Week of March 6, 2020

Happy Birthday, Ron Wotus. The Giants coaches did a nice job with this little piece of photoshop.

Larry David’s Fandom Makes Perfect Sense

Talk about a 1-2-3 Sports! sweet-spot story. The Ringer’s Katie Baker breaks down the history of sports fandom in Larry David work, from Seinfield to Curb Your Enthusiasm. It’s an extremely fun read. Here’s the synopsis of David’s sports fandom bio: 

Raised in Brooklyn, David is a longtime enthusiast of both sad teams, as well as the Yankees and the Rangers, and he is semiregularly spotted yawning at Knicks games and yawning at Yankees games. But don’t let the sleepiness fool you: David might be one of the most active fans in the celebrity realm. He has low-key dedicated several decades of his life to slipping his sports takes into his work, from voicing the babbling George Steinbrenner on Seinfeld to defending the clutch Derek Jeter on Curb.”

I’m sure you’re reading this and thinking about one of your favorite sports references from David. Of course, there’s the Magic Loogie from Seinfeld. Or David’s golf obsession (which, as Baker points out, is the perfect sport for David’s worldview: he “likes to spend hours laser-focused on a sport that mostly yields frustration and disappointment, again and again.”). There’s the Jeter defense of Jeter’s defense, too. It’s all funny. It remains funny. While I’m not up-to-speed on the latest season of Curb, David’s genius is unassailable. He and Seinfield created a new comedy sitcom that became a huge network success, and then he did it again with Curb. We’re in the 32nd  year of David’s brand of comedy, and it’s still funny. 

Sports has always had a place in his tv shows, but it’s not just for comic relief. There’s something about fandom that lines up perfectly with David’s brand of comedy:  “…David’s love/hate of sports makes perfect sense: Sports provide a socially acceptable forum for his nonstop complaints, regrets, shoulda-woulda-couldas, and laundry lists of enemies and perceived slights.”

The article is littered with clips and links, both from his shows and from radio interviews. My personal favorite is David’s take on Jets coach Adam Gase and his hat-wearing habit: “Either he’s hiding baldness or there’s something about his personality—he’s uncomfortable. You can’t trust a man who wears a hat. He’s got to take the hat off. He’s got to face the public.”

This article was a treat. – PAL 

Source: “I Can’t Take Any More Disappointment”: Larry David’s Curbed Sports Enthusiasm’, Katie Baker, The Ringer (03/04/20)

TOB: For the record, LARRY:

Jeter was, is, and always will be overrated. IN ALL RESPECTS.

Still Today, He is the Greatest of All-Time

Yes, another entry from Joe Posanski’s top 100 baseball players of all-time countdown: the immortal and ageless Rickey Henderson.

Like Johnny Bench last week, I just want to share this fantastic Rickey story, as told by Posnanski:

All right, the rest of this will be a series of Rickey stories. That’s what you want. That’s what I want. We can only assume that’s what Rickey wants. Rickey loves a good Rickey story. We’ll get the most famous one out of the way first because it isn’t even true. The story goes that when Rickey joined the Seattle Mariners in 2000, he saw John Olerud taking some groundballs while wearing his batting helmet.

“Huh,” he said, “I played with a guy in New York who did that.”

“Yeah,” Olerud said. “That was me. Last year.”

As mentioned, the story isn’t true. Olerud and Henderson have debunked it. Apparently, it was a gag the Mariners’ assistant trainer came up with and it soon spread around the clubhouse, as good gags will.

But even an untrue Rickey story leads to a great tale. When Rickey was debunking the story, he made the point that while it was funny, it was also silly because he’d known Olerud years before they played on the same team. Of course he did. Olerud played first.

And, as Rickey said, “I was always on base.”

Ok, one more:

Henderson stepped into the box and then he started talking to himself. Everyone knew about that routine in the American League; Henderson would constantly talk to himself, pump himself up, “Rickey gonna hit this guy! This guy’s got nothing! Rickey’s good, Rickey’s getting a hit, Rickey’s going to steal second and then steal third … ” and so on.

So he was going through that whole routine and behind the plate, Cubs catcher Scott Servais and home plate umpire Jim Quick were trying hard not to laugh. Nobody put on a show quite like Rickey … but with the count 2-2, Henderson swung and missed. And then he turned around toward Servais and Quick and he said this:

“That’s OK. Rickey still the man.”

Sorry, I can’t stop:

So, no, pitchers didn’t often slip that third pitch past him while he watched.

But every now and again they did, and when he would get back to the dugout, [Alex] Rodriguez would ask, “Hey Rickey, was that a strike?”

And Henderson would say: “Maybe. But not to Rickey.”


Yes, Rickey negotiated hard. Once, during one of those disputes, he said, “If they want to pay me like (Mike) Gallego, I’ll play like Gallego.”*

Maybe he should have been a stand-up comedian:

Someone asked him what he thought of a Sports Illustrated article in which Ken Caminiti said 50 percent of the players in baseball were using steroids (he actually said “at least half,” but that’s close enough). Rickey’s response? “The article said 50 percent. Well, I’m not one of them. So that’s 49 percent right there.”

This story of Rickey ignoring the “wipe off” sign and stealing second anyways made me cackle:

So, again, La Russa wanted Rickey staying put. He had his third-base coach go through all the signs and then wipe the arms to take off any play. And once again, Henderson stole second on the next pitch.

Now, La Russa was hot. “Hey Rickey,” he said, “all that stuff about being a team player, what gives?”

Henderson looked at La Russa as if he had no idea what he was talking about.

“We gave you a sign,” La Russa continued. “Did you not see it?”

Henderson said, “Yeah, I saw it. You said if you wipe the arm, that means take off. And so Rickey took off.”

One of a kind. -TOB

Source: No. 24: Rickey Henderson,” Joe Posnanski, The Athletic (03/03/2020)

PAL: What else is there to say? Sit back and enjoy.

Sports-Adjacent: What It’s Like to Play Hoops With Someone on the Brink of Stardom

Sometimes I think about a very famous person and wonder: What was that person like just before they got famous? Dozens of people in the world can say, “I went to kindergarten with Brad Pitt.” Dozens more can say, “I played Little League with Jeff Bezos.” There are people walkin’ around the planet, knowing they struck Bezos out when they were 12, and they think of that every time they see a new story about him. I’ve got one such story: my best friend in first grade, Hunter Mahan, became a relatively famous golfer. He never won a major, but he was ranked as high as #4 in the world, and made over $30M in his career, good for 31st all time. Still. I moved away after first grade and never saw him again. It’s not that interesting of a story. When you read it you probably thought, “Ok.” Unless you’re a huge golf fan, in which case maybe you thought, “Neat.”

What’s much more interesting to me is when someone knows someone as they become famous. A few people took acting lessons with Brad Pitt the week Thelma & Louis was released. Someone was a barista at the coffee shop Bezos stopped into every morning the week Amazon IPO’d. Those people saw the transition to fame happen, almost in real time, and can speak to how it changed the now-famous person, how it didn’t change them, and how excited they were when it first started to happen. That’s a much more interesting story, and I happen to have one of those, too.

About 7 or 8 years ago, I was a member at the Chinatown YMCA. I’d walk over during lunch to get some shots up, or stop by after work looking for pickup. One day after work, I stopped in and a game was going on. I asked if I could join, and was told it was a private game – that they rent the court. I was pretty annoyed – I was a paying gym member, after all. But then someone got hurt and they needed. I guarded a guy named Dave. He could hoop, so it was a good matchup. I held my own, and they asked me to come back in the future, so I started going every week. As I found out, all of those guys worked together at an ad agency up the street, and their company paid the gym rental fee. I continued to guard Dave on most nights, unless we played together – a pairing I was always hoping for. This went on a couple of years. 

Then, in December 2013, I got to the gym and everyone was buzzing. I heard talk about a Kickstarter. I asked what everyone was discussing – it turns out Dave was also a rapper, and after having released some popular self-produced videos, he had started a Kickstarter to raise $70,000.00 to help him record an album and go on tour. In like one day, he had blown past the goal and was approaching $100,000.00. This was wild news! When I got home I googled him. His rapper name was Lil Dicky, and he had a song/video called Ex Boyfriend that was pretty damn good (but NSFW).

I asked my boy Rowe if he had heard of Lil Dicky, and he said yes. That’s when I knew this was kind of a big deal. Over the next few months, Dave/Lil Dicky would come to play basketball and tell us about the crazy things happening in his life. Then, around spring 2014, Dave e-mailed to say that it was his last night at that pickup game. He was moving to L.A. To be a rapper. This seemed crazy to me. Absolutely crazy. But it was also cool to see someone shoot their shot. 

More than a year went by. I was no longer going to the pickup game because we had moved across town. Every once in a while Dave would pop into my head. He was not a famous rapper, and I wondered how everything had gone. And then one day in summer 2015, a video on my Twitter headline caught my eye. It was a Lil Dicky video, going viral. And there was Dave, rapping with SNOOP in an animated video. His album was released that day, too.

God damn. The sumbitch did it. He really did it. He’s now super famous. Last year some kids tagged the walls at the basketball courts in my neighborhood with “Lil Dicky,” and I couldn’t help but laugh. I mentioned to co-worker Kevin that I used to play basketball with him, and Kevin went bananas. Lil Dicky/Dave even has a TV show, co-created by him and starring himself, which premiered on FXX this week (prompting me to tell this story). The show is autobiographical, about the time after his videos went viral but before he made it as a professional rapper. 

So, it’s about when I knew him, sorta. It would not be accurate to say we are friends, or even were friends. But, still. Like the people in Brad Pitt’s acting class, I saw a guy go, week by week, go from an advertising professional to a rapper who was about to hit it big, and knowing it. That’s pretty cool. 

Anyways, check out this interview with him from this week, where he touches quite a bit on what it’s like to get famous. I especially like the story about playing hoops with Kanye. -TOB

Source: When a Dick Joke Isn’t a Joke,” Danny Heifetz, The Ringer (03/04/2020)

Video of the Week:

Tweet of the Week: 

Song of the Week: Randy Newman – “Memo To My Son”

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“All you need is love. False. The four basic human necessities are air, water, food, and shelter.”

-Dwight K. Schrute


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