Stuff will keep you busy

Tiger Woods, Bryce Harper, the Golden State Warriors. Frank Underwood. It’s amazing to realize how much time I spend thinking about these people I don’t even really know. They take up a lot of my time, though, and much conversation at home and at work.

Tonight I’ve got hockey, Fargo, House of Cards, and the Nationals playing on the West Coast. Add that to my renewed commitment to watch every episode of Brooklyn Bridge again and I’ve pretty much got a full day.

Time well spent for sure.

JFK Centennial


Today marks the hundredth anniversary of the birth of our 35th President, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Kennedy, of course, died in 1963 at the age of 46, though he’s never left the American consciousness in the half century since his tragic death. And there’s not a person alive today old enough to have voted for Kennedy in 1960 who would claim to have done otherwise.

On this day in 2007 I devoted the entire episode of Politics After Dark to Kennedy’s memory on what would have been his 90th birthday. I wasn’t exactly complimentary. In fact I spent most of the episode deriding his most famous phrase, the one that begins Ask not what your country… I said then and maintain (as I have borrowed from others) that neither half of that much-adored statement conveys a relationship between a citizen and his government that is worthy of free people living in a free society. Of course we don’t want our government to do for us, but why should our government expect anything from us either? In both conditions the government’s needs are placed above those of its individual citizens. (Milton Friedman explains the whole thing much more eloquently.)

Ninetieth birthdays are for criticism; one hundredth birthdays are for praise only.

I’ve heard it said that if John Kennedy were alive today he’d be a Republican. He’s rich, right? He served his country. He favored tax breaks for gosh sakes. Most of all he liked his country, and honestly I think he’s the most-recent Democratic President about whom I would say that.

Does liking your country make you a Republican? If that’s the criterion I plead guilty. And I think if John F. Kennedy were around today I’d vote for him. A lot of people would. And they’d admit to it.

If Kennedy were alive he’d probably mention something about how it was actually his older brother Joe who should have been President. Joe was a pilot during World War II and was killed in action in August of 1944. On this Memorial Day we should remember those who never got to be President, but made sure that we had a say in choosing one.

No matter how honest we wanted to be about it after the fact.

Finalses are set

Oh, playoff hockey, you keep me up far too late. And now I must suffer through a Stanley Cup Final of probably my two least favorite teams. Great. Well, nobody talks about hockey in this town anymore anyway.

Then there is basketball, for which I must wait a week to see the matchup we all want to see. Nothing says June like basketball, and this one promises not to disappoint.

Thank you, Cleveland; thank you, NBA

Order has been restored to the NBA playoffs, as the Cleveland Cavaliers now seem poised to take their rightful place in the Finals against the Golden State Warriors.

And I especially like how the universe (or perhaps the NBA) arranges a day off from games so that I can watch Fargo tonight instead of basketball.

Thanks, TV.

Would the real Celtics-Cavs series please stand up?

Okay, what TV executive got to the Cavaliers last night and told them to lay off? Am I to believe that the same team that put a historic beatdown on the Celtics in Boston Friday night couldn’t handle them at home two days later? And Boston without their best player?

Sounds a little fishy…

(pause to make sure no one’s listening)

But thank you.

Winter sports approaching finales

I’m glad to see the NBA playoffs (and really the whole NBA season) are following script. Let’s face it, a Cavaliers-Warriors rematch is what we’ve wanted and expected since three seconds after last season’s final buzzer sounded. Looks as though this dream will come true.

On the other side of things, in the NHL… please, please, please let it be Nashville and Ottawa headed to the Stanley Cup Finals. This would make for an unprecedented (I think) scenario in which you’d have the most-anticipated Finals contest and the least-anticipated Finals contest occurring simultaneously. You’ll have to excuse the giddiness of the NBA executives while you’d be wise to keep the sharp utensils away from the hockey execs. Just sayin’.

I’ve got a lot more free time on my hands now

The Winter of Ted is officially over, as both the Ted Leonsis-owned Washington Capitals and Washington Wizards have been bounced from their respective playoffs, the latter Wednesday night at the hands of the Boston Celtics. You’ve heard it said before that 90% of sporting contests are won by the better team. Well, Boston’s the better team.

It was all a moot point, of course, because standing between whoever won that game and a championship trophy were the Cleveland Cavaliers and, most likely, the Golden State Warriors. Talk about better teams.

And if Golden State plays like it did last night (a 136-100 drubbing of San Antonio), they are the better team to beat.

Series update

I finally got around to seeing all 10 episodes of Amazon’s new series on the life of Hugh Hefner (American Playboy: The Hugh Hefner Story.) You’ll no doubt remember that I’d greatly looked forward to seeing this series but watched the first couple episodes with only sort of meh enjoyment (see “New Amazon series chronicles life of Hefner”). I stuck with it (difficult as that was… wink) and was glad I did. In all the complete package is worth your investment despite my initial misgivings.

There’s really nothing new here, other than the History Channel-styled dramatization of real-life photos mixed with reenactments. (Again, it’s more History Channel than Ken Burns.) It’s obvious to me that this series was meant to be released in about 1992, as that’s where most of the interviews end and the last quarter century or so of Hefner’s life (during which time some interesting things occurred) is sort of glossed over. Actually there are plenty of things that are sort of glossed over, but alas the series is only six and a half hours long. (The same Hugh Hefner is said to have once tried to write an autobiography but abandoned the project because he simply had too much to include. His personal scrapbook, for which he owns a Guinness World Record, is something like 2,500 volumes.)

If you’ve got time to invest (and who doesn’t in 2017 when you can watch nearly anything on demand?) I recommend American Playboy. Thanks, Amazon, for once again just making my life that much better.

Money, money

Sometimes the less said on local sports the better, and this week has been a fine example. The Wizards, of course, could turn things around with a win tonight, though I’d call it about 10% of the work they’ll have to do to get a win in the series with a potential Game Seven looming Monday night in Boston.

We turn instead to the writing of Mr. George Will, who, like Wednesday’s subject (Mr. Halberstam), stops writing about baseball occasionally to comment on public affairs. Will’s column printed in last Sunday’s Post (seen here!) describes an argument I’ve been making for years. (Usually while trying to explain free-market capitalism to six-year-olds.)

You’re better off today than the richest man alive a hundred years ago.

Fantastic as the premise goes, honesty and 30 seconds of conscious thought will show the statement to be true. Never mind the Internet, modern labor-saving devices, and easy access to medication… just think of indoor plumbing and electricity if you want to compare your life to those of your ancestors, even the rich ones.

Will relies heavily on the work of George Mason University economist Don Boudreaux, who uses as his example the world’s first billionaire (by most accounts), John D. Rockefeller. Rockefeller’s life in 1916—when he increased the ranks of the world’s billionaire club from zero to one—would make the average person today recoil in horror. No e-mail, no cell phone, no Snapchat. And if you wanted Thai curry for lunch you’d better plan it about a month in advance. And book a steamship passage to Bangkok.

Would you trade lives with John D. Rockefeller? Louis XIV? Augustus Caesar? Mansa Musa? (Look him up.) Of course not.

Never mind the money… I don’t think we’d last 10 minutes without our smartphones.

Just holding my breath until gametime

Through either great planning or terrible planning the sports gods have smiled on the city of Washington with not one but two important games tonight involving our hometown Wizards and Capitals. (Nats got a game too but it ain’t exactly the playoffs yet.)

Sometimes it’s best not to think about these things until gametime. Worse still to make predictions.

Let me instead take this opportunity to mention a story not from Sunday’s Post but the previous Sunday’s on writer David Halberstam. Halberstam died a decade ago (while writing his next sports book, of course), and the laudatory piece laments his forgotten place among writers over that span. Not forgotten here, of course, though I’m ashamed to say I found only one Halberstam mention in the archives. Here it is, promoting one of my favorite books, October 1964. In fact, this is one of about 12 books I’ve read in my life. Six or seven of those were written by David Halberstam. Not many conservatives admit to reading Halberstam, but if you can get past his obvious faults (Harvard, NYC suburbs, Pulitzer Prize), readers of all political stripes can appreciate his work.

I do. And I’ll be damned if I’m going to let us “forget” him. Halberstam’s death was, of course, close in date to that of my own father, and the two will be forever linked in my mind for it. Don’t need the Post to remind me of that one.