonna tell ya, that’s one helluva man, and God bless him.”

I hope you read the whole thing. It is poetic and enlightening, and artfully demonstrates the reason I do enjoy boxing, as brutal and corrupt as it may be.

Source: Lawdy, Lawdy, He’s Great”, Mark Kram, Sports Illustrated (10/13/1975)

PAL: Like TOB said, you just gotta read this story. My favorite bit of writing:

“Once, so long ago, he (Ali) had been a splendidly plumed bird who wrote on the wind a singular kind of poetry of the body, but now he was down to earth, brought down by the changing shape of his body, by a sense of his own vulnerability, and by the years of excess. Dancing was for a ballroom; the ugly hunt was on. Head up and unprotected, Frazier stayed in the mouth of the cannon, and the big gun roared again and again.”

Malcolm Gladwell Has Made a Fool Out of Me

I don’t know about you, but I’m guilty of it: I read a book and start spouting off factoids from said book at a bar or family gathering. I couldn’t shut up about it after reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, which is a study on what makes the greatest minds, business people, innovators, athletes, etc. great. I convinced my middle brother to read it. I would purposely steer bar conversations towards Bill Gates so I could casually drop in lines about how his access to  computers at an early age gave him a head start on accruing the 10,000 hours needed in order to master a skill. It took me a minute to realize every damn person had read or was reading Outliers, too, and the “10,000 Hour Rule” has lived on…and now I find that is was BS? What the what:

First, there is nothing special or magical about ten thousand hours. Gladwell could just as easily have mentioned the average amount of time the best violin students had practiced by the time they were eighteen — approximately seventy-four hundred hours — but he chose to refer to the total practice time they had accumulated by the time they were twenty, because it was a nice round number. And, either way, at eighteen or twenty, these students were nowhere near masters of the violin.

Second, the number of ten thousand hours at age twenty for the best violinists was only an average. Half of the ten violinists in that group hadn’t actually accumulated ten thousand hours at that age. Gladwell misunderstood this fact and incorrectly claimed that all the violinists in that group had accumulated over ten thousand hours.

How could you do this to me, Malcolm? I was pawning off your intellect for small talk during boring social gatherings for years, and I come to find you misunderstood the difference between “mean” and a minimum benchmark? Canadians…- PAL

Source: Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 Hour” Rule Is Essentially Meaningless”, Hannah Keyser, Adequate Man (06/09/2016)

TOB: Interestingly, Gladwell appeared on the Freakanomics podcast a month or so ago and addressed this, claiming that people misunderstood his point. He claimed his thesis was that he wanted people to move away from the notion of success as something individual – that it has to do with chance, contribution of your culture, your generation, and your family. He wanted to disabuse people of the notion of the “lone genius”, which he says has very little basis in reality. He said that he was very surprised that the average takeaway of Outliers was the so-called 10,000 hour rule, and that he used the 10,000 hour rule to “perform a very specific argumentative function” – he says the point is that if it takes that long to be good, you can’t do it by yourself. If you have to play chess for ten years to be a great chess player, you can’t have a job, you can’t help take care of your kids or help around the house. He points out Jordan Spieth and notes that his parents made untold sacrifices his entire life to make Jordan Spieth such a great golfer. If it take 10,000 hours to become an elite performer, then there must be a group of people behind that person making it possible. Essentially, it takes a village. You didn’t build that. Etc. What seems clear is that, if what Malcolm is saying now is what he meant, he did a poor job making his point.

PAL: I thought a made a pretty funny joke, and then you have to ruin it with facts, updates, and – you know – information.

TOB: Lawyered. For hire!

PAL: Wait…you’re a lawyer? Since when?

Sharks Benefit From a Pittsburgh Jinx


The Sharks staved off elimination Thursday night in Pittsburgh to send the series to a 6th game. Aside from having their first lead in the entire series (their only other lead game came on an overtime winner), the Sharks have a jinx to thank:

Public Works crews began going to various parts of the city Wednesday to enforce a little-known ordinance in advance of the Penguins potentially winning the Stanley Cup Thursday night at Consol Energy Center.

Guy Costa, the city’s chief of operations, said crews are removing couches from front porches, collecting abandoned furniture and emptying trash containers before Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final against the San Jose Sharks.

I’ll say it – the Warriors came back from being down 3-1, and I got a feeling…oh, I got a feeling the Sharks just might do the same. And we don’t round up couches when teams win here in the Bay Area – we’re the winning idiots that burn ‘em. Pittsburgh Public Works shouldn’t have been going around taking couches off the street. And if the Sharks do end up winning The Cup, this will become my favorite jinx of them all. – PAL

Source: Pittsburgh Jinxes the Penguins, Rounds Up Couches So Hockey Fans Can’t Burn Them”, Patrick Redford, Deadspin (6/9/16)

TOB: Wait, they took couches off of people’s front porches? Like, they went on to private property and took people’s personal property without prior notice? That can’t be legal. Anyways, I have less faith than Phil, every time I’ve gotten on the Sharks ‘wagon, they do me dirty. I have been watching, though. Sharks goalie Martin Jones was fantastic last night – 44 saves on 46 shots, and many of them incredible, like this one late in the third to preserve a one-goal lead:


It was the most saves by a goalie staving off elimination in the Cup Finals since 1968! Go Sharks!

Video of the Week

PAL Song of the Week: Bob Dylan – “Mama You Been On My Mind

And here’s the playlist of all the picks, now on YouTube (no subscriptions needed):


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“With your face, when you attempt to be charming, it really does come off as evil.”

– President Selina Meyer

3 thoughts on “Week of June 10, 2016

  1. This was a particularly enjoyable read. I especially laughed at the Malcom Gladwell posts by both of you. Well, also the gif of Ali evading 21 punches, and then taunting his opponent and immediately getting punched in the face. Well, also the Sharks/Penguins jinx story. Laughed quite a bit today, so Thanks!

  2. Re: Gladwell

    Not sure who I’m agreeing/disagreeing with here, but I received the message/point Gladwell was making (sacrifices, circumstances, taking a “village”) the first time, and not focusing on some magic number. Maybe I’ve put in my 10,000 hours of “getting the jist” of things.

    I say shame on us for our corny barroom/coffee shop philosophy and pseudo-intellectualism.

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